For this month’s #ClouderaLife Spotlight we did something a little different. In celebration of Pride Month, we sat down with two Clouderans who are influential in the company’s LGBTQ+ community: Autymn Harris and Jonathan Sanford. In this Q&A discussion, we asked them about their roles at Cloudera and what the LGBTQ+ resource groups are up to for Cloudera Pride celebrations. We then got into an informative discussion around important issues within the greater community to think about and suggest ways to take action.
So let’s take care of some introductions. Autymn and Jonathan, what do you do at Cloudera and how did you find your way to the company?
I am a program success manager for Cloudera’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) organization. I work to promote Cloudera’s DE&I initiatives both internally and externally.
Internally, I work with Cloudera’s many Employee Resource Groups (ERG) to coordinate events for the various cultural and community heritage months. Externally, I manage Cloudera’s Supplier Diversity Program. We evaluate a company, ensuring 51% of the board has diverse representation and/or is considered a Certified Diverse Supplier. Conversely, I make sure Cloudera follows suit with proper certification.
I joined Cloudera this past December. Prior to joining I was on the professional services team at NetApp. During my time there I participated in a program called CEO Action for Racial Equality, a fellowship to support Black representation and empowerment associated with banking and business. From this experience, I knew that I wanted a full-time role where I could contribute to social change within companies. I started looking for a DE&I role and found my current position at Cloudera, which matched my industry experience. Fun fact, Jonathan was the recruiter that I worked with when gaining employment at Cloudera!
I am a DE&I talent specialist. As a member of the talent acquisition team, I create collaboration between talent, the DE&I team, and Cloudera Social Responsibility. My background across multiple sectors: consulting (Booz Allen Hamilton), technology (Facebook and Twitter), and education (Tufts University), which gave me experience across an array of business functions, especially recruiting, event planning, and career advising. This, along with my passion for contributing to positive social change, created a good fit for my current role at Cloudera.
How do you both support the LGBTQ+ employee resource group? What type of Pride Month activities do you run?
Jonathan: I am a co-lead for the LGBTQ+ ERG at Cloudera. Last year I organized an hour-long panel discussion, the purpose of which was really an education piece where we focused on informing people about the LGBTQ+ community, its history, the various communities represented, shared experiences, and common misconceptions.
Autymn: I am supporting my first Pride Month at Cloudera, working with Jonathan and Cloudera Cares. New to this year is our engagement with the Modern Military Association of America, which focuses on supporting military veterans who are also part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Why is fostering awareness around LGBTQ+ issues so important?
Jonathan: I think building awareness and educating is so important. There are a number of laws and proposed policies out there, for example, that are damaging to the community that people are not aware of. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to do some education around these issues.
Autymn: Agreed, I think it starts at the individual level. When people hear from folks within the community about their stories it humanizes them and gives a greater understanding of the community at large and what they might have gone through. I would add that building awareness not only outside but within the community is important, too. Because LGBTQ+ is made up of many different communities with some more marginalized than others. Everyone, even those within LGBTQ+ organizations, need to be aware of this.
Jonathan: Most definitely. The trans community, for example, has historically been left behind where the focus for a long time was on gay men’s rights, specifically. It’s important to recognize that the LGBTQ+ community is not a monolith of one cause or one desired outcome.
What can the average person do to help LGBTQ+ related causes?
Autymn: So there are a number of organizations where the average person can donate. There are many advocacy groups like the Lavender Rights Project and the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, that provide low-cost legal services and bail for LGBTQ+ people. Also, take a look at all the companies you interact with for the products you buy or the services you use. Find out their stance on LGBTQ+ community issues and either support them or stop using them, depending on what you discover.
Jonathan: Great point about evaluating a company’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues. Another factor to look at is where their political donations are going. Are they supporting active legislation that will harm those in the LGBTQ+ community?
What does one have to keep in mind when evaluating media around LGBTQ+ issues?
Jonathan: I think an important takeaway when you are watching news stories or reading articles is to be mindful of who is telling the story. Observe if it comes from the perspective of someone in the LGBTQ+ community, a politician, or a journalist. With the last two, evaluate where their biases may be. In other words, consider the source!
Autymn: Well said. One great source is GLSEN educator resources, like this document on using pronouns.
Focusing on the most marginalized. An important closing message.
Jonathan: While it’s important to support the whole LGBTQ+ community, remember that it’s actually made up of many smaller communities, some marginalized more than others. I think it’s super important for everyone to remember to support the most marginalized, like the trans population. I think Pride is especially important this year because there are a number of proposed state policies that will be damaging to LGBTQ+ people. Deliberate misinformation and legalized discrimination harm people in very real ways; emotionally, mentally, and physically. By better understanding each other, we can all ensure that we treat other people with the dignity and respect we all deserve, and not fall prey to a lot of the fear-mongering we’re seeing towards LGBTQ+ people.
Autymn: I couldn’t agree more. I would reinforce Jonathan’s point about looking at the most marginalized. I think with past advocacy groups and movements many times they missed the mark by stopping after quick wins or reaching their goals for most in their community. As a result the most marginalized, like Black trans women, for example, get left out. We need to strive to fight for the most marginalized and when we do that, issues are corrected for everyone. As Audre Lorde, civil rights activist and writer said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Thanks, Autymn and Jonathan for participating in this important discussion. Interested in working with others like Autymn and Jonathan? Check out our current job openings.