Being out at the office matters

About two weeks ago I received an email from a college student close to graduation. He met an Isilon recruiter at a job fair and found my blog after some Googling online1. This portion of his email (anonymous but reprinted with his permission) really hit home:

[Y]our openness regarding your sexual orientation (especially in the company) really made me want to work at [Isilon]. I have done several internships before in various tech companies and I was never comfortable disclosing my sexual orientation to my co-workers because I was not comfortable in those environments. After reading your posts, I realize that there is indeed a place where I can be my true self – both the geeky (or nerdy) side and disclosing who I really am.

I want to make a few observations about this:

  1. Most importantly: embracing diversity makes good business sense. EMC Isilon not only talks the talk (by things like supporting marriage equality here in Washington) but their employees walk the walk (as evidenced by me feeling comfortable being out at the office). Supporting diversity attracts talent, and EMC Isilon deserves kudos across the board for doing so.
  2. Being out in the workplace matters. Someone who is looking for a job wants to minimize any distractions that an employer may consciously2 or unconsciously use to rule out that candidate. Employees who are out at the office help create an environment where gay interviewees are comfortable being themselves. Interestingly this requires being out at the office and then letting the wider world know that you are. Not everyone has to blab about it on a blog like me however – information like this passes readily through social circles by word-of-mouth too.
  3. People read my blog! Or at least one person read my blog and found it useful.

I exchanged a few emails with him. He proceeded to interview with a team in Isilon (not my team and I wasn’t involved in any way — I wasn’t even in the office the day of his interview), was offered a job, and accepted it. I look forward to meeting him when he starts.

I couldn’t be more proud of EMC Isilon for creating an environment where employees focus on creating innovative solutions to hard problems and don’t have to waste time on the pronoun game.

1 Holy search engines batman – my blog is currently getting front-page billing if you Google isilon interview!

2 In 29 states, it’s still perfectly legal to be fired or not hired because you’re gay. Thankfully Washington isn’t one of them.