This Pride month, we’re excited to introduce Katelynn Cusanelli. She’s a 5-year Clouderan working as a Senior Premier Support Engineer, dedicated to supporting our largest accounts.
As the first openly transgender cast member of The Real World, Katelynn has spent a considerable amount of time advocating for LGBTQ rights and promoting diversity and inclusion. It’s one of the reasons she feels passionate about her work at Cloudera.
“It’s refreshing to be around so many diverse people of different backgrounds. Our company culture helps engender that environment too. Cloudera is definitely the best place I’ve ever worked.”
While Katelynn is grateful for her ability to bring her technical expertise to a company committed to diversity, her path here came with its hardships.
“Literally every single major plan I’ve made for my life has gone completely sideways.”
Katelynn grew up in the Deep South during the 90s. It was a time where she says that “being open about being different was a good way to find yourself in constant trouble.” She recalls several times in her life where she was faced with the choice between being open and honest about who she was or making her life easier.
She also came from a military family and anticipated following in their footsteps. But after enlisting as a teenager, that plan fell apart due to the military’s policies on LGBT service members. “I hadn’t really planned on going to college at that point and newly graduated from high school with no backup plan definitely required a major pivot.”
Luckily, she spent years taking apart computers and learning how to work with UNIX systems. In high school, she was accepted into a magnet program that allowed her to graduate with industry certifications. At 17, she jumped right into the workforce and nearly 20 years later, she is still bringing her experience to the industry.
As we celebrate PRIDE month, Katelynn shares her thoughts.
“I think visibility is incredibly important. When I was a kid growing up in the 90s, there was still a culture of fear and paranoia surrounding the LGBTQ community.”
She added that beyond the visibility aspect, “having a month dedicated toward the LGBTQ community is important for the sake of our elders in the community, too. Being three plus decades removed, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when it was dangerous to be openly gay. In some states it was illegal to have gay relationships.”
While today that’s a different story, she recognizes the importance of remembering history and honoring it during this month.
“New generations of LGBTQ youth get to grow up in a world where companies change their profile to a rainbow border or sponsor Pride events, but we should never forget our history and the literal lives lost in the fight for our ability to be open and proud of who we are. None of the luxuries and liberties we enjoy today could have happened without the contribution of those who came before us.”
It’s this history along with her personal pivots and hardships that drive her today.
“For me personally, I think there’s immense power in being true to yourself. And because of that I have managed to help people in their own journeys of self discovery and self acceptance. Being able to own my identity openly, publicly, and loudly, and show others that you can live a life honestly and on your own terms makes all the flak worth it.”
She is a firm believer in inclusivity driving innovation and she brings that conviction to the table at Cloudera. “Differing backgrounds, voices, and opinions can only make us stronger.”
She’s excited for the future of Cloudera. “It’s always good when a company has openly stated their intention to improve diversity and engender inclusion, and I look forward to seeing a more diverse composition of Clouderans in positions of leadership.”
Her Pride extends beyond the month.
Katelynn has progressed Cloudera and the LGBTQ rights movement so much in her time. For this and so much more, she expressed, “I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished in my life so far. I’ve managed to build a successful career, help countless people, and overcome all of the challenges that life has thrown my way.”
When Katelynn isn’t supporting our largest customers she spends her time volunteering, hiking with her dog, crocheting, and cooking, in addition to “standard nerd fare stuff like video games and D&D.”
We thank you for your work, both in and out of the office, Katelynn.
Keep up with our culture blog for more spotlights!