Celebrating Pride at Automattic: “Every Person and Voice Has the Opportunity to Be Heard”

Throughout June, we’re exploring identity, diversity and inclusion in tech and the workplace, and what it means to celebrate Pride Month. To conclude the series, we spoke with Niesha Sweet, a People Experience Wrangler on Automattic’s HR team, about her Pride traditions and the things she finds most rewarding about her work with Automatticians.

How do you identify? 

Personally, this has always been a hard question to answer. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about bisexual people, but if I had to pick a label, it would be that one.

What does celebrating Pride Month mean to you? 

Celebrating Pride looks and feels like so many different things to me. This may be a long way of answering the question, but celebrating Pride is like setting your clothes out the night before the first day of school, trying to stay awake long enough on Christmas Eve so you’re the first one up for Christmas morning, and winning an all-state championship. Seriously, it’s that deep!

There’s so much planning that goes into preparing for Pride that my friends and I plan a year in advance. Growing up in the Bay Area, San Francisco is the mecca of Pride celebrations. Events, marches, and parties are happening all month, and the last weekend is nonstop continuous celebrating until 4 a.m. Monday morning.

Celebrating Pride for me is feeling happiness and admiration to be among a group of such beautiful and loving people. 

What advice can you give to people who want to speak or write about identity and sexuality — whether during or beyond Pride — in a respectful, inclusive way?

Here are a couple of tips that come to mind: 

  • Use inclusive language (e.g. with correct genders and pronouns). This is a tip for all published content, not just for celebrating Pride Month!
  • It’s okay to not know everything about the LGBTQ+ community. Don’t be afraid to ask your readers questions about the things you want to learn.  

How did you find your way to doing HR work at Automattic, and what part in your current role are you most passionate about?

The funny thing is, I feel like I’ve always been destined to work at Automattic. After working remotely on time-sensitive projects for the MTA in New York City, I began searching for remote HR jobs. I came across Automattic’s posting on Indeed, and after reading reviews and articles about working here, I just knew this was where I needed and wanted to be.

As for the what I’m most passionate about… Whew, there really isn’t anything that I’m not passionate about in my role. But, if I had to pick one, it would be the work I’ve contributed to our diversity and inclusion efforts. I have so many experiences as a Black bisexual woman, that working on our D&I initiatives challenges me and pushes me to find comfort in fully showing up at work. 

Automattic is made up of a very diverse workforce — culturally, geographically, as well as in terms of sexual orientation, gender expression, and other identity markers. What kinds of challenges and rewards does this richness bring to your work?

For the challenges, I would say that we all have to apply an additional level of empathy, understanding, and openness when working together. Just with communication alone — English is not the first language for some Automatticians, and some cultures’ communication style is direct. Assuming positive intent and having an additional level of empathy for one another allows us to effectively communicate with each other, while also appreciating our differences. 

The reward that comes with our diverse workforce is that every person and voice has the opportunity to be heard. Impostor syndrome is real, so some Automatticians may not feel as though they can share their ideas with anyone at the company, but we truly can. Our level of diversity is truly outside of what the typical company is aiming to achieve. That’s not to say we’re not looking to hire more diverse Automatticians, or increase our workforce with non-US hires, but we’re not limited by age, sexual orientation, race, and gender identity. Diversity has a different meaning in a lot of the countries where we have Automatticians, and that alone is rewarding. 

What was the most recent moment when you thought to yourself, “Yes, my work makes a real difference in other people’s lives”?

Believe it or not, I’ve thought this to myself at the end of every final hiring chat that I’ve completed. Our team took over “final chats” — the last step in our distributed hiring process — almost three years ago, and every time I’ve offered someone to join us full time and they’ve accepted the offer, I’m overwhelmed with feeling like my work made a difference in their life. I genuinely feel like I have the dream job, and who wouldn’t want other people to experience this feeling?

Interested in the work Niesha does? Learn more about our open HR Wrangler position. You can also explore previous installments in our Pride series, which included interviews with Human Resources Wrangler Basil Gowins, Jetpack Developer Echo Gregor, and Designer Mel Choyce-Dwan.

June 22, 2020Culture, Current Events, Diversity, Identity, Interviews, LGBTQ, ,