Coming out is associated with the LGBT+ community and refers to a moment when each of us takes a stand and proclaims who we are, without "covering." (The term covering is used here to describe hiding elements of one's self or identity or expression.) Some of our employees took a moment to reflect on what Coming Out Day means to them and how living authentically has impacted their lives.
Christopher Mostello, Consultant, Experience Design
There are many opinions when acknowledging Coming Out Day as a nationally recognized holiday (observed on October 11). Some believe that one shouldn't have to "come out" and that it reinforces a heteronormative mentality. Now, I see that point of view and understand it. However, Coming Out Day still has relevance to so many around the world. Coming out doesn't have to be depicted solely by publicly proclaiming who you are, but also by the self-acceptance of one's true self. We're still living in a time where there's prolific rhetoric perpetuating the exact opposite of that. For me, and living in my own authenticity, I have the power to be visible for others and inspire others. That journey's going to look different for every person. But the power of living authentically can be shared by every single human, regardless of orientation, identity or any other element that makes us who we are.
Maddie Crater, Consultant, Software Engineering
There was a long time where I felt I had to hide my true self and wear a mask. It's one thing for others to not see you for who you are, but the most difficult part was having to even hide it from myself. Coming out at work was difficult for me (both mentally and, eventually, technically) but looking back now, as my authentic self, makes me realize that it's worth it 100 times over. Not only am I able to go into the office and be seen and live as my true self, but I'm also visible for others to see that they can do it too. Coming out means more than just coming out to the world; it starts with truly coming out to yourself. Realizing "alright, we're really doing this" and starting to accept yourself. That's what Coming Out Day means for me. To me it's not necessarily about publicly announcing anything; it's a reminder that there's support and recognition, even abstract, for you to take that next step, or even the first step, of expressing who you really are and being proud of it. Not just showing the world because you're tired of hiding, but because there are so many of us out here ready to cheer for and support you.
Ben Trappe, UK CTO for Comms, Media & Technology
Avanade is the first company I've worked at where I feel able to be out in the workplace. I took what I felt was a fairly matter of fact way of announcing it –in the Avanade monthly newsletter &ndash but even then, it was hugely daunting. The support I received after was amazing and gave me a huge sense of belonging and comfort in being able to be myself. That said, even then it took years before I would be proactive in telling people outside the UK. Different cultural attitudes, even today, can make it a tough call whether you can be 100% certain someone won't judge you. It is something many who identify at LGBTQ+ have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Mirna Rodríguez, UX Architect, Experience Design
When I lived in Mexico, I learned about Avanade and its culture and support for the LGBT+ community. I remember watching a video and crying a little, because I couldn't believe this kind of workplace existed. And eventually I became part of it. I was never questioned about anything; no gossiping about who I loved, and I could freely talk about it to my teammates. When HR asked me to be a Prism champion I didn't hesitate, it was time to give back, and so I am. I can be fully me, feeling safe and welcomed at my workplace, and for that I am grateful.
Sarah Rench, Director of AI and Industry Solutions
I look forward to the day when myself, or others, don't have to come out or need specific labels. Personally, coming out hasn't always been a fun or easy experience. Part of being a leader in Avanade involves ensuring that my colleagues, clients and anyone I meet feels comfortable to be themselves. Or even open, if they wish, about their sexual orientation but not be defined by it. Certainly, we are all multifaceted and can all face intersectionality, or different types of oppression, whether based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability. But it helps to acknowledge this intersectionality and how to address and change it. I hope by openly discussing coming out and intersectionality we can be the best versions of ourselves and help others to be.
Charles Dallimore, Senior Legal Counsel - Europe
Up to the age of 18 I was in the closet. I truly believed that I was the only gay person and was terrified that someone was going to find me out. Although I thought that most of my family and friends would probably accept me, I really wasn't sure and the thought of coming out to them filled me with dread. I expected it to be difficult. For a good chunk of my teens, I withdrew from people and kept myself to myself, being careful of how much of myself I let show. Coming Out Day means so much to me now. It is great to see LGBT people standing proudly and visibly. What means even more to me is the number of allies I see wearing rainbow lanyards. If the law and society were different, back then I wouldn't have felt so alone, and I wouldn't have been so scared of coming out.
Coming out isn't something you do once, either. I came out to myself when I was 18, then to a friend and then to my family. In fact, every time I meet someone new there's the uncertainty over whether they are going to change once they know this insignificant detail about me. So, thank you to everyone who is an ally to my community. If I could ask for one more thing, it would be for those of you who have children to please tell them that their sexuality, gender identity or expression doesn't change your love for them. Tell them that you are on their team and will always be there for them. Tell them when they're young. Tell them when they're a teen. Tell them often to be sure they've heard you.
It is only recently I came out at work. My fervent desire is for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, to feel comfortable being out at work and able to be their authentic selves. I don't want people to have to make the choices I have had to make, deciding what the risks are to my career that coming out at work may pose, knowing that at a senior level being visible can and does still affect recruitment and promotional career prospects.
LGBT+ is an abbreviation that refers to people with diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity. They include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, and other sexuality, sex and gender-diverse people, regardless of their term of self-identification. The abbreviation can vary and can include additional letters, such as I (intersex) and Q (queer/questioning) or even appear in a different order (e.g., GLBTI).
Below is an article originally written by Sierra Jackson, Internal Communications Analyst at PowerToFly Partner Avanade, and published on September 3, 2019. Go to Avanade's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
I began my career at Avanade as an intern in our Chicago office. I never set out to work in tech and I had no idea what working for a tech company would be like, but I'd seen movies, so I figured it would be something like a bunch of guys in white T-shirts who never looked up from their desktops as they wrote code. But when I came in for my final interview and met with only women, I knew my expectations would be challenged here. Yes, I work for a tech company, but I've found that most of my day is spent interacting with people and using technology to communicate people's stories, which is definitely the best of both worlds.
After a year as an intern and college graduation, I joined Avanade full-time. Right as I was transitioning from intern to working full-time, Pam Maynard was announced as our CEO-elect. As a black woman entering the tech industry, I never really expected that I'd be able to look up the chain of command and see people like me. But here I am, able to learn from my bosses and mentors who have forged the path ahead of me and given me opportunities I might not have had a generation ago.
I got to meet Pam a few weeks ago when the Avanade Executive Committee was visiting the Chicago office. Even though leaders at Avanade are pretty approachable, I'm right at the start of my career, and the idea of walking right up to our leadership is kind of intimidating. Imagine my surprise when Pam walked right up to me and introduced herself. I told her how excited I was that I was able to see someone who looks like me as CEO, something I never expected to see during my lifetime, especially fresh out of college.
Her reply was also something I never expected. "I'm happy to see people who look like you in the business," she told me. In that moment, I felt equal and important in a way that I imagine many 21-year-old black women never get to.
It's not just Pam. From where I sit as an analyst, all the way up to our CEO, every role up my chain of command is occupied by a woman. For this to be the case, a few things must happen: Avanade has to have a commitment to hiring women in leadership roles. The company also has to have a strong, inclusive culture that supports that commitment. And finally, I had to be lucky enough to start my career at Avanade at the right time for all these roles above me to fall into place. Like I said, I never set out to work in tech; I also never expected to work at a company that gives people like me the opportunity to reach for the stars and not be limited by gender. And I'm so happy to be somewhere like Avanade, where my expectations are challenged for the better every day.