3 Frameworks for Finding Companies That Let You Show Up As Your Authentic Self
Insight from AlertMedia’s Maddy Reid
Maddy Reid was in a one-on-one with one of AlertMedia’s customer success team leads when they were asked how they identify at work for the first time.
“It was within my first couple of weeks [at AlertMedia],” recounts Maddy, who had joined the emergency communication software company as a customer success manager.
Per Maddy, their manager turned to them and asked, “So, how do you identify?”
“I had never been asked that in a work setting before,” says Maddy. “It was so cool. And I was like, ‘Actually, now that you ask me that, I am nonbinary.’ At work, I’ve never pushed that because people don’t think to add that other option. But [my manager] had a child who’s nonbinary, so it was a really cool moment for both of us.”
We sat down with Maddy, who has since become a product manager at AlertMedia, to hear more about how they're building a career around good people and also about how others can embrace their identities at work and find companies that celebrate the diversity of their employees.
Finding the “really great humans”
Maddy started college thinking they’d become a math teacher. But an internship at a radio station introduced them to mass media, where they got to connect with others and be creative. “I realized talking to people could be fun! I wanted to do that continuously—talk to people who are nice to me,” they say.
It was in college where Maddy first came out. “I came out as gay, because I thought lesbian was a bad word. I had a lot of unlearning to do. As a kid, I was afraid to identify as anything other than straight, cis lady. Now I’ve done the work, I’m feeling good,” they say.
It took Maddy some time to find their ideal career, too. They left radio because it didn’t pay well, then tried a few other customer-service based roles. They were working at a tech company they hated, sending out dozens of resumes a week, when they connected with a recruiter from Austin-based AlertMedia.
“Everything changed in that moment. She was just so kind. It didn’t feel like every other phone call. It was very much like she was a friend calling me up and we were chatting,” Maddy says. “And when I went in for the actual interview, the way the team is, they want you there and they want to get to know who you are, and it was incredibly welcoming and comfortable. I was like, ‘Alright, sold, I’m in.’”
Their first few weeks on the job, Maddy was convinced their coworkers couldn’t possibly be that nice. “I figured they were saying all these things because it’s the nice thing to say,” they note. “But then I would come in after a long weekend and they’d be like, ‘Oh, how was your trip to go see your parents? How cold is it in Chicago right now?’ I’m like, I barely know you and you actually care. It’s pretty cool. Just a lot of really great humans.”
After Maddy shared with their manager that they were nonbinary, they started noticing things. New people joined the company and added their pronouns to their Slack profiles, for one, which made Maddy feel like they could reach out and share their identity.
“It was like, ‘I can tell you now, you’ve just shown me it’s okay,’” says Maddy. “It’s become more and more common that people outside of work, too, are willing to listen, willing to hear, and if they’re not…do I want to associate with them? Probably not.”
Maddy says that their coworkers will now step in and correct someone who uses the wrong pronouns on Maddy’s behalf. “I’ve never been in an environment where we’re always here for one another and we’re uplifting each other not only professionally, but also personally,” they say.
That sense of support helped Maddy grow from their original role in customer success into a product management role. They’d shown interest in the technical side of the product, and the director of product management noticed and asked if they were interested in transferring over to that side.
“I still work with customer success pretty often, because we’re very customer-centered,” says Maddy of AlertMedia’s products, which include emergency communication software that allows organizations to send SMS pushes, mobile app notifications, and make phone calls to people in emergency situations.
“Right now we have a whole lot going out about the terrible winter weather,” explains Maddy. “People are able to let their employees know about office closures or say, ‘Hey, the roads are looking pretty dicey, respond back to us if you're having trouble getting to work.’”
3 approaches to finding places where you can be your full self at work
We asked Maddy what advice they have to share with other people who might not have always felt comfortable bringing their entire identity to work. Check out their perspective:
- “Always work on your own timeline. You can put a lot of pressure on yourself when you're thinking about other people's expectations,” says Maddy. “When I first started in radio, I wasn't even telling people that I was gay because I wasn't ready for it. Nobody had an issue with it, but I had a lot of self discovery to do and a lot of things to figure out for myself. With identifying as nonbinary, it wasn’t until that conversation with my manager that I said, ‘Okay, maybe I can get comfortable with it.’ If you're not ready, then you're not ready, and you don't have to be. You don't owe that to anyone.”
- “Reach out to people who are reaching out to you. It really is a community thing. If someone is putting themselves out there, adding their pronouns to Slack or Zoom or their email signature, even if they’re cis straight, they’re saying, ‘Hey, I’m a safe person; I’m welcoming you in any way that you are,’ in regards to pronouns. Reaching out to those people is incredibly empowering because you have at least one person you can dip your toes in the water with and see how it goes.”
- “Remember you can leave. There are other jobs, there are other companies, there are places that want you to be who you are. And you deserve to be in that place. So if you're ever feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, get to a point where you can feel safe and comfortable.”
If you’re looking for a workplace where you can be your full self, check out AlertMedia now!