Getting to know Thoughtworks and the Interning with Pride Program
7 May, 2020 marks two years since I joined Thoughtworks. This particular journey began in March 2018 when I saw an Instagram ad for Thoughtworks ‘Interning with Pride’ (IWP), an initiative aimed at bringing LGBTQIA+ community members into the realm of the technology industry. At the time, after acquiring a Masters in both Computer Science and IT Management and working in the United States for a while, I was back in India and had been looking for a job for about five months.
After seeing the ad, I contacted friends who’d heard of Thoughtworks and the IWP program to learn more about both. After the conversation, I felt like joining Thoughtworks would be a step in the right direction for my career, due to my passion for both software development, and diversity and inclusion.
The process began with filling out a questionnaire and submitting coding solutions. This was followed by two back-to-back technical interviews at Thoughtworks' Hyderabad office. During these interactions, I spoke at length with Archana Chillala and Srujan Kumar Bojjam, both Application Developers and IWP program leads. We discussed how people from the LGBTQIA+ community don’t have an entry into the tech field which probably contributes to more of them entering the Arts and Humanities arena. I realized this fact, in particular, drove Thoughtworks to launch Interning With Pride in the first place.
The subsequent interviews included two more rounds on Social Change and Leadership, over video conferencing. The Social Change Alignment interview was conducted by Thoughtworkers from Bengaluru; Tina Vinod, the Diversity and Inclusion Lead for Thoughtworks in India and Anirban Ghosh, a User Experience Designer.
During the call, Tina clarified that our conversation wasn't an interview but a discussion. She shared her vision of making Thoughtworks a truly inclusive workplace. Anirban shared his experiences as an out and proud gay man. And, as I shared details of my life with them, I realized that I had never felt so much at ease about my identity as a gay man.
It was substantial because I had been through a not-so-pleasant experience when I came out to my mom a few months ago. I spoke about my journey as a closeted man who sought support from the local Hyderabad Queer Community before moving to the US in 2012. I told them that living abroad and independently had given me the confidence tobe out.
A pleasant surprise of engaging with my future colleagues
I spent the three weeks of interviews in a little doubt of whether I had gotten through or not. But, not only did I get through but just a few days before the internship was to begin, Archana and Srujan asked me to conduct a Sensitization Workshop at Thoughtworks in Hyderabad along with two other speakers.
I was elated to stand before a whole bunch of strangers, who were going to be my colleagues, and help them create a safe place for LGBTQ+ folks. I found the audience extremely receptive and felt comfortable amidst the group.
Piquing my interest in social change
On the IWP program - the internship itself entailed three months of classroom training and two months of shadowing a fellow Thoughtworker on a live project. On day one, as we shared our hopes for the program, I expressed my hesitation in restarting my career as an intern and how I was hopeful of being true to myself.
Following the five month internship, I continued working as an Application Developer on the same (healthcare-social change) project that I was shadowing. Over time, as project requirements and teams changed, I took on additional responsibilities as a Business Analyst and a Quality Analyst. My interaction with clients both deepened my understanding of the sector and fed my passion to be an active contributor to projects within the social change space.
I’ve spent the last two years at Thoughtworks learning and relearning technical concepts, while being more vocal about my personal experiences. I have learnt a lot about both software delivery principles and practices, and diversity and inclusion - and have had the chance to put my learnings to practice.
For instance, there was an interest in evolving Thoughtworks' new joinee onboarding experience and I was part of the dedicated team in Hyderabad for the same. This move got me involved in the organization’s induction and immersion function. And, I have since picked up skills like facilitating workshops and more which has put me on the path of becoming a trainer.
At Thoughtworks, I have had the opportunity to further my career and my interest in gender equality and inclusion. I am an active member of the organization’s Mitra Collective, a purpose-filled group of people from the LGBTQI+ community and allies. I was also part of RISE, India’s first job fair for the LGBTQIA+ community in which Thoughtworks participated. I have been a panelist at the Out & Equal India Forum, along with other Thoughtworkers.
(Lto R) - Self, Archana and Srujan talking about Thoughtworks Interning with Pride program at the Out & Equal India Forum
My pride isn’t restricted to my queer identity alone. My whole person has multiple facets of being physically impaired (with cerebral palsy), being an employee of an inclusive company, being an advocate and enabler for folks whose identity defies the norm.
My intention is to engage in dialogue, challenge people's perspectives and find empowerment in spite of my perceived limitations.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.