I started at ZS eight years ago. At that time, I was recruited to build the user experience (UX) team in the software development group. Two years into my role, I made the case to build a UX team in our consulting business, which has been my primary focus since then. UX is both my work and my avocation, so I’m often reading, thinking and blogging about it outside of work.
I came out at ZS before accepting my offer because I wanted to ensure my partner and kids had health insurance. When the firm’s chief human resources officer called to congratulate me on the offer, I told him I wouldn’t accept until I was sure we had proper coverage for the whole family. He called me back twenty minutes after our discussion ended to assure me that my whole family would be covered. There was no question in my mind that I would be out while working here — I don’t want to work somewhere where I can’t be my complete self. From the beginning, Stephanie, my wife, and our kids have attended the annual principals’ and associate principals’ meeting, and Stephanie has accompanied me to the holiday party. I’ve only experienced warmth and acceptance from other ZSers. I have no reservations, whatsoever, about being out here.
Of course, there have been LGBTQ community members at ZS for many years, but a few years ago we realized we could benefit from more organization as a group. I agreed to sponsor those efforts, which have now become a formal network for LGBTQ ZSers and allies called Pride@ZS. The group hosts global calls where we exchange ideas for regional and local events in our offices and in our communities. We also coordinate global events around Pride Month and Ally Week, among other things.
As we became more established as a group, we conducted a baseline survey and found that, while ZS is a supportive organization, there’s an opportunity for us to more visibly and vocally express our support—both internally and externally. As a result, we’re seeking ways to sponsor external events, like Chicago’s annual Proud to Run, organize charitable activities in collaboration with ZS Cares and make our welcoming and inclusive culture more visible to talented candidates looking to grow their careers.
Last year I worked with our human resources and legal teams to complete the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Equality Index survey, which rates workplaces on LGBTQ equality. I am so pleased that we scored 100 in our first attempt, without making any significant changes to our policies and practices. It’s a testament to how we’ve been doing business for many years.
For me, being engaged in Pride activities affirms that ZS is a great place to work and that I can be myself here. I’ve gotten to know many new ZSers—both community members and allies—around the world and it gives me great joy to see other ZSers come out when they realize that the environment is not just safe, but supportive.
For LGBTQ individuals considering employment at ZS, I’d say it’s important to have the courage to bring your whole self to work. Be confident that your skills and experience will get you where you want to go, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
In my experience, our allies are warm, curious and willing to learn. The more we are willing to be out, to share our stories and to guide them to relevant resources, the stronger our Pride@ZS network becomes. I see only wonderful things ahead in the future for us.
Natalie is a principal in ZS’s Evanston office focused primarily on leading the user experience team within the firm’s software development group.