Fighting chronic illness in a giant bird suit, Microsoft’s own Ryan Asdourian—and the Seattle Seahawks’ mascot Blitz—gears up for the Walk MS event this Sunday at University of Washington’s Husky Stadium.
The ‘Softie in question: Ryan Asdourian
The job title: Hardware Marketing Lead
It’s no coincidence that Microsoft is full of folks whose outside lives are just as fascinating as their careers. Microsoft’s workplace flexibility attracts those who understand that an ambitious career and outside passions need not be mutually exclusive.
Take, for example, Ryan Asdourian: Microsoft Hardware Marketing Lead by day, he suits up at the Seattle Seahawks’ mascot, Blitz, during football season – all the while raising significant sums of money for multiple sclerosis research.
We caught up with the man behind the beak for a few questions:
Ryan, we’re dying to know, which came first: Microsoft or Blitz?
Microsoft was first. I came here as an intern, eventually got a full-time position and, two years into it, I reached out to the Seahawks. Next thing I knew: I was Blitz, leading insane cheers at the NFL’s loudest stadium.
Just like that? Seems like you’d need a slightly different skill set from hardware marketing.
To be fair, I already had a lot of mascot experience. I was the Gator at the University of Florida back in college. Now, I’ve been Blitz for five years and even have a backup Blitz if I can’t make it to a game. That said, I rarely miss a game.
Considering that you put so much time into Microsoft and being an NFL mascot, where do you find the motivation to do all of this fundraising work we hear about?
In December of 2008, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). It was devastating at first. But, I learned that there are lots of treatments out there, and you can still lead a very active life. I decided to use my position to raise awareness and show people that just because you get diagnosed with MS, it isn’t the end of the world.
How did the diagnosis affect your job at Microsoft?
Microsoft was and continues to be super-supportive. No matter what I need, whether it’s a special Vitamin D office light or an MRI, I know that Microsoft has my back – that’s one of many reasons that I love this company. Plus, as a Microsoft employee, I have the best insurance on the planet!
Excuse the pun, but it seems like you were uniquely suited to become the mascot for multiple sclerosis fundraising.
The best part is that 11 of the other NFL mascots are flying out here to help kick off the walk. We do a convention every year and this year some of the veteran mascots said they wanted to have it in Seattle to support me and help with fundraising. So, even though the NFL is in lockout, all of the mascots are going to come together this year for a common cause.
Do you have an overall fundraising goal this year?
Well, I have this whole theme based on the capacity of the stadium, but if every Seahawks seat holder donated two dollars, we’d have way more than $134,000. All I’m asking for is for two dollars from every Seahawks fan.
One of the coolest things we’re doing is that I have a big prize for $5,000 donors. One donor per game gets to be Blitz’s assistant. You get to be on the field and backstage with me and up to the 300 level with me when I play drums.
Have you involved Microsoft in the fundraising?
Of course. Microsoft will match every dollar employees donate, so a $5,000 donation becomes a $10,000 donation from Microsoft employees. And Microsoft also matches for all my time that I donate to organize the event, which is phenomenal.
I also started an “MS @ MS” email alias at Microsoft. We got the MS Society involved and now have 75 or so people onboard, and it’s been the greatest resource. It’s become a real community.
Do you plan to branch into additional fundraising and charity work?
I am already doing all sorts of work as Blitz, from the Special Olympics to autism walks to kids’ birthday parties, you name it, I’ve been there and done that. I probably do 40 to 50 appearances a year. I’d say that I am booked pretty much every other weekend.
All the while, Microsoft has not only been supportive, but has never made me choose between my passions.