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The Journey to Become My True Self at Work

The Journey To Become My True Self At Work

We often spend more time with our coworkers than our families -- so make sure they treat you well, says Miki Demeter.

In today's highly competitive tech industry, if you are not part of a team that understands you on both a personal and professional level, you will almost certainly struggle to succeed. My own transition journey has not been without its challenges, as I struggled to present an authentic self at work and in my personal life.

When I first attempted transitioning in the 1980s and early '90s, it could have been career-ending for me, and for many it was. As I was a security researcher working in a homogeneous environment at the time, the fear of losing my livelihood lingered for decades. Despite my deep desire to transition, I knew that it might jeopardize my opportunities to continue working in the tech industry. In fact, many transgender people of my age and upbringing have internalized fears so deep it can be immobilizing.

At the start of my journey at Intel, I was not comfortable with being out at work -- only a handful of close friends knew -- but I contacted the human resources team to explore my options for transitioning. I was amazed at how they were willing to work with me at my own pace and comfort level. The HR team increasingly gained my respect, and in doing so, gave me the confidence to be open with all of my coworkers.

In 2012-2013, I decided to start medically transitioning again. Fast forward to 2016: Intel announced industry-leading transgender health care benefits, covering 100 percent of procedures that the World Professional Association for Transgender Health lists as medically necessary. As I began sharing my journey with teammates, I was surprised to encounter unconditional support and was provided with resources and access to a health care advocate to assist in navigating the daunting health insurance claims. And I have been treated with dignity and respect throughout the process.

This is the third time in my life that I've attempted transitioning -- and this time, I am confident, I will finally be successful. I feel so grateful to be working for a company that values diversity and is truly working on being inclusive of everyone. Over the last two years, since coming out at work, I have become an advocate for others who felt like me. There are more people living in fear than there should be -- I know because I was also filled with many internalized fears. In fact, the amount of time I spent managing two separate lives was extraordinary. For as long as I can remember, I only slept three to five hours a night. Now that I'm 100 percent me at work, I sleep seven to nine hours a night comfortably.

Having an employer support my authentic self at work has made me a better person and a more productive employee. It removed obstacles in my life that I did not realize were paralyzing me and, by association, my team. Has it been perfect? No. But my colleagues realize that high-performing teams require high-performing people, and diverse teams perform better. Best of all, they are not afraid to admit when things aren't working as well as they hoped. But they don't wait around. They iterate, they go back, modify, and recheck the results again and again.

My personal experience has shown me that Intel is very serious about including everyone, and diversity is not just a buzzword or a number to prove a point. Intel's support has played a significant role in making me the person I am today. It is setting the bar for other employers. Without my team, and their unwavering camaraderie and support, I wouldn't be as successful in my career today.

MIKI DEMETER is a security researcher at Intel.

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