“I try to focus on the positive that came out of being bullied and wanting to help others and never othering people the way that I was othered.”

With a background more in humans than in technology, Seattle-based Community Manager Naomi Boyd helps steer cultural transformation for Microsoft’s Advertising Team in her everyday interactions.

For me, inclusion means showing up and being my whole self  — and not having to hide parts of myself. The day you come to work as your whole self is a life changing moment. A weight is lifted off. That’s going to impact how you do your job, and it’s going to impact our customers and clients too.  

I came out in my late 20s and while working at Microsoft. I’d moved from Boston to the Seattle area and I didn’t have a community yet. GLEAM, the Global LGBTQIA+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft Employee Resource Group (ERG), became my community. I felt automatically accepted as an out and proud lesbian and like I’d found safe space. It was then, too, that I knew where my passion really was and that I wanted to be involved in the employee experience.  

As a Community Manager, my day to day is all about culture and supporting all our different communities. My work touches everything from hosting calls to discuss what’s happening in the world to inclusive recruiting practices. The uniqueness of our team lies in creating space for people to talk and to not over-engineer opportunities to connect. My team intentionally creates spaces with no agenda – we call them listening sessions — as a way to connect. It’s a really simple idea and all about including people with very different experiences to come together and find support. 

It’s my dream job but it’s also the most challenging job of my career. I’ve suffered from pretty debilitating anxiety and depression since my senior year of high school, and it really impacts my day to day. When you think about culture work, you’re dealing with people’s emotions and lived experiences — all of which people bring with them to work. Taking care of myself while having an invisible disability and considering the needs of the greater team takes work. At the same time, I’m very open about speaking about my disability which helps it become a less taboo subject.  

Being a woman in tech has also presented its share of challenges. I’ve experienced more sexism than homophobia, and that’s probably because people assume I’m straight. Being mistaken for straight — even when I’m with my wife — means I have to keep coming out. But it also means I have some privilege that I use in helping other people and calling out and correcting people if they misrepresent someone or make an offensive comment around me. 

You wouldn’t look at me now and think that I was bullied in school. But being that my dad is American and my mom is Welsh, I was the kid who wasn’t fully American. I was teased because of how I looked and even because of the food I ate. I try to focus on the positive that came out of being bullied: wanting to help others and never othering people the way that I was othered. That experience also taught me a unique skill that today helps me in understanding the customer experience: empathy. In my 10 years at Microsoft, I’ve learned that if you want to have an impact and see lasting change, you need empathy.

For more stories like Naomi’s visit: aka.ms/InclusionIsInnovation/Disability