With Pride month upon us, I've been reflecting on how proud and fortunate I am to work at a company that celebrates me, my background, my experiences, and everything else that gives me a unique perspective in life and in my role as SVP of Corporate Marketing, Brand, and Communications. Being able to bring my best, authentic self to work every day undoubtedly makes me a better leader, a better collaborator, and a better contributor. But being able to show up as me wasn't always so easy.
Early in my career—much like earlier in life—I felt I had to hide who I was for fear that my sexual orientation would overshadow my results at work and negatively impact my ability to advance in my career. Rather than share the details of my life, my evenings and weekends, and the guy I was dating, I focused exclusively on work while at work. In part, I wasn't yet comfortable in my own skin. I also didn't have any role models in the workplace who were out, or who talked about their lives outside of the office other than what I heard about very traditional, opposite-sex spouses and their children.
Looking back, this led to many missed opportunities for getting to know my colleagues, them getting to know me, and the resulting stronger relationships that would inevitably develop. The reality is that when you are in the trenches together, whether working on a game-changing initiative or against a seemingly impossible deadline, those relationships with colleagues serve as a stronger foundation for safety, trust, belonging, teamwork, collaboration, and the ability to accomplish Herculean efforts together.
As my career progressed, I had less of a need to hide myself and my sexual orientation. This was partly because I became more and more comfortable with myself, but also because I proactively put myself in work environments which valued me for my unique background, experiences, education, and expertise, which in turn made me more comfortable showing up to work as me. In fact, I was hired into the second company that I worked for by an openly gay General Manager who often spoke of his partner and their lives together. Then, at the company where I worked following that role, I found myself part of a leadership team where I was surrounded by SVPs 15 to 20 years my senior where nearly half of the leaders identified as LGBTQI+. The sense of connectedness, of belonging, and of being a tight-knit team was ever present. Our executive leader cast her shadow by respecting each and every person for what they brought to the table as their complete self, and we accomplished amazing things together as a team.
Why does it matter? In addition to creating a great place to work that enables a sense of belonging by empowering everyone to be their best, most authentic selves, I firmly believe that organizations cannot expect to serve their customers if they don't understand them, their needs, their challenges, and their objectives (in order to help solve them). The best way to do so is to ensure that the diversity of your customer base is reflected across your company, at every level of the business. Whether that's better understanding LGTBQI+ engineers, BIPOC developers, women IT executives, non-binary practitioners, or any other underrepresented group among your customers, having that diversity and those perspectives among your employees and around the table ideating, debating, and making decisions leads to better outcomes.
I remember a meeting at a past job where the senior executive team was reviewing the product lineup for the fall. Most of the executives in the room were mid-life white men focused on the features and functionality of the soon-to-be-launched mobile phones. Then the only woman executive spoke up, asking if anyone had considered making the devices in colors other than silver and black to appeal more to women. In fact, she noted, if given the option, she would buy multiple phones and use them as fashion accessories much like a purse, eyeglasses, earrings, or shoes.
That single conversation nearly 15 years ago inspired the magenta-colored Razr, a gold Dolce & Gabbana Razr, and a host of other colorful mobile phones and accessories you see at your local wireless retailer today. Would that conversation and the resulting spike in sales have happened without that gender diversity in the room who was better able to relate to and represent 50% of the market?
At New Relic, one of our core values is about being authentic (alongside being bold, accountable, passionate, and connected). This value encourages and inspires every Relic to show up to work as their most authentic self. It is in that kind of culture and environment where each of us can be the best teammate, listener, coach, mentor, and contributor—especially as our work and home lives have blended more and more over the last 16+ months of working from home. While I would have certainly hidden my background and ensured my boyfriend didn't inadvertently appear on camera so as to hide that part of my life from colleagues earlier in my career, I'm proud and fortunate to work in an environment that celebrates me for who I am. My colleagues ask me about my husband and say hello and wave to him when he passes through the frame. I'm proud of him. I'm proud of us. And I'm proud of me.
It made a huge impact on me to have LGBTQI+ leaders and role models where I worked. These experiences empowered me to live my truth freely and openly. Now, as the most senior executive at New Relic who identifies as LGBTQI+, I have the opportunity to cast my shadow as a leader, serving as a role model to empower others to be their authentic, genuine selves at work.
With that in mind, I’m proud to share some of the things we are doing to support our communities during Pride month.
Our NewRelic.org Social Impact team is partnering with our Rainbow Relics Employee Resource Group on initiatives like a New Relic Pride Fund which includes matching donations from New Relic.
For the Pride Fund, employees from our five Employee Resource Groups chose organizations that support the LGBTQIA+ community and their intersectional identities. Relics of Color chose The Trevor Project, Women @ New Relic picked PFLAG National, our Rainbow Relics chose Hope in a Box, NeuRelics went with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Relics Who Served chose the Modern Military Association of America. We hope you'll consider supporting these organizations, too.
I hope you join us in celebrating everything that makes each one of us (and you) unique, special, important, and significant. And while June is designated as Pride month, it is important that we celebrate everyone around us for the diversity they bring to our lives—not just in June but year-round. As individuals and for our organizations, that diversity makes us better, more informed, and more impactful.
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