My Bravura journey began in January 2018 in the Melbourne office in Australia, where I joined as a Business Consultant with a background in Australian Superannuation, insurance, and business process automation utilising Business Process Management (BPM) workflow tools.
After a year and a half of working with Bravura’s wealth management and life insurance software solution, Sonata, I was promoted to Senior Business Consultant and selected for a two-year secondment opportunity in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa region) where I was based in the Edinburgh office in Scotland. Working in EMEA, I was able to apply the experience and skills that I gained in APAC (Asia-Pacific) and work on different and exciting client transformation projects.
A few months after relocating, exploring, and tasting the local Edinburgh delicacies (Haggis, Neeps and Tatties), the first lockdown began and so working remotely became the new normal and meant any travel adventures were put on hold. Luckily, the people I was working with on the projects I was assigned to kept the entertainment and fun factor alive and the work itself continued to be demanding and fast-paced, which made this time easier to get through. After completing just over two years in the Edinburgh office I then relocated to the London office in England.
Having the opportunity to travel and take part in Bravura’s secondment offering has been very rewarding and has provided me with the opportunity to form new connections with people across the business, navigate change and uncertainty, understand the business better, apply existing skills, develop new skills, and explore different parts of the world.
In my role as a Senior Business Consultant, I’m focused on solving complex problems utilising Bravura’s Sonata, Orchestrator and Stanza microservice products to transform and harmonise business processes and operations to assist with the delivery of our client’s goals and strategic objectives. It’s rewarding to take manual, time consuming and even complex tasks and automate these to see the business value this brings to our clients through increased productivity, reduce costs, and improved audit and control. Each day is challenging and different but also rewarding to work with some very talented people.
In addition to my day-to-day role, I am a founding member of the LGBT+ inclusivity network within Bravura called bYou. This network aims to make everybody feel valued, welcome, and confident in being who they are and empowered to bring their best self to work without fear of discrimination or prejudice.
How is the LGBT+ initiative supporting and growing people’s confidence within the business?
To support this, the network has several initiatives around the business to enhance what we can to celebrate our diversity. An integral part of this is a group of people that can provide support, whether this is on a confidential or anonymous basis.
Within the network we have three core aims:
- To improve the visibility of LGBT+ people across the organisation.
- To remove general biases and assumptions that people might make.
- To introduce better health and wellbeing across the organisation for LGBT+ people whether they are at work or in the home space, irrespective of which company or territory they are in.
What does the future look like to you with the progress Jonathan Hawkins and the LGBT+ community are making?
I’m proud to work for a company that has made LGBT+ issues and wellbeing a priority. Establishing the bYou network has enabled Bravura to break down barriers and connect people to celebrate difference – transform the experiences of LGBT+ people in the workplace and assist with enabling our people to function at their best.
The LGBT+ network within Bravura is providing a safe space for everyone to feel less alone, support each other, encourage everyone to grow in confidence, promote a deeper understanding of LGBT+ inclusion and making LGBT+ experiences more visible throughout the business. Through creating this supportive community, the bYou network will continue to address key issues that impact LGBT+ people, help shape attitudes, challenge discrimination, encourage all employees to step up as allies, and develop a workplace where everyone feels valued – enabling everyone to feel that they can be themselves at work. In doing all these things, this will continue to position Bravura as a highly regarded and relevant employer of choice.
What importance does Pride Month have to you?
Pride Month is a very important month and when I think about what it means to me, I often think back to when I was coming out to myself during university life and how I felt that I was the only person having to deal with this. I was scared and felt so alone – I didn’t feel as though there was anybody else out there. If I had the ability, I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that everything would be ok and that it really does get better. Today, it’s wonderful to see so many organisations, from large global companies through to smaller start-ups, as well as individuals standing up and openly sharing their stories and showing support for the LGBT+ community. I wish I had seen this when I was younger as I would have welcomed this positive representation. Being seen, heard, and observing people telling their stories, especially during Pride Month, is a great way to raise awareness and increase visibility. Without this, it can be difficult for people who may be struggling to be what they can’t see.
When I was younger, whilst reading and listening to other people’s LGBT+ journeys, stories, and experiences I had an eye-opening moment where I realised how many times I chose to sometimes lie or deny my own situation. I was in a relationship but on many occasions decided to not share this or if I did, I’d go along with other people’s assumptions that I was in a relationship with the opposite gender because I wasn’t sure that the people I was interacting with would react positively. In the work environment this can sometimes feel more tough because you may have to work with these people every day and worry that your career prospects at the company may be hindered if you be yourself as people may not accept who you are.
