What is a queer, woman of color to speak about when given a platform to make an impact at Dataiku? When approached by the Dataiku Queer Employee Resource Group (ERG) to write this blog post, the opportunity left me personally excited and a little overwhelmed to achieve. Do I speak about identity, intersectionality, community, or acceptance? Those are a few important topics that come to mind. As the deadline approached, my experiences over the past month — Pride Month — helped clarify what I wanted to share.
Throughout the month, Dataiku hosted a number of events celebrating Pride Month including LGBTQIA+ trivia during the company update, happy hours hosted across our global offices by our Queer ERG, and conversations about gender identity and how it can impact our daily lives at work. Pride was abuzz at Dataiku and it got me thinking about what Pride Month actually meant for me.
While the history of Pride Month is tied to a political activism that was (and arguably still is) necessary at the time, it’s been the evolution of Pride that’s been on my mind this month. If you’re lucky enough to celebrate Pride (Boston, New York, London, and Paris for me), you’re likely to find yourself immersed in a similar scene. Jubilant, unfiltered, unabashed acceptance of self and of LGBTQIA+ culture; the purest manifestation of authenticity.
This weekend, on our way out to meet friends for dinner, my partner and I found ourselves smack in the middle of the Paris Pride parade. While we hadn’t initially intended to march this year, we found ourselves amongst the floats, light as air, no judgment (maybe a little because I’m a horrible dancer) but rather, people just being themselves — what a novel concept in an age where we’re constantly editing, tuning, and refining our public image. The energy was palpable and continued through the streets of the Marais, where we danced the night away.
Within these moments of celebration, I do think about what brought us to this point and where we still need to go. Reflecting on a LGBTQIA+ panel she participated in, my partner rightly noted that we’re still a community that has to explain ourselves. Even if for a positive impact or to raise awareness, you find yourself sharing, sometimes the most intimate parts of yourself: What’s your coming out story? How did you know? What does it mean for you? How does it impact your approach to x, y, z? While it can be difficult, remaining open and sometimes vulnerable, not only enables forward progress but also forces us to reflect, share, and be unquestionably honest with ourselves. Though not the intent, the acceptance of my own vulnerability, and allowing that to be public, has also positively impacted my own approach to leadership.
As a leader, I spend a lot of time self-reflecting — on what I say and how I say it. I think about my strengths, my weaknesses, my values; on what makes me my true authentic self and how, in voicing that with the people that I work and live with, I can influence meaningful and productive action. This is something that I’ve honed over time and, outside of being how I may naturally be inclined, it’s also something that has been cultivated thanks to my own self-exploration and acceptance of my sexual identity.
Would I go as far as to say that my queerness has made me a better leader? No, I don’t think so. But it’s been a catalyst that’s at least enabled me to be the type of leader I want to be. While I don’t think that the presence of authenticity in leadership and in the workplace is a novel concept, it’s not something that always comes easily. My queerness has certainly pushed me to be more self-aware, genuine, and transparent. This isn’t always comfortable, but the environment that it creates can empower people, drive motions forward, encourage unity, and foster trust.
About four years ago, on a trip back to New York, I met up with one of my very best friends for a coffee. During this coffee, they shared with me that they had started exploring their gender identity and following a lot of self-reflection, came to the realization that they identified as non-binary. We had always shared our deepest, darkest secrets with each other, and so in this moment, I was surprised to realize that balancing their clear relief in coming out, was a tangible vulnerability. It was such a human moment, and even if the moment was veiled with uncertainty, it was raw, genuine, and honest. It really showed me the strength in being authentic and that even if the need to be vulnerable to do so was necessary, it was also powerful.
In a previous Dataiku blog post, Dataikers around the world shared their own experiences about being queer at work, but for some, Dataiku was the first place they felt comfortable being out in the office. I’m proud to work at a company that fosters a culture of openness, honesty, and authenticity. If I can continue cultivating this spirit within my own team and through my own actions, then I’ll do so with great PRIDE.