At Zscaler, we make our people a top priority. We know that each individual brings a unique life experience and skill set to the workforce, and a more diverse workforce undoubtedly contributes to better company culture. We also know that people do their best work when they are comfortable being themselves in their work environment and beyond. To celebrate and honor National Coming Out Day and LGBT History Month 2022, we spoke with three members of our Pride@Z employee resource group (ERG) about their coming out experience and how being out at work has affected their lives.
“My coming out story is a little dramatic, as I came out to my family just one week before my arranged marriage back in India,” said Arunkumar Senthilnathan, Manager, Engineering, QA. “Though I had agreed to the marriage for my parents’ sake, I knew it was not the right thing to do as I would be ruining two lives if I went ahead with it.”
Senthilnathan said that though it was difficult at the time, staying true to himself was imperative.
“Coming out to my family was the best decision I made in my life,” he said. “I felt so liberated and light at heart. Once I came out to my family, it was pretty easy to come out to all my friends, colleagues, and everyone I knew in my life. The more I came out, the more my confidence got stronger.”
For Callie Borgerding, Technical Account Manager, her journey has been both challenging and rewarding.
“Coming out was extremely daunting and difficult for me,” she said. “I was scared of the reaction I would get when I let everyone know. That being said, I bit the bullet in September and posted on LinkedIn about being transgender. The overwhelming support I received was scary but made me relieved that I could actually be myself now and not be afraid. Being out was extremely liberating and made me feel free.”
Brenden Reeves, Senior Manager, Cloud Operations, said growing up in Texas and seeing how people of the LGBTQ+ community were treated in their community made them apprehensive to come out at first.
“My parents never suggested they felt one way or the other, but my Father made the usual gay jokes that were common in the 90s, which didn’t give me a whole lot of safe, warm-fuzzy feelings,” they said. “I mostly feared being disowned, as I had heard was common. Given all of this, I set up multiple fallback plans in case my parents disowned me after coming out.”
But Reeves knew groups like PFLAG and local LGBT resource groups had options for people who were disowned and were established enough in their career to feel safe coming out.
“When I finally came out, my Mother was SUPER supportive,” they said. And though it took some time, their Father accepted and embraced them for their true self. “In time, he has realized how little it matters that this is how I turned out, and loves and supports me for who I am. I couldn’t be happier with how my story has gone so far.”
The Pride@Z ERG aims to provide a forum and safe space for Zscaler employees—both allies and those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community—and create a welcoming community within Zscaler that fosters open discussion while creating meaningful relationships through mentorship and networking.
“I’m still relatively new to Zscaler, but the support here is evident,” Reeves said. “The Pride ERG is new in 2022 but is supported, and the group is great!”
Senthilnathan said that his experience being out at work and involved in Pride@Z has been affirming.
“So far, it has been really good at Zscaler!” he said. “I was very happy to see that there is a Pride ERG group at Zscaler already. I made sure to join the community on my first day. I can see that Zscaler has good LGBTQ+ friendly policies in place.”
Borgerding said that though her coming out process has been a “rocky adventure,” and there is still progress to be made, she’s found community at Zscaler.
“Zscaler has helped me embrace the real me by allowing a safe space in Pride@Z,” she said. “I hope that the company continues to grow in the space, as there is only up from here!”