I came out to one of my best friends on my 21st birthday while at Berkeley. I then slowly came out to my other friends and family over the next year or so. In hindsight, I was very lucky as all I encountered was support and love. I recognize how unusual it was, but it’s not so surprising given that the Bay Area was and remains a fairly tolerant and liberal environment.
Interestingly, I have had managers in the three primary jobs I have had in my career who were either LGBT or strong allies. I never really had to come out at work, per se, as I was typically out from the interview stage—when the discussions turned personal, I felt no need to hide my relationships. While I knew being truthful at the interview could potentially jeopardize my ability to get the job offer, my thinking was that having an employer who chose not to hire me because I was gay was not the place I would want to work anyway. Surprisingly, following my self-identification as a gay man during two of my job interviews, I learned that my interviewers also were gay. I then quickly learned that the founder of Major, Lindsey & Africa was an openly gay man, which gave me tremendous pride and reassurance when I accepted their offer.
As a manager within my organization, it is important for me to never hide who I am and follow the example set by my employers in order to assure that other hires who may be not be so forthcoming at their interviews are comfortable enough – in their own time – to be their genuine and whole selves when they arrive at MLA.
When did you become interested in the law?
As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley in the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to work at La Raza Centro Legal in Oakland, California. There, I assisted the resident lawyers in processing marriage dissolutions of non-English speaking women coming from abusive relationships and whom we placed into battered women’s shelters and other facilities where their children were protected. The first woman whose dissolution was completed with my assistance gave me the most heartfelt thanks I have ever experienced and made me realize how powerful access to legal services and the legal system could be; particularly to those with limited resources.
What inspired you to begin a career in legal recruiting?
I was approached by a wonderful recruiter to join MLA in 2006 after I had been at a great law firm (Covington & Burling) where I was involved in their associate recruiting efforts for a number of years. After meeting the people at Major, Lindsey in Africa’s San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle offices, I quickly realized that the smart, dynamic and authentic people I encountered, including Bob Major and Marty Africa, would nurture and support my people management and operations management skills. I found my professional calling at MLA and hope to stay here as long as they need me!
Who has had the biggest impact/influence on your career?
While I did not recognize this at the time, my biggest career influence was my then-COO Tom Colberg. Tom persisted in asking me to transfer from my base in San Francisco, from which I oversaw the West Region offices of MLA’s US operations, to Hong Kong. This was in early 2008 and Hong Kong was the only Asia office MLA had established at that point in time. Since then, I have helped grow our Asia-Pacific footprint to include offices in Tokyo, Sydney and Singapore and established strategic alliances or affiliates in Beijing, Delhi and Seoul. To this day, I am grateful to Tom for having the foresight that I would thrive in this role and for believing in me. The cherry on the top is that all of my subsequent managers at MLA have remained as enthusiastic in their support—at least I choose to believe this!
What has working for a diversity-focused company meant to you?
I never take for granted how fortunate I am to work for a company that values inclusiveness and diversity. Having worked in Hong Kong and Japan, it has become starkly clear that not everyone is able to share their authentic selves while at work. Because I am able to do so, I make an effort to create an environment where my employees feel supported and comfortable enough to share whatever parts of their lives they want and to make them know that Major, Lindsey & Africa celebrates them. At our recent global Annual Meeting, it was not surprising, and yet still unexpected, to hear our company president propel the notion that we get better with diverse life experiences and perspectives. It was almost one of those “pinch me” moments as it reinforced why I continue to work at MLA, and it makes me that much more committed to both the company and the incredible people in it.
Where do you find strength and support as an LGBTQ professional?
This is not something I actively think about, thankfully. Having started in the legal industry in the San Francisco Bay Area made things fairly smooth, though, this is not to say that there haven’t been hurdles. Having company leaders who walk the walk, and colleagues who respect me both for my contributions to the business and for how I present myself at work, is all the support I need. My family also has been incredibly supportive. I do feel I live in a bit of a bubble in this regard, even while living in Asia, but the bottom line is that you need to surround yourself with people who accept you for who you are and who do not give it second thought. Involving myself in D&I initiatives both at work and outside of work has also helped me find allies that make me realize that I am far from alone!