Kisha Clark, Manager, Technical Customer Support
As a leader for Ujima (Black) and for the LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Groups (or ENGs, as we call them), I have been given the opportunity to speak about my journey as a gay black woman in the technology industry.
Recently, I spoke to a group of women engineers and mentioned my wife being a coffee junkie. Afterwards, a young lady in her mid-twenties said to me: “The biggest thing that I'm taking away from this is the fact that you just spoke about your wife openly and freely without even wincing or thinking about it, or trying to change those words. You don’t understand what that means to me."
Not only did that encounter reset my understanding of how powerful it is to be accepted at work, but it also helped me understand that there are still, even in this day and age, people who don't come out, who don't say openly at work who they are because they don't feel safe.
I am in my 23rd year of an IT career and I never, in any job, ever had an Employee Network Group for support – and I didn't know what I didn't have until I had it.
When I came to Palo Alto Networks in 2019, it was a little overwhelming to be so fully accepted, which I know sounds strange. But it’s because the questions I received in every other role were: "How do you do the job? How good are you at your job?"
No one ever really asked about me as a person — not my life, my wife or anything that makes me who I am. And being here, from day one, it has always been: "We want to understand you, full circle, 360." I felt this embrace not only came from the two ENGs I am a part of, but also the direct team with whom I work.
You don't get that kind of acceptance at many places. I think that people need to understand that they should be asking or looking for acceptance at work because it brings a sort of peace of mind that helps you grow authentically.
For me, an inclusive workplace makes me want to give 120,000% to a company that is accepting the complete Kisha.
So looking for an inclusive workplace is just as important as a salary conversation or growth opportunities in your career, because you are a better employee if you are feeling that you are 100% accepted at the place that you work.
And so my word to anyone would be to make sure that that's a part of your job search. It's not just about finding the job, but it's also about finding an environment where you can flourish.
Palo Alto Networks is one of the most inclusive and accepting environments that I have worked for and I imagine it can be for you too. Like my experience, I believe that your teammates will see you as someone not only with skill and talent, but that they also understand the needs you have as a person who is part of a different community.