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Celebrating Pride 2023 at Confluent

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The month of June in the United States—better known as Pride Month—is dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community. It all began on June 28, 1969, with the Stonewall riots, when the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan, causing a six-day protest between LGBTQIA+ protestors and the police. The Stonewall Uprising was a key event in the history of LGBTQIA+ rights and the first pride celebration happened a year later on Stonewall’s first anniversary. We celebrate Pride Month every year to recognize all the hard work and the fight for the rights of the community—and to remind us of all the work that’s still left to be done. Outside of the U.S., Pride celebrations take place during other months like February (Australia), August (Parts of Canada), and September (Taiwan). But increasingly, June is being recognized as Pride Month outside the U.S. as well.

Building Community with ERGs at Confluent

To advocate for DEI and to make sure employees have access to all the resources they need, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are an essential part of Confluent. These ERGs are one of the venues where employees who have the same background and experiences can connect with each other. At Confluent, ERGs are designed to provide opportunities to build community around shared identities, collaborate, and develop professionally. You can learn more about our amazing ERGs here.

Pride at Confluent

In addition to providing a warm and welcoming workspace for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Confluent’s Queerfluent ERG is a thriving place for employees who belong to the community and allies. The ERG’s mission is “To thrive as an inclusive queer community and to increase awareness.” As a part of the ERG, members attend social events, educational speaking sessions to increase awareness about the community, and more. We also partner and work with NGOs focused on LGBTQIA+ welfare. We constantly strive to provide opportunities for employees (queer and allies) to engage in open conversations around the LGBTQIA+ community and make sure everyone feels heard, valued, and respected within the company.

Queerfluent Spotlights

This Pride month, we’re highlighting three of our proud Confluenteers to understand what Pride means to them, their experience at Confluent, and how we can all be better allies to the community. Let’s hear from each of them in their own words.

Evelyn Bayes, Customer Success Architect

I didn’t know I was gay or trans until just after I started my first job in tech straight out of university. Being both gay and butch, as a trans woman, the signs were a little less obvious, maybe a lot less obvious, but they were there all the same.  If I had been close to anyone in the queer community, I’m sure they would have picked up on it long before I did.

It wasn’t until a high school friend, Aisep, came out that I realized transitioning was even an option. We’d studied together, through high school, college, and university, in virtually all the same classes and always fiercely competing (or at least I was—I think it came naturally to them). They announced to the world over Facebook that they were starting testosterone. I started estrogen three months later.

The months that came next were some of the hardest in my life, as I tried to explain to friends, family, and colleagues who I was and why coming out was so important to me. Of the more than 2,000 people at Accenture Australia at the time, I was the first to come out as transgender. At the time they had no processes in place and I still remember my heartbreak when HR asked me to hold off on coming out for a couple of weeks while they figured out what to do. I also remember that Matt Gollings, an older, ex-Air Force man and a member of the Accenture Australia leadership team, stepped in and told me he’d back any decision I made. These gestures, both big and small, made a world of difference to my experience of coming out in the workplace.

I’ve since heard from more than one trans person at Accenture Australia that my coming out both inspired their own and paved the way for them to do so, not just without barriers but with an incredible wealth of support.

So when I think of Pride, I think about visibility and vulnerability. I think of the impact my champions made on me and the impact I hope to make on others. I think of the next generation of queer youth. And of those outside of the queer community who have yet to find their own champions. Of how we can create an environment that promotes a feeling of safety: Safety to not just be who you are, but to live without fear that your identity does anything but enrich the quality of your being. Safety to announce to the world that you’re bisexual and bipolar on a Girl Geek talk (thank you Sam Hecht). Safety to come back from your first Pride with facial piercings (thank you Koelli Mungee).

The Confluent team’s biggest impact on my queer identity has, and always will be, their incredible ability to normalize my experience. To acknowledge who I am without defining me by it. To celebrate who I am without obsessing over it.

I used to hate putting my pronouns on my profile because it felt like I was the only one. Because it felt like labor. I recently put it in my profile because I felt left out. I think about that a lot, and I smile. We change the world together through the many small actions that we make.

Markus Dittrich, Senior Technical Support Engineering Consultant

Be yourself, be authentic, and feel comfortable.

Maybe I'm not the typical queer community member (though who defines what's typical and what's not?)—I’m located in a tiny village in Germany without many (or maybe none) queer community events around. But I love seeing the support around the world by the company I work for, the community, and the ongoing growth for myself as part of the community, even remotely. This empowers me to grow, not only from a work perspective but from a very personal perspective as well.

