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Pride at PagerDuty: How Our Community & Allies Adapt, Expand, and Thrive Under Pressure by Katrina Gaines

I moved to the SF Bay Area in 2006 from a small town that solidly did not celebrate Pride. I never felt like I made sense there, so when I had the chance, I left. There is practically no place in the world entirely devoid of bigotry, but I’m glad to have found a home in the San Francisco Bay Area where there is a vibrant queer culture and where an open, honest, and authentic LGBTQ2IA+ community can thrive.

Every June during Pride, I take a train into the city, and spill out into the midsummer heat of downtown San Francisco with hundreds of others, a cacophony of rainbows, music, humanity, and a whole bunch of glitter. This month is our time, a group hug for our community and allies coming together, celebrating authenticity and connection, providing comfort, solace, and belonging.

At PagerDuty, we take our Pride events seriously. The annual June 1 change of the PagerDuty logo to a brilliant rainbow has always signaled to me and to my peers that our voices and identities are equally as welcome in this company as anyone else’s. #BringYourself is one of our company values, and this is just one way that I see that value demonstrated.

I’ve been a co-lead of RainbowDuty, our LGBTQ2IA+ ERG (employee resource group) for several years as a +1 to my ‘day job’ of heading up our customer support team, and have always found delight in planning celebratory and inclusive events for our colleagues across our global offices. Every year, we would gather together as a company for panel discussions, for volunteer events, for movie screenings, and for happy hours. We would celebrate, learn, and take action on office couches and in conference rooms.

2020 changed everything. Many of the events we’d previously anchored our celebration and momentum on were built on bringing people together in-person. What would that excitement and connection look like in a world gone entirely virtual? With everyone already under increased pressure from the challenges of remote work and sheltering in place, we had to figure out a way to celebrate Pride that avoided burning people out while lifting up the community. Jennifer Tejada, PagerDuty’s CEO, was holding informal AMAs for employees at the time and asked me in one of these sessions how I and RainbowDuty were holding up during Pride planning. I replied with extreme honesty: I personally wasn’t holding up well. I didn’t feel celebratory. I was focused on showing up in allyship for my black and brown peers, and couldn’t muster the energy to ‘celebrate’ when others were unable to find a shield for the daily assault on their rights or the ever-present reminders that systemic racism could change any one of their worlds at any moment.

I knew that my anger, sadness, and exhaustion as a white person wouldn’t help, so instead I channeled that into our next Pride planning meeting. On a personal level, I looked for ways to uplift Array, our Black + Latinx ERG, such as raising my hand to help facilitate an allyship workshop. Within RainbowDuty, we talked about how we could center intersectionality in our programming.

The most important thing is that we followed through on that intention by co-hosting events with other PagerDuty ERGs, putting intentional thought into the organizations chosen for our give-back efforts, and practicing “take space, make space,” which meant taking space to still highlight Pride while also intentionally making space to highlight Juneteenth and PagerDuty’s resulting Days for Change initiative, which you can read more about in my colleague Adam’s post.

Through planning these events with this focus, my energy came back. The virtual aspect started to seem like less of a barrier with this renewed sense of purpose. We hosted a panel discussion for Dutonians titled “How We Got Here, and How We Move Forward.” As the moderator, I shared several slides to educate attendees on the history of Pride through riots and policy, on the Black, Latinx, and trans people at the heart of Stonewall and other pivotal moments in our history, and how these are still the members of our community who need the most support. Our panelists spoke of their connection to that history and their hopes for what we would do to move forward.

We’ll be highlighting this focus going forward, indefinitely. Pride is a celebration, but taking action to ensure the equity, safety, and security of the full community is equally important to the definition of Pride. Like allyship, this effort is continuous rather than one-and-done.

This year we pushed harder to ensure our continuous effort. We took our template from last year and upleveled it for the biggest, loudest Pride PagerDuty has ever seen, and entirely virtual to boot. We highlighted resources for Dutonians to learn more about the history and current events, showing why intersectionality matters and where advocacy is needed. We reignited our matching donation campaigns, and organized a group to volunteer with the SF AIDS Foundation, one of our long-standing partners. We invited Dutonians to be included in a spotlight on our social media pages as well as internally to bring visibility to the broad spectrum of amazing people who make up RainbowDuty. We kept the fun stuff because we need that, too! Trivia, a team bake-along, and color-of-the-day collages progressing through the rainbow are just a few of the highlights from our Pride celebrations.

We didn’t stop with internal events. Since our annual user conference, PagerDuty Summit, was scheduled during Pride Week this year, we took the unique opportunity to tie in our Pride programming and showcase our community and our support front and center. I spoke in a fireside chat with Corey Rawdon from Okta on finding our identities and building community at work based on our experiences building ERGs at our respective companies. RainbowDuty’s executive sponsor, CFO Howard Wilson, hosted an inspiring discussion with Gail Frederick of Salesforce and Peter Arvai of Prezi on building and maintaining an inclusive culture with commitment from all levels of an organization. These topics were also aligned to networking opportunities for attendees through our breakout sessions. If you registered for Summit this year and didn’t catch one of these sessions, I recommend checking out the on-demand recordings.

I am personally clawing at the walls, ready for the day when I can celebrate Pride again in person. However, seeing what we could do virtually for two consecutive years inspires me to imagine what a blended in-person and virtual Pride might look like, and we’re committed to continuing to strengthen the connections we’ve built through our remote circumstances. Our events pre-2020 had sometimes felt siloed at the local office level, and it’s exciting to have a blueprint to avoid that feeling going forward.

The support of our community, the other ERG leads, our CFO as executive sponsor for RainbowDuty, and our CEO has made a world of difference as we’ve found our footing and created space to celebrate together in the face of everything else happening in the world. It’s incredibly clear within PagerDuty that this work is crucial and worth spending our time on, not just alongside, but as part of running the business. I’m so proud of what we’ve done, and so excited to see how we’ll keep getting better next year and beyond.

Pride doesn’t start and end in June – there are amazing organizations working tirelessly to strengthen the community and provide inclusive services that can use your support. Here are the five organizations that we highlighted and donated to this year as a part of PagerDuty Summit: If you’d like to read more about why RainbowDuty is so important to us, you can check out this blog post.

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