Be Your Authentic Self: An Adobe Experience Design Manager Talks About Pride at Work

by Patrick Faller

posted on 06-21-2017

It’s pride month, and to celebrate we’re talking about what it’s like to be openly LGBT+ in UX design and work at Adobe. At work, being open about your personal life and your partner should come easily, but for many queer people that kind of honesty comes with a fear of acceptance and inequality.

Matt Aune has battled those feelings himself. Long before he joined Adobe in 2011, he worried whether his colleagues would treat him differently for being openly gay. Today he’s an experience design manager on the Adobe Experience Cloud team, and is proud to say his Adobe family has shown him love, acceptance and support. Pride Month means a lot to him, and he has some advice for the next generation of LGBT+ people getting into technology and design.

“As a very anxious youngster in high school and college, before I was out, I never thought I’d be working in an environment where it was so accepting and so normal to gay. It means a lot,” said Aune.

Being Your Authentic Self Means Showing Strength and Vulnerability

Aune says he’s always been open about his sexuality at work, but he says that hasn’t stopped him from facing one of the biggest challenges many LGBT+ people face in their professional lives.

“I think there’s always some hesitation,” he said, adding he has been nervous in the past when entering new workplaces, especially for companies located in more “conservative” parts of the country. He and his husband have faced discrimination in their personal lives.

“You’re making yourself vulnerable, but I think it’s important to be your authentic self at work and deal with any consequences that come with that.” said Aune. “If people make it about your sexuality, and not about the work you do, then there’s nothing you can do about that. It’s not worth managing multiple personas of yourself on the offhand chance that someone might not want to work with you.”

Being Your Authentic Self is the Most Important Thing You Can Do

Aune appreciates how hard being open about your sexual or gender identity can be, especially for younger designers who desperately want to succeed and make their mark in a new company. His advice is to push through, be open about your personal life, and make it about the work you do. He says the right people will notice.

“At the end of the day it’s really about creating good work with good people, and if you can focus on the designs and not make it about you, or the people around you, your work will really shine,” said Aune. “That really should be your guiding light as a designer early in your career, when you’re trying to build out a portfolio, when you’re trying to hone those design skills.”

He says younger designers, breaking into UX design, may be pleasantly surprised at how welcoming their workplaces and and co-workers may be. While he lives in San Francisco now, he’s worked in places in different parts of the US where he worried his co-workers might be uncomfortable or even homophobic. In the end, he says, he was always his own worst enemy; worrying about sharing those aspects of his personal life, and being delighted when he discovered his co-workers weren’t worried about him being LGBT at all.

“Don’t get distracted by potential negative interactions because of your sexual identity” said Aune. “I know it’s hard sometimes for younger designers and younger people in general, but oftentimes I’ve been pleasantly surprised just how welcoming people are and, if you are authentic about yourself, people pick up on that. The right people will surface to the top.”

Being Your Authentic Self Means Showing Pride at Work

Matt Aune and his husband, who also works for Adobe, have participated in Adobe’s Pride events both in San Francisco and Salt Lake City. He says the best part has been seeing how his co-workers make an effort to show their support for him and equality in general.

“I didn’t realize how invested my co-workers are in equality until I saw photos on Facebook, or see these people I work shoulder-to-shoulder with marching down the street in the parades. For Adobe to create that opportunity, either as an LGBT person or as an ally, allows you to add a new dynamic to the relationship with those people you already work with,” he said.

Beyond showing support for sexual diversity and legal equality, Aune says his co-workers have made him feel even better by simply acknowledging who he authentically is, and treating him and his husband just like others in the office.

“I feel that this should be normal, but I know that’s often not the case. When you actually experience that acceptance it it is very touching. There are many reasons why I like working at Adobe, but that’s a significantly weighted one why I would never want to leave this company, because of the way everyone treats us,” he said.

“It’s really quite a remarkable thing.”

Every June, Adobe celebrates its LGBT+ employees for being exactly as they are. Learn more about Adobe’s 2017 Pride visuals.

Topics: Creative Inspiration & Trends, Design, Diversity & Inclusion

Products: Creative Cloud