When I started at Confluent four years ago, I came across our Queerfluent Slack channel by coincidence and immediately recognized the support of this company for the queer community, helping to build a safe, open-minded, and diverse workplace.

Over the course of the years. I’ve seen more initiatives to increase support and transparency for the community, teammates, and new joiners. It’s not just by coincidence that people find Queerfluent, but on purpose, where people join from the beginning, organize events, and spread the love—particularly while working 100% remotely, I feel part of the overall community and always in my comfort zone.

I'm proud that I see the number of Queerfluent group members growing over the years, both the amount of queer members and allies continue to grow.

For me personally, as a queer community member, I  feel that I’m part of the group, able to be myself, authentic, and comfortable without any doubt doing so.

I know that I don't have to hide myself or evade any questions on what I'd done over the weekends or in my spare time with my partner. I can talk open-mindedly, share pictures and introduce my partner while traveling to the team, who gave a warm welcome. Insights into my personal life I usually share with my friends and family I can share with my teammates like we're a huge family—and it feels normal.

I never question whether my teammates are accepting me. The team across the world has been incredibly welcoming and team members are interested in the queer community as allies, while Confluent provides education, visibility, and a supportive atmosphere.

Harini Rajendran, Senior Software Engineer

Growing up in one of the most conservative parts of India, I did not even know about the LGBTQIA+ community for the first 20+ years of my life. It was when I moved to the US in my early 20s that I learned about the queer community. Because of this lack of awareness during my childhood, I naturally assumed I was straight and had a challenging period trying to navigate relationships. Even though the other person in the relationship was amazing, there was always something that was missing that I could never put my finger on. After living in the U.S. for many years and getting exposed to the queer community, finally, it all made sense to me.  Once I realized my queerness, the next challenge was acceptance. Not by others, not by society, but the biggest challenge was self-acceptance. I struggled with it for almost a year before finally coming to peace with my identity. And life has been so liberating since then. 

When I joined Confluent, I noticed that there was a Slack channel exclusively for queer employees and allies. At first, I felt shy and not sure if I wanted to join the channel because I wasn’t sure how my team members would react if they knew I’m queer. A few months in, I had to come out to my then-manager due to some unavoidable circumstances, and I was blown away by his support. That was a turning moment for me. After that, I joined the Confluent Queerfluent channel and started getting involved with the ERG. I was so motivated by the mission of the ERG that I stepped up as one of the leads the following year. 

The acceptance and inclusive nature that runs through the company’s culture provided me with the safe space that I needed—I could be out and about within Confluent, whereas I was pretty closeted in the rest of the world at the time. So, Confluent played a major role in making me feel comfortable in my own skin during those early days and I am eternally grateful for that. To me, Pride means living the most authentic life that everyone deserves and spreading that much-deserved love in the world.

  • Evelyn is the technical lead for Confluent’s Customer Success Architect team in Asia. Now in her fifth year, with Confluent she spends much of her time working with teams in the banking sector, guiding them through implementing modern streaming infrastructure. Evelyn is a passionate advocate of the Big Data community, speaks at events and is forever open to discuss the intricacies of moving data in the digital world. Outside the office she spends most of her time reading, listening to music, and falling off her skateboard.

  • Markus is a Senior Technical Support Engineer and has been with Confluent for over four years. He spends his days in Global Technical Support (GTS) looking after our amazing customer base, fixing issues relating to all things across our mission-critical product suite.

    When he’s not heads down in support cases, Markus turns his attention to managing and driving improvements within our Knowledge Base and is a key contributor to this strategy.

    In his free time Markus loves to spend time walking his two dogs, Bruno Emrys, growing fruits and vegetables in his garden, or hiding out in his kitchen baking tasty things to share with his friends to make them smile.

  • Harini Rajendran is a Senior Software Engineer currently working with Confluent, designing and building distributed systems with interesting scale challenges. Her area of interest includes building big data telemetry pipelines handling terabytes of data every day. Coding and problem solving excite her. She is passionate about empowering women and other underrepresented minorities, especially in the tech industry, as we need more of us there! She is a big-time animal lover and enjoys volunteering at a local animal shelter in Chicago. Mountains are her favorite, and she loves trekking!! She also likes running and weight-lifting. She is one of the leads of Confluent’s Queerfluent ERG (the ERG for employees who are a part of LGBTQIA+ community and their allies) and is a proud member of the queer community.

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