Inducing Change through the Power of Community

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Michelle Soares’ first day at Dell was September 5, 2016, after being a Dell employee for five years.

Wait, what?  That doesn’t make sense.

Let me explain, it was on that day that Ricardo Leonel Soares de Castro was officially recognized for her transition to Michelle Soares by her peers and her company, right down to her Dell email address and badge.

Michelle Soares

On that day of new beginnings, Soares was welcomed back to work with a surprise lunch hosted by Dell’s Pride and Women Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) along with her Human Resources (HR)  Department.

“I was wearing a black and white star dress, they greeted me with an unexpected lunch and, more than that, I received my very first bouquet of flowers – white lilies cheirosíssimos,” she remembers. “They had this amazing scent and I actually cried when I got them.”

She goes on to the highlight the significance of the day, “I understood then that I was in the right place. It was, without a doubt, the watershed of my career and personal life.”

Soares credits the support and encouragement of the Dell Pride ERG for her courage to finally live her life as herself.

Dell Brazil employees at reception

“I decided to join Pride because when I joined Dell I was not actually out of the closet. So Pride was actually what helped me come out of the closet,” Soares said. “My initial intention when joining Pride was to get help for me, and then I started working with the community and giving back.”

When Soares communicated with her management that she was about to begin the process of transitioning, she was fearful of the repercussions. Thankfully, her management team and HR department were completely supportive, providing assistance along the way not only for Soares, but for her co-workers as well. With the help of the Pride ERG, they began awareness and education training for Soares’ colleagues, helping them understand the change and for some, the unknown.

“It gave me a sense of security that you usually don’t encounter when coming out,” she said.

Soares still faces some obstacles, but decidedly less than those that have traveled this road before her. She is thankful to work for a company that values diversity.

“Dell really is a diverse place where you can be yourself. Whoever you are, bring your whole self, not half, bring who you are,” she said. “Dell will accept you for who you are. I’ve experienced that first hand.”

michelle Soares speaking at Out and Equal conference 2017Recently Soares volunteered to attend the Out & Equal conference in the United States.

“Being a panelist during the Out & Equal conference was an amazing experience,” Soares said. “I got to meet several Dell leaders, PRIDE members, LGBT+ people from all over the planet, and had the opportunity to share my story and hear others’ stories.

“It lit my fire again to work to bring equality to our employees on a global level, it motivated me to understand the challenges faced in each region, and take the correct measures to make Dell an even more inclusive company (hard task, since this company is already amazing). Being a member of PRIDE and Dell gave me the honor of living this amazing and inclusive experience. I became a better person, and want to continue to help others more.”

Her words of wisdom for those about to embark on their own journey?

“One thing that I learned with time, the worst lie is to lie to yourself. I lived a lie for over 30 years of my life,” she said. “Your transition will not be the same as anyone else’s, it’s your transition. Look for support. You will lose people in the process. The moment you are truthful to yourself, the people who love you for who you are, will be there for you. Lying to yourself will only make it harder. Look for support through HR, ERG’s and other Trans. You are not alone.”

About the Author: Amy Winebright

Amy Forbes Winebright Amy’s current role as the Global Employment Brand Project Manager at Dell seamlessly melds her earlier career in marketing and sales with more recent experience in brand marketing and human resources. She has worked with small start-up businesses where everyone wears several hats to large corporations. At the heart of it all she is a brand advocate who is thrilled to advocate for Dell, a powerhouse company that values innovation and growth much like a startup, truly the best of both worlds. Outside of work Amy spends time with her family, tries her green thumb out in the garden and loves to see the world through her Canon lens. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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