Tyler Hedrick
Software Engineer | Medium | Facebook

What do you do and what have you done in the past, professionally?

Currently I am a Software Engineer at Medium. In the past I’ve done 2 internships at Facebook as well as some smaller jobs when I was younger. I’m still really early in my professional life and career :)

In what way has your sexuality influenced what companies to work for?

Since I’ve been out, I’ve always looked for places to work where I knew I would be accepted. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for two amazing tech companies who take diversity and inclusion very seriously. Working at Facebook and joining their LGBT group on campus really helped me understand how it is to be an LGBT individual in real life and at work. I attended my first pride parade as a Facebook employee in the summer of 2012 and it really opened my eyes to what it was like to work somewhere that is so accepting and open to all kinds of people.

When and how did you open up to your company about your sexuality?

This is a fun story actually! I joined Medium on February 17, 2014, and we had a company wide retreat 2 weeks after that. During the retreat we brought in this amazing group Narativ to teach us how to tell better stories. I figured I might as well use this time to come out to the whole company since everyone was together, so I told the story of when I came out to my parents. It was really cool to have a brand new group of people that I had only known for a couple of weeks listen to such a personal story and react so positively. That was one of the moments in my life I knew I had made the right decision coming to Medium. I rewrote the story as a Medium post when we came back which you can read here: https://medium.com/@t/hubigs-pies-d92108e2a5be.

I’ve spoken to many interns who feel discouraged to share their sexuality at work, largely because they don’t see how it would benefit themselves or the workplace. Why did you decide to be open about your sexuality and how do you think it’s benefited you/your workplace?

I’m sad to hear that the interns you’ve spoken with are uncomfortable sharing that part of them at their workplace :( I find that sharing your sexuality is just like sharing anything else personal about yourself. Some people don’t like to share anything personal at work, but sharing who you are with your coworkers actually makes work more interesting, fun, and productive. I believe that when you know your coworkers on a more personal level, you are able to connect with them and work together more effectively. When you are LGBT, you are always coming out of the closet. Every day. But every time you do it, it becomes easier and less scary. Coming out to your coworkers can help you be more comfortable in your own skin and not feel like you’re hiding something, and it also helps your coworkers by making them more aware of the diversity they have around them.

What’s your experience of being a LGBTQ+ person in tech been like?

It’s been pretty amazing actually! Growing up I never knew how many LGBT people there are in tech. When I applied to university I thought I was going to be the only gay guy in all of CS, but that was very far from the truth. I’ve also felt extremely supported in the tech community in general with programs like Out for Undergrad and various LGBT events held by tech companies. Tech companies typically have huge turn outs at the SF pride parade too.

How would you advise another person to handle any homophobic situations at work?

Absolutely speak up. It’s so hard to say something, but if you have the courage to, then you really should. Many times people don’t even realize their comments are hurtful or homophobic, so just raising it to that individual can often help him, her, or them a lot. If there is a serious issue, you should go to HR privately and have them handle the situation correctly. If HR doesn’t respond well, or you don’t have an HR person / department, I would try and find someone else at work who you know will support you. See if you can have that person say something instead, or be there with you to confront the issue. The worst thing you can do is stay quiet about it.

What would make your work environment or the tech industry as a whole more LGBTQ+ friendly?

I think every tech company should have an LGBT group, and should be really mindful about how they communicate both internally and externally. Having unisex bathrooms at the office, using gender-neutral plural pronouns, LGBT-inclusive benefits, publicly announcing support for marriage equality, updating social media icons with rainbow colors, etc. There are so many ways for companies to show that they are inclusive, and I think many times they just don’t think of it or forget to follow through with it. As LGBT candidates look for jobs, those companies that very publicly show their pride and acceptance will have the edge over companies that don’t.

What advice would you give to queer employees entering the tech industry?

Don’t be afraid to ask the company you are interviewing at about their LGBT inclusive policies and benefits. For some really small start ups, you might be their first LGBT candidate / employee and they may just haven’t set up or thought about it. If there is a product or company you are really passionate about, but they don’t have a presence in the LGBT community yet, look at that as an opportunity to lead them in that direction. Start an LGBT group internally, get involved in the public communication efforts to show that the company’s support on LGBT issues, and be vocal about your support to coworkers. Also see if your company is willing to host an LGBT tech mixer with people from around the area. It’s a great way for the LGBT community to see your company as an inclusive place to work, and for you and your employees to meet other LGBT people in tech.

How and when have you asked companies you’ve applied to about their LGBT policies?

I asked every company that gave me an offer if they provide LGBT inclusive services and benefits. It’s important for you to know as someone who will consume those services, and for the company to know that it is something that is important to you. Don’t be discouraged if the company you are interviewing with doesn’t offer these services yet, you could be their first LGBT employee! Making the company aware of what you need and making sure that they will be able to offer LGBT inclusive services is extremely important. You don’t want to work someplace that isn’t inclusive across the board.

Reach out to ariela@queerpeopleoftech.com with feedback, contributor suggestions, or to say hi ☺

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