daniel-weisbeck
Human Resources

Netbiscuits CEO: I'm gay and this is why I'm being open about it

Daniel Weisbeck joined mobile analytics and device detection firm Netbiscuits in 2012, and was appointed CEO in September 2014. Customers include eBay, Coca-Cola, Axel Springer, T-Online, Kempinski and BMW. He previously worked at companies including Corel and Polycom. In a contributed piece, Daniel explains why he believes it's important for IT leaders to make their firms inclusive.

Back in the early 90s, in one of my first professional jobs, a co-worker, who has since become a life- long friend of mine came out to me.  This was significant for a few reasons. First, I was the first person he ever told he was gay, and he told me before he had really started living a gay life. The second thing, that I still find amazing about this story, is that he told a co-worker, me, first. We never talked about why he told me, but I’d like to believe it was because I had recently shared that I was gay with a few people at work, after I felt comfortable enough that it was safe. This friend was one of the people I told.  

To set context, this was just before the dot com boom, when many industries, such as the tech industry, were, and in many cases still are, predominantly white, male, heterosexual environments. As many working across marketing/sales roles will tell you, there is often a locker room spirit in such environments. And for the same reasons we are yet to see a huge deluge of openly gay NFL or Premier League soccer players, non-conformist sexuality often leads to a spiral of silence in the workplace.

For most of our time at this company, my colleague and I shared the fact that we were gay with only a few people.  What was interesting for me was the fact that prior to coming out he dated girls and was known in the office as a bit of a lady-killer with great looks and charm. Everyone talked about that on a regular basis. Now, the same person, same looks and same guy-killer charm hardly spoke about life outside the office while at work. The spiral of silence in full effect.

I recently held an interview as CEO of Netbiscuits, coming out as a gay IT executive. This was massive for me as I still, up to that point, was very selective about who I shared my personal details with at work, all the way up to being the most senior person in the company. When Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, came out I felt a huge sense of relief. Similar I would imagine to what my friend felt when I came out years ago.

I felt it worth sharing this story not just to point out the challenges of navigating work as a gay person when you feel it isn’t a safe environment, but because there is also a flip side to not being openly gay at work. That is, someone sitting next to you, someone who is valuable to the team and the company, may be struggling with life choices. And a hostile work environment can magnify that. When I talk of it being ‘safe’ to talk about your sexuality, I refer to how this can impact how your co-workers engage with you and also how it can affect your career progression. Very serious issues.

And it’s more relevant within the tech sector today than ever before. As we hear of the continual skills shortage, should sexuality be a barrier to entry any longer? We have seen progress, with other minority groups making an impact as IT leaders, and their inclusion in the sector becoming a natural and positive thing. Surely, now more than ever, we must make IT the most accessible and appealing industry, to avoid losing great talent to other sectors.

These things have a chain effect; and we all have an obligation to keep the momentum building. So I felt it was time for me to join the chain and state my sexuality publicly. Hopefully it will benefit others who are struggling at work with hiding the fact that they are gay, or transgender or bi-sexual, or whatever. Minority only ever becomes mainstream by becoming natural and a part of everyday discourse. If I can help that by stimulating conversation and encouraging others to do that, we are heading in the right direction.

And maybe one day, maybe even as soon as a day very near, it won’t matter anymore and we won’t need big public statements from senior leaders to make it okay to be openly ‘anything’ at work. Publicly sharing ‘out’ stories as gay men right now is the right thing to do. It’s not sensationalism, it’s not political, it’s how it should be in a world where we need talented and happy employees and good friends.

 

Martin Veitch talked to Daniel about why sellers have to work harder to understand buyer behaviour. Read the interview here.

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Daniel Weisbeck

Daniel Weisbeck joined mobile analytics and device detection firm Netbiscuits in 2012, and was appointed CEO in September 2014. Customers include eBay, Coca-Cola, Axel Springer, T-Online, Kempinski and BMW. He previously worked at companies including Corel and Polycom.

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