Venture Out Profile: Evan Schultz on Programing & Being “Out” At Work
VO: How did you get involved in tech/entrepreneurship?
ES: I’ve had access to computers for almost as long as I can remember. When my parents got an IBM Aptiva when I was in grade school, they were worried that I would break it, and so they hired a computer tutor for me.
After the first lesson, he realized I didn’t need a tutor to show me how to use Windows, and so for the next lesson gave he me a copy of Turbo Pascal, and started to teach me how to program.
Shortly after that, I got involved in the local dial-up BBS community, writing my own utilities, and got the programming itch in grade school. Getting into tech has always seemed like a given choice for me since grade school; I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
VO: What impact (if any) has your LGBTQ+ identity had on your career?
ES: This has been something that is harder to pin down, although my time at Rangle.io has really shown me the impact of having an inclusive environment where I feel comfortable, confident and safe bringing my whole self to work.
At my previous job, even though I had been out since my teens, I was still ‘in the closet’ around most of my co-workers. There was a very well defined “professional / personal” line that I tried to maintain. I had a long-term partner at the time, and would play the pronoun game — and called him everything but boyfriend or partner.
For an environment that you spend so much time in, devaluing your own personal experience for the sake of being in the closet comes at a cost.
A casual “how was your weekend?” can feel like a potential minefield in how you respond. It wears you down, and undermines your self-worth and confidence. When that chips away at you, it can impact how confident you feel about work, the value of your ideas, and your ability to contribute.
When I joined Rangle.io, I immediately felt welcomed — and have been out since the first day. I feel like each day, I can bring my whole self to work. When I feel comfortable, confident and safe within my work environment, it enables me to do my best work — and not worry about the “mental accounting” of who knows, who doesn’t, etc.
VO: What is one thing managers or those in leadership positions can do to make their teams / workplaces more inclusive?
ES: If giving back to the community and charitable causes is part of your company’s culture, include charities and organizations that focus on LGBTQ+ issues. Get involved with your city’s local Pride — and have your own Pride events in the office.
Seeing companies do that can help make people feel more comfortable knowing that they can be out in a supportive environment.
VO: What is one piece of advice you have for LGBTQ+ folks just starting out in their careers in tech or entrepreneurship?
ES: Don’t confuse “being out” at work with “coming out.”
“Being out” to me, is about being open and honest about who you are, and what is going on in your life.
It’s not changing the pronoun of your significant other to “them / they” or devaluing them to “just a friend.” It’s not trying to keep mental accounting of who you came out to, or not, and watching which words you use depending on the company.
You matter, your opinions count, and you have great ideas. Don’t let the fear of trying to stay closeted undermine your confidence and hold yourself back.
VO: To what extent do you think attitudes within the tech/startup industry have shifted over time?
ES: There is more openness and discussion, and I think that it is moving in the right direction, especially as more companies are putting effort into caring personally about their employees and culture — and ensuring that an environment is created where everyone feels welcome.
VO: Anything else that you’d like to highlight?
The more comfortable I’ve become at being open and honest, the more like-minded, positive people have entered my life. Bringing this attitude to my workplace has been an amazing and supportive experience.