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#ItStartsWithConversation: On Leadership, Self Actualization, and Finding Your Community 

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Posted in:  Company, People

From the joyous to the difficult, conversations are a reminder of who we are, how far we’ve come — and how far we have to go.

In celebration of Pride Month, we asked three Highspot employees to share conversations that have changed the course of their story, from learning the true meaning to leadership, to finding the support they need to thrive. Here’s what they had to say. 

“Support people’s dreams, even when they can’t do it for themselves.”

I transitioned from a career in higher education to tech through Ada Developers Academy. The startup where I interned as part of the Ada program ended up being my home for the next three years. It was a 15 person company when I joined; as an intern the CTO of the company was my manager. Coming into that space I had a lot of imposter syndrome but barely any of the support or mentorship that would have helped me overcome it.

Eventually the company began to grow and we started to get line and middle managers. My new manager ended up being Jey, one of my former teachers from Ada. I was apprehensive when they started, wondering how that teacher-student relationship would translate to the workplace. But fairly quickly upon arriving, they told me I was being underpaid relative to others in my position and advocated for me to get a raise and a promotion. More than that, they also started to push the company to examine their pay equity and performance review criteria. They had such a profound effect on the culture of the space – and on my understanding of what real leadership looked like.

With Jey’s advocacy, I’ve gone on to do so much more. Now as a manager, I want to have the same impact. And I ardently believe all managers share this responsibility: you have the ability to shape the direction of your direct reports’ careers. With that comes a duty to understand their identities and talents, and find places where you can uplift them. Your job is to make people believe in themselves, even when they don’t. You’ve got to support people’s growth and dreams, even – and especially – when they can’t do it for themselves.

–Elia Grenier, Accelerate Engineering Manager

“Embrace who you are.”

I was still closeted at thirty. I was in a religion that had no tolerance for gay people. I suppressed it for five more years after I came out to myself. But then, I began to have really dark thoughts. And that spurred a shift in me. I asked myself, what am I doing? Why am I living this life that’s making me completely miserable?

All of a sudden, I was doing a 180 in my life. I told the church elders that I was leaving and then I did. Every friend that I ever had, my entire family – I was excommunicated from all of them. I don’t talk to them any more. And while it sounds sad, that was one of the best things I did in my life. Even though leaving was painful, I have no regrets. I’m so happy I didn’t bow to that outside pressure that wanted me to stay closeted and miserable.

You have to love yourself. It’s cheesy but it’s true. You shouldn’t have to bend yourself to other people’s will. Turn away from it. Embrace who you are. Giving yourself that justice, that freedom, goes so far towards your happiness. In the end, you’re the only one who can make yourself happy.

–Brandon Berry, Sr. Accounts Payable Lead

“There is a queer community that will support and nourish you.”

At the time of this story, I was a recent college graduate living in Charlottesville, Virginia. I had just come out as queer  and was feeling quite lonely, lacking a queer community. I began to search for support groups, and eventually found one for queer and trans youth. Though I was too old to join as a participant, the group coordinators encouraged me to connect with the other facilitators and talk, which I did. Those connections, in turn, led me to becoming a support group facilitator myself.

As a facilitator, we would begin each meeting by sharing our pronouns. This was the first space I’d been in where this was normalized. Typically, when people asked, I would say he/him. But one day as I led our meeting, I said my pronouns were they/them. For me this was a big step in accepting that I was non-binary. To my group, it was par for the course…which was exactly what I wanted. I was grateful for the space to be able to be myself, and for how little of a deal it was to everyone.

For anyone reading this who is feeling isolated or lonely, I want to say that there is a queer community that will support and nourish you. If you live in Washington State, Gay City is a fantastic resource. But there are so many resources and groups that have moved online as well. So many people out there have shared this experience of coming to accept their queerness and can relate to you – we want to support you. You are not alone.

-Iris Lux, Software Development Engineer

It Starts With Conversation

What conversations have impacted your life? Share your story with us on social media using the hashtag #ItStartsWithConversation — and be sure to check back for more stories from our Highspot team.

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