by Valerie Moschella, Director of Technical Project Management, Virtual, Inc.
When I started working at Virtual, Inc. in April 2005, the office was small with about 10 to 15 employees. It had a typical office atmosphere where colleagues would meet by the water cooler to chit-chat about life in their world. It wasn’t until December of that year when I decided to share a big part of myself and “come out” to my new friends and colleagues. Virtual invited us to a Christmas party at a beautiful restaurant in Boston and said we could bring our significant other. Mine was of the same sex.
I was nervous and anxious about telling everyone I was gay, but it was important to me that they knew the real me and I felt that this was the right time to share. I thought if I started with a small group, it would be easier to “say it.” The first group I brought into the conference room was three female co-workers whom I trusted, and still work with today at Virtual. I can vividly remember the looks on their faces, wondering why they were there and what I was about to tell them.
“I’m gay and bringing my girlfriend to our Christmas party,” I said. They looked at me and smiled, and next, came the love and support that these women and all of Virtual still showsto this day. They all emphasized how excited they were to meet her and hugged me. That was the moment that I knew Virtual was a safe place for me to be myself. Even now, after 17 years with Virtual, that feeling is stronger than ever.
Inclusivity is extremely important to make employees feel comfortable, included, and safe at their place of work. Virtual has a culture that fosters inclusivity and best practices can be implemented in companies everywhere to ensure work is not just work, but a home away from home.
The three women I initially shared my sexual orientation with are examples of females in Virtual’s leadership that embody Virtual’s values. Virtual has a lot of women in higher-up positions such as vice presidents, directors, and board members, with the goal to help end the stigma around women in the workplace. With these women paving the way within the company and in their personal life to support equality everywhere, Virtual demonstrates values that should be present in all companies.
Our CEO Andy Freed is another demonstration of how leadership should not just be a guiding voice, but foster inclusivity, mentorship, and friendship within a company, all of which Andy does with grace. Without him paving the way by making sure Virtual was a safe and inclusive place, I never would have felt comfort coming out to my co-workers and now friends.
As we enter Pride Month, Virtual’s Pride Committee prepares for the “Show Your Pride” celebration. This includes a dance party with our very own DJ and Events Director Derrick Johnson, a very colorful talk on the history of LBGTQ+, and a new Teams channel for other members of the Virtual community to chat about upcoming events or just life in general.
This is just another example of what makes Virtual so special. Someone recently asked me, “When do you feel like your most authentic self?” For me, I feel like my true self when I’m around family and friends and when I’m surrounded by other members of the LBGTQ+ community. I think Virtual’s key to success in this space is that they hire great humans: people who genuinely care about others no matter their gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. I truly believe that is the secret to an inclusive and safe environment at work, and that translates to how we lead our clients.
Naturally, company culture starts at the top. Strong leadership, such as people that look beyond the negative nonsense around DEI, is essential. The culture at Virtual is cherished by many, mainly because of all that is offered to us. We have an extremely strong and committed People & Culture group within our organization that do a phenomenal job organizing Community Connections and DEI events such as TED Talks with Andy, Friends@Work, book signings with featured authors of the month, YMCA Yoga, smoothie socials, monthly birthday get togethers with Andy, monthly intern meet ups, “Continuing Conversations” DE&I Series, and more!
The DE&I Series is one of my favorites: this is where one of us gets to share our story around diversity, adversity, and how we are contributing to the fight or within our very own community. This has been eye-opening because we get this rare opportunity to hear from someone else’s perspective without prejudice.
Virtual leads by example and we live our values every day: fun, generosity, empowerment, trust, teamwork, respect, inclusion, innovation, and service excellence. These are the ingredients for a culture that feels like home away from home.
In my time at Virtual, I have always felt like the company culture, values, and leadership paves the way for companies everywhere to follow in Virtual’s footsteps and create a welcoming and safe environment for all. This June and every day, Virtual celebrates all employees being their authentic selves, and promotes a company culture all persons feel safe in.Back to Knowledge Hub