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When the Environment Is Right You Can Bring Your Whole Self to Work

· 4 min read
Ron Amosa
Platform Security Engineer @ Salesforce U.S.

It's not something I think people often think about.

I'm sure everyone thinks the way they are at work is 100% genuine (with a few caveats of course) and any deviations from a 100% authentic behaviour is expected because there are social norms to uphold and you don't want to make people uncomfortable when you don't abide by them.

Right? Sure.

So this week this idea of "Bringing your whole self to work" came to mind because of my new 100% remote-first team.

I've never wanted to work in an office. I've never wanted to wear a suit, or a collared shirt for work, or wear a tie or anything of the sort, and definitely didn't see my life heading the office working direction where I would have to do all of that.

Over time you get used to the requirement (well, you do if you want the job and the pay that comes with it), and just accept this is part of the deal as you conform and comply with the norms of the office working life.

I have a lot of tattoo's and I have stretched ears.

During interviews I would cover up my tattoo's during interviews- not hard, just keep my sleeves rolled down and make sure I'm wearing pants.

But Ron, we're an inclusive society that judges people based on their character and ability to do the job?!

Sure. Look, I'm there to get the job, not test a social hypothesis.

But then even the first couple of weeks on the job, or contract I would keep my tattoo's covered up until I had made enough of an impression- the impression being "I'm not a criminal, I know what I'm doing here". with the rest of the team so they were comfortable enough for me to loosen up and be comfortable myself.

This sounds weird writing it out loud, but that's how I've learned to operate in this industry over the last 20 years, to ensure I blend in to the environment as much as possible and not make people uncomfortable because I'm not what they usually see in Engineering departments.

I was just thinking about that aspect of my work life this week- i.e. not being completely myself or being completely comfortable on the job- while taking stock of the new team I'm now working in.

My team are remote-first, global crew of people from the U.S., Europe, South Africa, India, Argentina, and now NZ.

In the 3 months I've been here they've shared what's going on in their lives, political points of view, when they've been feeling like sh!t, tired, anxious, frustrated, etc. Everyone's been super helpful and not once have I felt I should tone anything down, or that I was an outsider- even though I'm not a "Security" guy.

My manager is awesome, backs the team 100% and encourages everyone to look after themselves. When a team member needs help they reach out to the team everyone jumps in to offer what they can.

Even team members who were leaving for other jobs when I had just arrived would setup video calls with me, and knowledge dump, or just have words of encouragement for me in the new role.

People swear, make unapologetically geeky jokes and make an effort to connect and talk and share things.

I think just witnessing this over the past few months and thinking about my own experience in the Tech industry has made me truly grateful for where I've landed at this stage of my career.

When the team and the environment is this safe & inclusive (which I truly believe is a sign of maturity & intelligence), it makes it easier to be yourself and bring more of your whole self to work.

Thanks for reading, see you in the next one!