I am very proud of the achievements the LGBT+ community have made to build equality today and am dedicated to supporting this cause and supporting the LGBT+ generation of tomorrow. Although I generally feel safe in expressing my sexuality now-a-days, that doesn’t mean that others do, which is why Pride Month is so important. Until everyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ feels safe and secure, then Pride Month needs to continue to strive for parity within the community.
A bit of an insight of what struggles some people face
LGBT+ identifying people can face daily struggles both within and outside of the workplace. This could be feeling ashamed to be themselves at work and afraid of what they might say or think could hold their career back. Some other struggles could include general discrimination, homophobia, or transphobia, not considered for promotions at work, social isolation, rejection, and difficult experiences of coming out. All of these things can impact the mental health of people and cause depression, self-harm, alcohol and drug abuse and even suicidal thoughts. Identifying as LGBT+ doesn’t cause these problems but having to deal with some or all these things, sometimes daily, can impact mental health.
I always try to perform to my highest potential at work but earlier on in my career I would sometimes worry that being openly gay could count against me – afraid that coming out around clients or within certain work teams could limit my career and so the feeling of keeping quiet would sometimes feel like a better option. Having said this, I have been fortunate to not encounter homophobic bullying throughout my life so far. I did however grow up hearing homophobic language daily at school, whether it was using the word gay to describe something that was ‘not good’, or as an insult. There didn’t appear to be any role models or positive discussion around sexuality or standing up to homophobic language at the time. There was no real point of reference for me as a young gay man. Due to this, I felt that I had to hide who I was, which after time can eventually take its toll, whether it’s being done consciously or unconsciously.
As my friends started talking about girls, dating, and embarking upon long term relationships, I found I had no interest in the opposite gender at all, and started to feel like there was something horribly wrong with me. I would make excuses to avoid social events, or change the subject when conversations started to get too personal. Hiding a part of myself meant never really being myself, never really building deep connections with people around me. Over time this certainly impacted my own mental health and self-esteem.
Things eventually fell into place for me during my time at university where I met my first LGBT+ identifying friends and started to accept that there were people like me and that there was nothing wrong with me. A new friend introduced me to an amazing group of people and charity which ran support workshops for young LGBT+ people. It was here that I came to realise what coming out really means, that being gay changes absolutely nothing about who you are, and that it is common for people to struggle with coming out to themselves first before they even think about telling their family and friends. I was so thankful to finally have found a group of people, a group of friends, who I could relate to and support each other through some rough times. From here it took time, but I slowly began the process of ‘coming-out’; for the first time ever, I finally understood who I was, and the missing parts of my identity started to fall into place.
Coming out isn’t a one-off event. On a day-to-day basis most LGBT+ people may need to make the decision of whether to keep a part of themselves hidden or to “come out”. It might also be a decision about holding your partner’s hand in public. For me, if I decide to tell a white lie or skirt around mentioning my partner or my sexuality, I usually find I immediately feel guilty – both to the person I’m lying to, and for erasing my partner from, what feels like, existence. If I tell the truth, which is usually the normal for me these days, it still often follows with a heart wrenching moment of watching the person I’m interacting with very closely, trying to read if they are okay with it.
The struggles and experiences that LGBT+ people face might be similar or different but it’s important to never underestimate the value of any type of support and allyship. Simple actions can be so powerful for those that might be struggling. Some actions might be wearing a rainbow lanyard at work or making a supportive comment in general conversation. These acts help create a safe place for everyone and demonstrate a genuine cultural change.
A positive message for anyone that may be struggling
I believe that we can all do amazing things no matter what our sexuality, race, gender identity, religion or ability and it’s for this reason that I choose to do as much as I can to be an active member of the LGBT+ community and provide support where I can. LGBT+ inclusion and visibility are such important things and I hope the contribution of the bYou network within Bravura, and the contributions we make externally as a network and individually continue to create both a work environment and society that fosters inclusivity and positive representation of LGBT+ issues.
There is still much more work to do, especially around support for the trans and gender-diverse communities but we are heading in the right direction. I hope by sharing some aspects of my story and what Pride Month means to me, will encourage more people and organisaitons to recognize the benefits of inclusion and acceptance.
Be your whole self. Be seen. Be heard. Be proud.