This week, meet Billy – our At-Large chapter representative based in California.

What animal scares you the most?

Dogs scare me the most and this is because I suffered a dog mauling as a young kid of 10 years old – facial scars, arm, and leg. Medical technology in a small town in the 70s was such that the facial scars were still pretty noticeable, and kids that age can be cruel, so I had to build a strong exterior as a kid to work through it. Many years later, my partner recommended I talk to a plastic surgeon to see if scars could be reduced – and to my delight, they could and ultimately were! To this day, however, I still momentarily freeze when a dog approaches me.

What is the craziest thing you’d do for the one you love?

The craziest thing I’d do for the one I love? Haha – what a choice amongst many potentially crazy things. I think anything that involves free-falling in gravity, like sky diving and bungee jumping, for example. I’m terribly afraid of heights and easily get vertigo, so that’s why I’d consider it craziest. One other crazy idea: marriage. 🙂

Which movies made you cry/laugh the most?

I have a lot of movies I like, but my favorite has to be “Beautiful Thing” about young love being found and developing even in the face of adversity. Since I didn’t really come out to myself until I left university at the age of 23, and being gay was becoming more “accepted”, I’ve never had to face the kind of life these young men did. I watch it to remind myself how fortunate I really am – and because I love the dance at the end of the movie. 🙂 I really am a romantic at heart!

What sport do you practice?

I am not a member of any organized sport, but I regularly do two things: jog and bike ride. I usually jog on a treadmill because I like to catch up on all the podcasts that I never have time for during the day – going for a jog outside can be an obstacle course that takes my concentration away from my listening. 🙂 I’ve had to slow my jogging down lately because an old mountain climbing injury involving my knee joint has begun flaring up, and is the reason I took up biking. Biking has a lot less joint impact and allows me to go much farther than jogging. Fortunately, the Redding, California, area where I live has lots of great bike/pedestrian trails, and the mild weather (rarely below 0C/32F) allows me to do it virtually year-round.

What was you funniest experience at work?

Funniest experience at work was several years ago. Back then, my cubicle had an open wall that faced a balcony exit. One morning I had placed a big stack of résumés I had to review for later and a paper cup of water just above my keyboard tray. I left for a meeting and when I returned, I tried typing on my keyboard – and it didn’t work. I didn’t have time to fix it so I just went onto reviewing the résumés. As I read through them, I was puzzled because some had weird mixes of experience and didn’t seem like they went together. As it turns out, a lady across the hall – seeing my puzzled looks, guiltily admitted that when she had gone out to the balcony, a fierce wind had blown in, spilled the water on my keyboard, and blew my paper stack on the floor. She dried the keyboard, got more water, and thought the paper pile had been put together properly, so thought I wouldn’t notice a thing. Glad I did or it would have been an odd set of interviews later on given the résumés I had. 🙂 We have a great laugh about it even to this day.

This week, meet John – our VP based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

What is your funniest experience at work?

I work virtually most of the time and usually from my home. Our 15-year-old cat Maynard has a touch of arthritis which slows him down. He likes to sleep on top of the heater grates to feel better. His favorite spot is on top of the grate right inside the door of the downstairs bathroom. He goes in, gets up on his hind legs to push the door shut and then settles down on the grate. It’s a small space and with the door closed it becomes a sauna which he seems to really like. He is in there for hours. When he wants to leave, he puts his paw under the door and pulls it open. The funny part is that when he is in there I can’t use the bathroom. He pushes back on the door and cries. I have to go upstairs. I find that amusing.

How do you spend free time?

Acquiring skills as a videographer is my current top avocation. I enjoyed making movies as a kid but film was expensive, projectors were hard to set up, editing was messy – it was hard. Now with a iMac for editing and using my iPhone camera I am having lots of fun and it’s easy. I am also gaining experience using more advanced cameras and I look forward to getting myself one that will allow me to do really interesting work.

What job or task do you believe you have had your greatest impact at ALU?

