Meet Tyler | Sr. Director, Merchandising
At the time when I started my first job out of college in 2008, I had been out to my friends and family for a few years, had a serious boyfriend, and felt like I was starting to live my truth. But on my first day I met my new team at work and it was comprised almost entirely of straight men who talked about sports constantly and cracked jokes that made me uneasy.
I felt like an outsider and didn’t feel comfortable talking about being gay. I started to do things that many closeted people can relate to—I kept to myself, was vague about what I did over the weekend, and became an expert at using neutral pronouns to talk about the person I was seeing. The memory of those uncomfortable days has always stayed with me as an indelible reminder of what can happen when you don’t feel like you belong.
When I got promoted to leading my first team at that same company, I knew I had the opportunity to shape the culture and environment and I made a commitment that I wouldn’t let this feeling happen to anyone else. I would create a culture where differences were celebrated and people felt comfortable bringing their full authentic selves to work every day. I knew I had to lead by example, so I let down my guard and showed up as the “full me”—goofy, caring…and proudly gay.
Here’s some advice I learned over my career, with the help of some amazing mentors:
Who you are is non-negotiable. This is one of my favorite quotes from the amazing Caroline Wanga, a legendary former Chief Diversity Officer at Target. It’s plain and simple—you cannot and should not compromise your values or change who you are for a job.
Create space for others. Everyone is on a different journey to living their truth. One of the best ways to help others is by living yours loud and proud. By bringing your authentic self to work every day, you create a safe environment that encourages others to do the same.
Diversity is not enough. That’s just the start. Real belonging happens when people feel a deep sense of inclusion in their teams. We are all responsible for shaping a culture where everyone feels valued. Make sure to seek out the opinions of everyone on your team and give them a seat at the table. Not only will it strengthen your team’s bond, but I am confident you will drive better results.
I’m so proud to work for PetSmart—a company that puts such a high value on creating a culture that celebrates all the unique backgrounds we have. I wish you a very happy Pride month and encourage you to take the time to get to know your teammates a little more. I am sure you will be surprised by how much you have in common and how much you can learn from each other.
The Belonging Program’s “I Belong” Series harnesses the power of empathy through storytelling. This series is intended to give associates a greater sense of understanding, a bridge to gain new perspective, and a way to build connection to each other.