It’s not very common to find a workplace that allows you to be yourself - meaning that you can be transparent at work about your interests and hobbies outside of work. Bringing my authentic self to work hasn’t always been easy at past companies, but from time to time there are gems. For myself, I use to struggle with being open about my hobby of gaming – which might sound silly, but it did indeed have a bad connotation in many workplaces. It seemed like the days of tech company game culture had come and gone.
Looking Back at Past Companies
Gaming never effected my daily work, but it has often come with a bad connotation when people find out about this hobby of mine. I’ll never forget the day I briefly mentioned Diablo III in a standup meeting on my third day as a newly-minted QA Engineer in my first tech position at a past company. Afterward, the project manager walked over to my office and offered to buy me a cup of coffee, which was his version of the oft-feared “We need to talk.”
He mentioned, “You might want to slow down from that game stuff.” As we sipped our coffee, I threw up an inquisitive eyebrow before he continued. “This is your first gig, right? Alright. So, if you don’t want to be known as one of ‘those people’, you really need to look into other conversation starters.” Thus began an interesting conversation about the negative perceptions of being a gamer in an enterprise software company. It didn’t help that I was a walking caricature for the stereotype at the time already – no interest in sports or beer, wearing glasses, etc.
At first, I didn’t believe him, but decided it was better to be safe than sorry. Throughout my next couple positions and companies, I found his advice had generally been true. It was almost shameful to be the cliché gamer. I found that it often came up as a negative when discussing the topic.
Finding a Place Where You Can Be Yourself
You can imagine my surprise when shortly after joining Turbonomic, I was asked by a coworker if I was a gamer – I gave a noncommittal answer, and was immediately told that there was a work chat group for those who partook. Cautiously, I joined and began to come out of the shell I’d built for myself.
Not only did Turbonomic give me the opportunity to express my hobbies, but I also found that those who did not share them were completely accepting as well. For every sports analogy I had to have explained to me, I was equally willing to explain why an intermittent bug was like “Sombra let loose in your codebase.” I also found that many people who were not gamers took up an interest in my hobby. It was a unique experience to be given a platform and a voice here, when I’d been derided so often prior. Turbonomic is truly a place where you can bring your full self to work and feel comfortable being you. Whether it’s sports, music, gaming or some other personal interest – it’s accepted and supported by those around you. I’m relieved to feel comfortable once again in a workplace that let’s me be me.