Coming Out in the Workplace with Valerie H.

Earlier this year, Metromile DevOps Engineer Valerie H. came out as a transgender woman company-wide. We spoke with Valerie to hear more about her experience sharing her transition with colleagues and her insights on coming out in the workplace. 

Coming out in the workplace | Valerie H.

What do you do as a DevOps engineer at Metromile?

I’ve been a DevOps Engineer at Metromile for about three years now and it’s my job to make sure all of Metromile’s servers and other tools stay up and running so other developers can do their jobs. That includes everything from coding and deployment to maintenance and regular updates on internal and external platforms and services.

Can you walk me through your decision to share your transition company-wide?

The decision for me to come out at work came from a practical standpoint. I work with a lot of different people every day and I wanted to come out as a transgender woman to the whole company so people could still contact me and wouldn’t be taken by surprise when they saw a new name on Slack, email, or our other internal platforms. 

I was initially just going to share my news with the Engineering Team, but after connecting with the People and Comms Teams, we landed on sharing my announcement company-wide through Slack. I figured it was best to just “rip the bandaid off” and let everyone know in case they needed to contact me in the future. 

What were some of the things you considered as you prepared to come out in the workplace?

The first step I took was coming out to my manager just to give him a heads up about what was happening. I then went to our People Team to let them know I would be changing my name and pronouns and that I would need internal records, email, and usernames altered to reflect that. I also wanted to tell the People Team ahead of making my announcement in case any issues came up down the line with harassment or disrespectful colleagues.

I held off on announcing until I had chosen my new name, Valerie, and then let my manager and the People Team know that I was ready to share that I was transitioning. The day I came out at work, I let my team know first during a small meeting, and then later that afternoon I shared the news on our company-wide Slack channel. 

What was the response like? And how have things been since your announcement in March?

I knew Metromile’s supportive culture would mean people would have my back in general but I wasn’t sure just how everyone would react – especially at a company that has over 350 employees across the nation. When I made my announcement over Slack, there was an outpouring of support – everyone was so kind and kept thanking me for sharing. At the end of that day, I cried tears of joy because I just hadn’t expected everyone to be so supportive.

Since then, things have been back to business – which is great. Colleagues do occasionally use my deadname or wrong pronouns but are quick to correct themselves. I knew from the beginning this was just something I was going to have to accept as people acclimated to the change. In my initial announcement, I explained that it’s okay to make a mistake but asked people not to make a big deal about it – just correct yourself and move on.

Any insights for others thinking about coming out at work?

I was lucky to have such a supportive environment when I came out at work and I know not everyone will have that same experience. However, I did find that it was extremely helpful to have a group of trusted colleagues when you’re thinking about or planning to come out at work. Having a friend in IT also never hurts as there are way more systems than you think where your email, username, or pronouns need to be changed.

Alerting your People Team/HR about any plans to come out is important as they are the first people you should go to should you experience any harassment or disrespect in the workplace. If you are in the middle of your gender transition and are changing your name, your HR team can also help navigate that name change on certain documents/internal systems. For someone like me who has not changed their legal name yet, I had our People Team change everything that does not need to match my current legal name. Once I get further along in my transition and legally change my name, I’ll go back to HR and remove my deadname from everything.

When I was coming out at work, I knew not everyone would understand what being transgender meant or why I was transitioning, so I posted an informational Q&A on our internal wiki page so people could refer to that if they wanted to learn more. I didn’t really expect everyone to understand it, however, I did ask for everyone to respect it and have been blown away by the amount of support I received.