A few months ago, I got a text from Susan Cooney, Symantec's Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, saying she had a potential gig for me and would I like to discuss. An opportunity to work with Susan? Yes, please!
My connection with Susan goes back to the beginning of 2017 when she brought me on as the Lead Content Writer for the Tech Inclusion blog at Change Catalyst. We developed a good relationship there, and have been running in the same D&I circles and collaborating ever since.
So I was intrigued – what is this new opportunity? How can I help shape the discussion around improving an approach to building an inclusive culture at Symantec and across the wider tech industry? Susan said she wanted my voice, my perspective, my storytelling skills, my emphasis on people, and my ability to make deep connections with the written word. Sounds good to me, I said, I'm in. And a few months later, here we are.
How can I help shape the discussion around improving an approach to building an inclusive culture at Symantec and across the wider tech industry?
We know that Symantec – and thousands of other tech organizations – build amazing products and services. And, it is people who make those products and deliver those services. All kinds of people with all kinds of different lived experiences and backgrounds that they bring to work every day. Susan brought me on to the team (which includes Lauren Gagliardi and Francesca Garofani) to help build out a vision for Symantec that helps each one of us feel like we belong and are included. We hope that this vision reverberates throughout the wider tech industry as well.
Seems pretty straightforward, yes, but this is no small task. Because of biases in personal decisions, often antiquated and unexamined business policies and procedures, and underdeveloped inclusive leadership practices, we have a lot of work to do to shift the collective mindset and ensure that everyone's truth is validated. This challenge is not unique to Symantec, to be sure. Whether at Symantec, or as a member of the wider tech community, each of us has an opportunity and a responsibility to share our voice and be part of the discussion. Collectively, we should be striving to connect with one another on a deeply human level, and develop a more profound understanding of what it means to be an integral ally in this movement.
I will be writing about once a week on a variety of topics, including (to name a few): the importance of creating psychological safety, developing inclusive leadership practices, effective team building, how to use your power for good, owning your authentic narrative, identifying your intrinsic motivations, the necessity of emotional intelligence, how to move along on the ally continuum, the pervasive dominance of normative cultural beliefs, and many, many other perspectives –all with the unified goal of creating a culture of belonging for everyone.
When each person is empowered to bring their authentic self to work, they will be in a much better position to make space for others to do the same. They will show up differently in the workplace, perform better, and engage more deeply in their work and with others.
When each person is empowered to bring their authentic self to work, they will be in a much better position to make space for others to do the same.
Why am I qualified to lead this discussion? Over the coming months I'll be sharing lots of personal stories to let you into my world and help you understand where I'm coming from. In the meantime, here's the shorthand bio.
My parents divorced when I was two, my dad moved away and I grew up with a single mom, my dad told me he was gay when I was fourteen, I kept that secret until I was 20 because I was embarrassed and ashamed, I matured, my dad and I finally developed a strong relationship in my twenties, I became aware that my norm wasn't the norm, I realized that I had missed out on a lot of opportunities to grow and expand, I intentionally and increasingly exposed myself to new cultures, ideas, peoples, and perspectives, my dad died of AIDS when I was 27, and since then I have devoted my personal and professional life to using my cisgender, straight, white guy voice to help people create cultures of belonging for themselves and others.
You see, here's the thing. Each of us is on our own personal journey of discovery. Your journey is different from mine, which is different from the next person's. However, we all have on thing in common: each one of us is looking to belong – to something, to somewhere, to someone (or some group). If we each choose to view our personal journey of discovery as an opportunity to be a more powerful force for good in the world, we will find that before we can create a sense of belonging for others, we have to create a sense of belonging for ourselves.
Each one of us is looking to belong – to something, to somewhere, to someone (or some group).
Which is a good time to introduce my favorite Lao Tzu quote: “If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”
So, how are you transforming yourself? And, where, and to what, and to whom do you belong? I invite you to examine the power of belonging as you continue on your journey. Let's explore together, shall we?
So how do I contribute to improving this situation? The approach I’m following is to embrace the complexity of intersectional feminism, do what I can where I can, and be an ally for the rest.
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