I was seven years old when the first nonwhite student joined our school in North West England. Until that point, every student and staff member had been white. As a teen, while I wasn’t intentionally racist, it didn’t occur to me to question assumptions about people who were different from me. It wasn’t until Uni that there was a noticeable shift. There, I met people who were different from the default I had in my head—friends who were gay, trans, and bisexual and open about it. Looking back, the way I think about inclusion today has been shaped by those early experiences.
When I started thinking about my own sexuality, I spent a long time working out how I identified and whether it was appropriate to refer to myself as queer. Dyeing my hair in rainbow colors five years ago became a way of coming out to myself very visibly. I see it every time I look in the mirror. It’s a reminder that this is who I am.
As a queer person with autism, ADHD, and mental health issues, I’ve had to learn to navigate the workplace in ways that work for me. Discovering my neurodivergence has also provided an explanation for things in my life that didn’t make sense before. Things that didn’t fit together before now do.
For instance, I’ve jumped around quite a bit between different roles, from software development to customer support. The value I bring to my job now has a more varied context that helps me approach customer problems from multiple angles. When someone from Engineering says, “We’re trying to solve this,” I can understand what the customer needs and what it will look like at an implementation level. While I may not have the depth of knowledge that many of my colleagues have because I’ve not stayed in one place long enough, I do have the breadth.
Being able to have open conversations about my neurodivergence and its impact on my life has made it easier for me to thrive in the workplace. I feel it’s absolutely vital for people to be able to bring as much of themselves as they like to work. You don’t realize it at the time—certainly I didn’t—but hiding part of your identity takes up quite a lot of mental energy. Being able to relax a bit gives you that much more energy to put into all the ideas you might have, the support you can give, and the ways you can contribute to making the world better.
My passion for creating safer spaces in the workplace started at my previous company, Metaswitch, which was acquired by Microsoft. There, I founded the Pride Network, the equivalent of GLEAM (Global LGBTQIA+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft). It’s one of my proudest career moments because it provided a safer space for people who previously felt they didn’t have one. It also served as a template for other employee networks at Metaswitch, including the Minority Gender Network, which made space for both women in our male-dominated industry and for transgender colleagues, and the Access Network, a group for people who have disabilities and other access needs.
I always knew that I wanted to work for a company that prioritizes community and inclusion. Microsoft does just that. As the community lead for GLEAM UK, I make it a point to create ways to help people find spaces where they can be themselves and feel supported by others who share similar experiences. There’s no one space that can provide that; there has to be a plurality of spaces. I want to try and make those spaces exist and help others make them exist for themselves.
Discover more stories like Adam’s by visiting: https://aka.ms/InclusionIsInnovation/LGBTQIA