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Jun 1, 2018

Finding My PRIDE @ Netflix

I was not out to my colleagues when I joined Netflix in January 2015. In fact, I was not out to anyone.

Sexual orientation has been a little bit… complicated for me since the 4th grade. A boy and a girl were dared to kiss at school and as I stood there spectating, it was then that 9 year old Tennyson caught himself interested in both parties… “Uh oh,” I thought to myself.

Fast forwarding through my childhood I never quite understood how to identify. Honestly, it wasn’t until around the time of my college graduation that things like “bisexuality” and “sexuality being a spectrum” started to find their way into mainstream culture. Therefore, when joining Netflix, my identity wasn’t something I really brought with me into the office. Instead I focused on the incredible workplace culture, the passion seeping out of my coworkers’ pores, and the palpable energy of a growing company.

In June of that year I got to assist in corralling a group of Netflix employees to walk in the San Francisco Pride Parade. I had never been to a Pride Parade, and for some strange reason, I suddenly found something I was passionate about getting behind. That year the company’s float displayed characters from Orange is the New Black, Sense8, Grace & Frankie, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was the first time I thought to myself, “Wow. This company cares about creating content for a diverse audience, including people like me.”

I realized then that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) have to separate my work with my identity. I came out to my family as bisexual a few months later and it slowly bled into who I was at work. I would allow pronouns to naturally flow when talking about who I was dating. I raised my hand to help found an LGBTQ employee resource group. I supported our Queer content in team debates and conversations.

Today when asked if I’m able to bring my full self to work, my answer is a resounding yes. I feel as though coming out has not only been great for my personal well being, but it’s allowed me to thrive authentically in my work. There’s something about knowing who you are and having people accept it that makes you that much better at the little things. For me, it’s asking my candidates to be open and honest with me, knowing that I’m able to do the same. It’s connecting with my hiring managers on a personal level so we can partner effectively. It’s being a voice for not only my LGBTQ employee resource group, but for the values of Inclusion, Diversity, and Intersectionality as a whole at Netflix.

What I’ve realized through my coming out while working at Netflix is this:

1. Authenticity Pays Off

Being myself has allowed me to create truly authentic connections with my colleagues. Creating a space for vulnerability strengthened my partnerships at work. I’m unapologetically me and in the Netflix culture people are receptive to that.

2. Culture Drives Inclusion

I cannot repeat enough how #blessed I am for being able to work at Netflix. The opening lines of the culture memo don’t say, “we want you to come to work as your authentic self,” but it’s implied. The fact that Netflix welcomes (and searches for) employees of all ethnic, racial, gender, sexual orientation, educational, and thought backgrounds is a testament to the company’s success. We focus on having voices at the table, and ultimately films/shows, that represent all our viewers around the world.

3. There’s Work to Be Done

I don’t have enough time to unpack the subject of privilege in this post, but I do have to take a moment to realize that my story is not everyone’s story. I am incredibly lucky to have a family, friend group, and employer who accept me for who I am. I recognize that being openly gay in the workplace is not as easy as it sounds. I don’t know if had I been dealt a different hand that I would be where I am at today. So yes, I acknowledge that privilege, and I attempt to use it to bring my surrounding community, company, and industry further along in the conversation surrounding Inclusion.

As we enter Pride Month, my hope is that my story is a reminder to celebrate the stories that make us unique - not just in June, but everyday. The LGBTQ+ community is near and dear to my heart, and I can’t be more #PROUD to work at a company that has welcomed (no, dared) me to come to work as my full self. My company, my community, and myself are all better for it.

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