IBMers, Ella and Nick, on Bringing Their Authentic Selves to Work

IBM has a long history of being a leader and a voice for the LGBTQ+ community, striving every day to foster a culture of conscious inclusion and belonging, build a more diverse workforce, enable active allyship, and provide every IBMer with the opportunity to make a positive impact on society while bringing their authentic selves to work.

IBM has a Global LGBTQ+ Council focused on creating a safe and desirable workplace for all people, over 50 LGBTQ+ Business Resource Groups around the world for IBMers to connect with local community members, and weekly community calls for IBMers to chat with other like-minded individuals. IBM also has a thriving and engaged transgender community, offering comprehensive support to transitioning employees and education for IBMers about how to be most supportive to transitioning colleagues.

To celebrate some of the personal and professional triumphs of our LGBTQ+ IBMers, we’re launching a two-part blog about how they’re able to bring their authentic selves to work every day and flourish in our inclusive culture.

In part one below, you’ll hear from Ella, our Global LGBTQ+ Lead, and Nick, one of our talented Project Managers, talk about their personal and professional growth and development, as well as the ways IBM has had a positive impact on their life and career journeys.


Ella: I Define Me

“I define me because I know me more than anyone else. And for many years, since the beginning of time, people have been trying to define one another. But I know me best.” – Ella (they/them), IBM’s Global LGBTQ+ Leader

Based in London, UK, Ella is responsible for all inclusion activities relating to IBM’s LGBTQ+ community worldwide, including creating an inclusive culture where everyone is empowered to be their best selves, as well as directly supporting IBMers when they come out as transgender and non-binary.

Outside of work, Ella is the comms/secretary for the London Royals Hockey Club (the world’s second largest LGBTQ+ field hockey club), part of England Hockey’s Diversity & Inclusion advisory group, and a trustee of a new social impact charitable organization called Mission Beyond.

See what led Ella to IBM:

Read more from our conversation with Ella:

What defines you?

I think definition and the idea of defining people is something that the LGBTQ+ community has faced for a long time. And I think it can be very liberating to define yourself, as well. I think I would say, I define me, because I think that in itself is a powerful statement in terms of my own identity. I get to say what I look like, what I dress like, what my body is like, and how I want to experience the world, and I get to say what language affirms me and all that kind of stuff.

What have you done at IBM so far that really makes you proud?

I think it’s not a specific thing. It’s kind of an ongoing thing, but I would say that I feel like I’ve helped to create a lovely, safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve got a weekly community call that I host, and we chat about anything, like I mean literally anything. The other week we talked about donuts and cats and cereal and other weeks we’ll talk about LGBTQ+ rights in certain states or in certain countries, or we’ll talk about different relationships that people have or whatever that might be. I think creating that safe space both on that call and then also through the wonderful Slack workspaces and channels that we have, I think has been phenomenal. And I think seeing people come out as a result of having access to that safe space has been phenomenal.

How have IBMers impacted and empowered your personal and professional life?

I honestly feel like the IBM trans and, specifically, the non-binary community, helped me to understand the fact that I am trans and I am non-binary. I’ve just met so many amazing trans and non-binary folks at IBM and understood their experiences and talked to them in detail about their life. We have fantastic conversations, and it’s also been my job to support them, as well. I think through that, I just started more and more to completely relate to certain experiences that they had, or they’d say something about an experience or about their identity, and it would just completely resonate with me more so than anything I’ve ever heard in my life, and I’d be like…yes, that’s it. That’s it. That’s how I feel.


Nick: Growth Defines Me

“Growth defines me because I’m always trying to better myself and my situations. It’s really important to me that I do what I can to be my best self and live my best life.” – Nick (he/him), IBM Project Manager

Nick was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and currently works as a Project Manager in California in the U.S. At IBM, he works on projects related to community and employee outreach and engagement, where he recently worked with the San Jose Aspires program to support students in the local area achieve their post-secondary education goals.

Nick is a proud member of the American Asian Pacific Islander and LGBTQ+ communities and started to transition last year. Nick is a fitness and wellness enthusiast, nature lover, and plant dad, and is always seeking books and podcasts that expand his knowledge on mental health, personal finance, and interior design.

Listen to the ways IBM has enabled Nick to bring his authentic self to work:

Read more from our conversation with Nick:

What defines you?

Growth defines me, and that’s because I’ve realized recently that I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can be better, or how I can better my situation and the situations around me. A lot of that has been influenced by the goodness of the people around me and the goodness of a lot of the situations that I’ve experienced. I’m always thinking about how I can better myself and how can I live my best life and how can I help others be better themselves and live their best lives.

How have IBMers impacted and empowered your personal and professional life?

I formed a lot of relationships at IBM that are really meaningful. These relationships helped me get through pivotal points in my life. ‘They were there when I needed them’ sort of thing and ‘I was there when they needed me.’ I also actually met my partner at IBM. She is also an IBMer, and we have been together now for a little over two and a half years, and it was pure coincidence how we initially met. We didn’t see each other for two months, and then we kind of re-met again two months later and have been together ever since. She’s my life partner and I would not be the person that I am now without her.

Do you have an interesting story that led to your employment at IBM?

So, I interviewed, and got the position. And then as I continued in the position, I realized that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be and so I did struggle a little bit trying to find my footing in that role. Luckily enough, my manager then, who’s the same manager I have now, I expressed my feelings about struggling with the role to him, and he was incredibly supportive. Even before I finished my apprenticeship, which was about a year long, he had me taking on some other projects that were more project management focused. And then after my apprenticeship ended, he hired me on as a regular IBM employee. He did an amazing job, and still does to this day, giving me a wide variety of projects that I can get my toes in and really figure out what I like working on and what I’m good at.


Bringing Your Full Self to Work

IBMers are incredibly proud of our company’s long-standing commitment to equality and support of historically marginalized employees. As a company, we understand that to attract the best talent from across the globe, we must create and nurture a culture of conscious inclusion and belonging where employees can bring their authentic selves to work every day. We hope that listening to and reading about the stories from Ella and Nick will inspire you to be your authentic self at your workplace.

Keep an eye out for part two of our blog series on how LGBTQ+ IBMers flourish at IBM. In the meantime, check out our Diversity & Inclusion portal to learn more about IBM’s progress and commitment to help our LGBTQ+ community thrive.