Posted: 3 Min Read Diversity & Inclusion

Who's Your Ally?

Cass A., a transgender man, shares his perspective of working as both a woman and a man at Symantec, and how those different experiences have helped him see the world through a unique lens.

Symantec is a place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. I know this because I’ve challenged the company in a multitude of ways over my twelve year tenure, and every time I’m shown that my commitment to my job and the quality of my work matters more than my gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, or educational background. 

I started at Symantec as an entry-level phone technician and rose through three technical ranks before moving into project management for training and education ensuring Support Technicians received quality training to be successful in their jobs. As of October 2018, I’m now the Global Program Director for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI). How did a technical support person make their way into DEI, you might ask? Well, there’s more to my story.

I have worked as both a man and a woman in this company and have experienced firsthand how men and women are treated differently.

I am an out and proud transgender man who transitioned on the job at Symantec over nine years ago. I have worked as both a man and a woman in this company and have experienced firsthand how men and women are treated differently. For example, female technicians are trained to "show their work" when answering a question, whereas men's answers are implicitly trusted without having to explain their thought processes. Since being seen as a man, people have said to me "no, I trust you" more times than I can count. This tells me that as a woman I was inherently not trusted, but as a man I am. Even in the same job role and dealing with the same people, suddenly my answers no longer needed justification. 

That said, however, my experience at Symantec has been overwhelmingly positive. I was the first woman to ever be hired onto an advanced technical team in the history of my department and though I transitioned while in that role I ensured a woman replaced me upon my departure. I was pivotal in helping Symantec secure transgender healthcare benefits, and I have assisted in drafting and implementing multiple policies, procedures, and guidelines around transgender inclusion, such as our official Gender Transition Guidelines and changing all single-stall bathrooms to “all-gender” bathrooms in buildings that Symantec owns in the US. I have been involved with PRIDE, our LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG), for seven years, and I have acted as my local chapter’s lead and champion for the last four.

I know that for many of you reading this right now you have felt like your gender, sexuality, or some other identity label prescribed to you (or held by you) is preventing you from progressing in your career here at Symantec – and elsewhere too. As someone who has experienced discrimination in my life because of who I am, I want you to know that I have spent more than a decade building institutional support and encouragement for people like me, like you – like us! – to bring their whole, unique, and authentic selves to work every day without fear of repercussion. 

Allyship isn't an either/or – as in either you receive it or give it – it's a both/and. Everyone can be an ally to someone else. Including you!

And my efforts have largely been successful. In my more than twelve years at Symantec, as both a man and a woman, I have been both the recipient of allyship as well as an ally for other people. And I have grown greatly as a person because of that. I've come to realize that allyship isn't an either/or – as in either you receive it or give it – it's a both/and. Everyone can be an ally to someone else. Including you!

I am transgender. I am queer. I am loud and outspoken. I challenge the status quo. It is all of these nuances, these identities, these labels, these traits – these differences that have helped me progress in my career. It is my differences that make me stand out. It is my differences that give me a unique perspective. It is my differences – and your differences – that help drive innovation. Homogeny is the death of progress. I stand before you as an example of what is possible. 

And the best part? I’m on your team and will fight for what is right. It’s actually my job now. 

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Like what you read here? Keep an eye out for future articles from Cass about his transition, intersectionality, and how we can work together to build an even more inclusive culture here at Symantec.

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About the Author

Cass Averill

Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program Manager

An out transgender man, Cass is a passionate activist and corporate advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. His mission is to help build institutional support for all to bring their authentic selves to work (and to life) without fear of repercussion.

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