Eric Waldron (he/him) and Sam Huntington (she/her) are two leaders of 6sense’s Pridesense Employee Resource Group, which supports the company’s LGBTQ+ community. They recently sat down to speak with us...
They recently sat down to speak with us about why June, Pride Month, matters — and how 6sense’s commitment to authenticity extends to who they are, not just what they do. Let’s take a closer look.
Sam: For me, it’s a chance for everybody in the queer community and in general to just celebrate who they are, what they love, who they love, and what they’re passionate about.
It’s a time to celebrate your authentic self, and to celebrate other people and their authentic selves.
Eric: For me, it’s a milestone. Each time the month rolls around, it’s one more year since Stonewall. It’s one more year since bricks were thrown at cops who were trying to arrest people for being themselves. And it’s one more year that we’ve had legally recognized same-sex marriage.
It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come, and an opportunity to get together and commemorate that.
Sam just mentioned the opportunity to be our authentic selves. I come from an older generation. We had to spend a lot of time creating our inauthentic selves. And oftentimes, we’ve spent more time building that fake version of ourselves to fit in than we did creating our authentic selves.
This is the one month when I feel like the real Eric isn’t afraid to walk down the street. Even as liberal as San Francisco is, I’m afraid a lot during the other 11 months out of the year. You know, getting beat up or having slurs screamed at me.
But in June, they put up those rainbow flags all the way up and down Market Street, and the whole damn city knows this is our month.
Sam: I’ve felt very comfortable from the moment I interviewed. It was one of the first times where I could almost immediately get out of that stiff interview mode, and just relax and laugh and smile, and have a good conversation with the person I was speaking with.
I don’t need to hide my authentic self here, and I really, really love that. I can wear colorful flamboyant shirts or have my rainbow [Zoom] background up all year round if I want to. And nobody bats an eye at it — or if they do, it’s to give me a compliment about it.
Eric: I came from the hospitality background. 6sense was my first professional office job. I had this self-imposed opinion that I had to be somebody besides myself [when I worked here] because I was in a “professional office environment.” And I spent most of my first year trying not to be myself. I almost quit the job.
Finally a colleague told me, “Who do you think we hired? We hired you to be you, to be the Eric that is Eric, loud and kind of obnoxious.” It wasn’t until I had that conversation that I started slowly becoming myself.
Since then, my career has blossomed. The relationships that I’ve built here have blossomed. My health is better. Everything’s changed now that I completely understand that I wasn’t hired to be this cookie-cutter professional person. I was hired because I was Eric.
I finally feel like I found my home.
Sam: The initial goal I had for this ERG was to create a safe space for people to be their authentic selves — to talk about their feelings, their concerns, what’s going on in their world, things like that — without any professional stigma.
I know not everybody is immediately comfortable with being their authentic self at work. It’s something I had to learn myself. I wasn’t always this comfortable in the workplace. I want to create a space where others can try to get to that place themselves, and feel safe, happy, welcome, taken care of, and appreciated here.
That’s part of the reason why we have a public Pridesense [Slack] channel and a private channel. Some people would rather remain more private with things like this. It’s a safe space where people can share whenever they want to.
Eric: I love that we have the capabilities and the encouragement to have both of those channels here, where we can welcome everyone — and at the same time, still talk about some real hard-hitting things that happen to the community.
Sam: The easiest, most basic thing any person can do to be a good ally — not just to the queer community but people of color, or women, or anybody different than yourself — is to listen. Just be open and listen. Listen to what people have to say. Listen to what they tell you about themselves.
If somebody is comfortable sharing their identity with you and being open with you, be grateful for that. That means they trust and appreciate you, and they want to share themselves with you.
A big part of being a good ally is also making sure you’re always learning about people who are different from you. Doing that betters everybody. We all have different experiences and insights to share. If we listen and we’re open to it, there’s so much we can learn from each other.
Another tip, this one for the workplace: Add your preferred pronouns to Slack and Zoom. It’s super easy to do — and it’s something really important to do, including those who aren’t trans or non-binary.
If everybody shares their pronouns, it normalizes the conversation about pronouns, so that if somebody is trans in the company and maybe their pronouns change, or they want to only go by they/them or something like that, it doesn’t become a big deal for them to share that information. Their boss already sees their pronouns up on Zoom.
It’s just respectful to people if you know what their pronouns are going in.
Eric: If you want to be an ally for the community, use your straight privilege. Respectfully and strongly and vocally stand up for us if you’re with us.
If you hear somebody talking about the community poorly, use your straight privilege. It’s very, very powerful. If somebody calls me something and I try to fight back, I’m just a gay guy fighting back. But if a straight person comes in and says, “No. You don’t get to say that. This is ridiculous,” they can’t argue with them. Use your privilege to show up for us.
Sam: Yes, definitely. If you see something or hear something, say something. Speak up when you see hate in the world. Shut it down.