Honoring Your Authentic Self in Work and Throughout Every Day

I have always been outspoken and not afraid to speak my mind. My mom raised me to be strong, independent and to use my voice. I was taught to always speak up — not just for myself, but for others and those less fortunate. If I see anyone being treated less than, I’ll be the person who says something even, if it makes the rest of the space feel uncomfortable. That was me when I was four years old — and it’s still me today. And as part of the Global Customer Advocacy and Engagement Team at Genesys, and a married gay woman, it has helped me bring my authentic self to work every day.

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. My childhood was safe. So safe, in fact, that I didn’t even really know what gay was until shortly before I came out in high school. Growing up, there were gay people around me, but it wasn’t highlighted in such a way that I was made to feel it was different than any other way to be. I cannot express enough the impact of a parent’s acceptance and unconditional love toward their child — especially to a child who doesn’t fall into society’s norm. I’m certain how I was raised gave me the strength and drive to be the woman I am today.

My mom actually died in a car accident before I was able to come out to her. The reason I share this with you is because, firsthand, I’ve learned that life can change at the drop of a hat. This is no dress rehearsal. This is now. Life is today. If you’re not going to be yourself now, then when?

Through personal trial and error, I learned I couldn’t survive in this world if I wasn’t honoring my own integrity and all of who I am. I recognize that statement alone has great privilege. I am a white woman; born and raised in a “progressive area” by an accepting parent and accepting community. I’m extremely lucky.

When I think about bringing my full self to work, I know it can present challenges. In a past life, when I was a teacher, I had parents ask for their child to be removed from my class because I’m gay. Some even went so far as asking the school to not allow LGBTQ teachers on staff. Experiences like those definitely made me question if I should keep my sexuality hidden to make it easier for everyone else.

But over the years, I’ve developed my own tools to navigate interviews to help me determine if a company would be a safe place for me to be my authentic self. Someone said to me once, “Going on an interview and accepting a job is like marrying someone after the first date.” I felt that. Here are a few of the tools and examples I use to navigate the professional world as a gay woman.

  • I’m interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing me.
  • I mention my wife in conversation on purpose to look for body language, facial expressions or tone of voice changes. These give me cues of whether or not an environment is going to be safe.
  • When I’m given tours of an office, as silly as it sounds, if I see a little rainbow flag at someone’s desk or an equality poster, I can generally assume this is a safe place.

My experience joining Genesys was seamless. I never felt like I was “coming out” to the company or my team. I mentioned my wife casually in conversations and no one skipped a beat. For this, I specifically want to send a shout out of  thank you to my team. You all have made me feel seen, continuously welcomed and not just accepted but also supported. I doubt I would be sitting where I am now if I didn’t have a wonderful and supportive team to stand behind me. I’m grateful and appreciate of that.

I’m also a big believer in the statements: “People need people” and “People change people.” I can only speak for myself, but my door is always open for dialogue. I think offering a platform for dialogue and to learn together can only broaden our community, culture and value within the workplace.