Diversity and inclusion is a big part of what makes Avast special. Here’s how we celebrated Pride Month.
June was Pride Month, and all month long we celebrated and honored the themes of diversity and inclusion. We kicked it off with our company-wide D&I Download newsletter, in which we reminded Avastians the month is not just a time of celebration, but also one of reflection, progress, and forward movement.
In the newsletter, we also spotlighted Senior Customer Care Specialist and Head of the HMA Billing Team Branko Mitkovic. “I started working at HMA VPN in 2012,” Branko shared, “and I was the only openly gay person in the office after all these years.” He added that the importance of diversity is that it opens one up to new experiences and inspires respect for the struggles of others.
Also, Branko takes his role as D&I Champion very seriously. “Being the D&I Champion for Serbia is a great honor for me and such a great responsibility,” he said. “It is my duty, I would think, to shed light on the everyday struggles we as LGBTQIA+ persons living in a country such as Serbia. I am also very grateful since the Belgrade office was more than welcoming to me and ready to learn and adapt.” Branko then went on to talk about Avast’s Rainbow Alliance ERG, touting its success in shining a light on issues that other employees may not know about.
And speaking of our Rainbow Alliance, the employee resource group organized a company-wide Pride Month event where Avastians could attend in person or join on Zoom to see multi-disciplinary creator Yemi A.D. give a talk called “The Future of Creativity.” Yemi has choreographed for Kanye West, and he founded Dance Academy Prague. He spoke about his childhood in Nigeria, the search for his father when he was 15, his discovery of dance in Los Angeles, his acceptance of his own homosexuality, and his candidacy to fly into space on one of Elon Musk’s rockets with four other artists (he finds out if he’s elected at the end of the year).
“I feel there was a very distinct moment when I fell in love for the first time, and I came out. I spoke to my parents, my mom and my stepfather, who I could never speak about these things to. And something happened, something changed, it was a physical change,” Yemi told us. He spoke about how his dancing previously had been all about the face, never the hands. The hands, he felt, were too revealing. “But the moment I fell in love and I was able to share this, my whole body and everything around me – the energy I was giving and the energy I was getting from the world – was changed. And I feel that is somehow aligned with how my courage started and how I was able to take off.”
After telling us about himself, Yemi then went on to the main focus of his talk – creativity. A key component of unlocking your creativity, Yemi said, is getting in touch with your own core. Sounds simple, but for some, it’s not so easy. Yemi talked about the layers we build around ourselves as we grow. Our innermost layer is our core, but that gets covered by a layer of what we think we are. That layer then is covered by what we want to be, which is further covered by what we think we should be, which gets covered by what others think we are, and so on. Our core is not getting smaller, Yemi explained, it’s just getting more distant. We need to cut through the layers and get back in touch with our essential selves.
Yemi presented us with five creativity boosters – (1) the safety to make mistakes, (2) regaining our child-like curiosities, (3) giving ourselves freedom to go in whatever direction we want, (4) giving ourselves time to play every day, and (5) mustering the courage to escape old patterns. “On a daily basis,” he told us, “we are the architects of what’s next.”
In addition to this great presentation, Avastians in Brno were treated to a screening of the movie Rande na Oko after listening in to a panel discussion on the topic of allyship, as part of the Vlnena Pride celebrations.
We know a big part of the world still has a way to go to reach full acceptance, but we want to make it loud and clear to all Avastians that they are accepted here.
As Rainbow Alliance chair Fabrizio Biondi put it, “We don’t want to be neutral. We want to have a position. We want to be in favor of rights, in favor of progress, in favor of allowing everybody to be themselves, and to lead their lives, and to be in peace.” Speaking more about the focus of the Rainbow Alliance, he said, “We organize some events, some networking, and other things that try to make life better for queer Avastians and for everybody else who wants to join.”
The Avast Diversity & Inclusion team is shining a spotlight on Avast Legal Counsel Siew Lau, an active D&I champion and ambassador. We’ll dive into Siew’s career and her activities supporting Avast’s D&I activities.
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