Next up in our interview series is Chris Schlechty. Getting to know Chris through this interview was a great experience, and I’m excited to get to share his story with you.
Tell me a bit about yourself, what you enjoy doing in your free time, and your disability.
I’m Chris Schlechty and I live in Kirkland, WA. I enjoy watching the Seahawks and UW Huskies football teams. I’m a University of Washington alumnus. In my free time, I really enjoy barbecuing, playing board games, and the occasional pc/xbox game. I have limb girdle muscular dystrophy type 2e.
What do you do for a living?
I am a senior software engineer at Microsoft. My team works on the user experience of SharePoint. I’ve been with my team (through various renames) for 10 years.
Why did you choose that job or career?
I have always had an affinity for math, and programming seemed like a natural fit. The problem solving aspects of engineering present interesting challenges.
What do you love about your job and what do you find difficult?
I really love the people I work with, and I have had very good, supportive managers. Everyone on my team is crazy smart, and willing to help each other out when needed. At times it has been difficult, especially when we needed to meet deadlines for shipping or for a conference.
What’s your favourite memory of your career so far? What are you most proud of?
I’ve had some cool experiences at Microsoft. As an intern, I met Bill Gates at an event which was hosted at his house. We were the last invited group, as he retired the next year. I’ve worked on some big features throughout my career. I think one of the more challenging but rewarding was reworking the “Share” feature and making it easier to build new experiences. For a time, I put the “Share” in SharePoint 🙂 Working to ensure accessibility has been pretty rewarding too.
Did you go to college? Where did you go?
Yep! The University of Washington, I received a bachelors of computer science.
What kinds of accommodations did your college give you, both in and out of class?
In college, I had priority scheduling, the option of note takers, extended testing time, and an accessible work station installed in the labs.
What was job hunting like? Do you think your disability had any affect on your job hunt?
I managed to land an internship after doing a number of interviews on campus. I didn’t want to go to CA. I interned at Microsoft and was hired on full time at the end.
What accommodations does your workplace provide?
Accommodations are handled on a case by case basis, so people get what they need to be successful. Everyone has a flexible work schedule, height adjustable desks, the ability to get assistive technology (like Dragon). Most of my accommodations aren’t special, they’re available to all. The one exception is that I don’t do on-call support for our product, as I’d need assistance to get back up from bed, so instead I take on more daytime responsibility.
What are some things that make your job difficult, in relation to your disability?
At times, there are some physical machine configuring which I can’t do myself. It’s not often, but not a great experience needing to rely on others. If a day has a lot of meetings, the logistics of getting around and getting set back up in my office can get tiring. While I can’t write on my whiteboards myself to explain things, I make it work.
What advice would you give to someone with a disability who wants to go into your field?
It’s a booming industry that keeps growing. Technology is very adaptable, and it enables everyone to do more. It’s a great equalizer. This might seem strange, but I get some enjoyment out of meeting new people who have no idea that I have MD, and seeing their reaction when we meet in-person (this happens a lot less these days).