I like to think that all my jobs have had impact. Being in communications it is difficult to get hard, objective feedback but I know how important it is for people both inside and outside the company to know and understand what is going on with ALU. Currently I am a member of the corporate communications writing team. I have had a variety of responsibilities over time but writing is my passion and I am delighted to not have to use a hyphenated string of words to describe what I do but instead just say I am a “writer.”

What triggered your involvement in EQUAL?

I recall that I joined EQUAL soon after I joined Lucent eleven years ago. In my career I have never tried to hide my sexuality but having always worked in relatively small companies I had never had an opportunity to belong to an LGBT organization. When I learned of EQUAL I knew it was something in which I wanted to participate and I am very glad I did. It gives me an opportunity to interact closely with colleagues I would not meet with otherwise and enables me to support our community which I think is very important. I am sorry I never had the opportunity to belong to a local chapter but being part of the ‘At Large’ chapter gives me the chance to get to know people in locations far from Raleigh, North Carolina and that’s fun.

Which movies made you laugh/cry the most?

I am a sucker for the big cry fests of the 80s, especially E.T and Terms of Endearment. I am looking forward to seeing War Horse. My grandfather was a surgeon in the trenches during World War I and the scenes depicting what he experienced are very vivid according to my aunt who has seen the movie. I saw the play on Broadway and was very impressed. Just seeing the War Horse trailer I started to tear up so I expect the full experience will be enjoyably cathartic.

The original La Cages aux Folles still stands as one of the funniest movies I have seen. I remember a friend saying that it was good the movie was subtitled because the audience was laughing so loudly it was very hard to hear the dialogue. I’ve seen three Broadway productions of the show but the original movie is still the funniest.

This week, meet Kelley – EQUAL!’s co-president and long-time board member.

What country is on the top of your list to visit?

Honestly – almost anywhere. What is most surprising to folks is that I’ve never been outside of the US except for a few side trips to Canada. I have never had to travel for work outside the US and my personal travels have only been to see the other great areas in the US. If I were to pick one place I’d want to see, I think it would be to go to Egypt to see the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archeologist and find the next great Pharaoh’s Tomb. It’s still a fascinating topic to me. Science is taking us further and I expect more major discoveries in the years to come in places like Egypt.

What sport do you practice?

I’ve gotten to the age where I’ve stopped playing more competitive and active sports such as volleyball and softball and moved on to golf. I play in a league once a week during the spring and summer as well as casually on weekends. When I get to retirement, I’ll have to find a place where the weather is good for year round golf :-).

What was you funniest experience at work?

It’s hard to say what the funniest experience has been because there are just too many years too think back through. I will say though, that my linkage with EQUAL! and working with the other EBP groups has probably been the most fun part of my job. I’ve had opportunities to go to conferences, meet people from across the globe, and participate in community events and volunteer work. All of these types of activities open up doors to so much more which includes a lot of fun.

What job or task do you believe you have had your greatest impact at ALU?

I feel I have two responsibilities within the company – my day to day job and representing EQUAL! Both of these give me opportunities to contribute to the company. First with EQUAL! – I know that I have helped people understand many aspects of topic of being GLBT and why it’s an important topic in the workplace. Aside from teaching multiple classes over the years, I think the most impactful aspect has been one on one conversations with people. It’s amazing what impact you can make by putting a face on the topic, saying a few words or answering a few questions. You can easily help people’s understanding of something they really don’t know much about. People fear what they don’t understand.

It’s easy to talk about actions that have direct financial contributions to the company. I think though that my most impactful roles probably have had no clear link to finance. I’ve been with the company over 20 years and my very first job here (for about 6 years) was to do development on a signaling test tool called the 2STPE/NCPE. This was a critical piece of testing equipment used to test multiple releases on multiple products across the company and is in fact still used today – helping improve the quality of some of our products daily. 🙂

What is the decisive factor that triggered your involvement in EQUAL!?

Being located on a campus that has always been very active with EQUAL! activities, I started out as an outsider looking in. At the time, I was not out at work and wasn’t ready to be. One of my good friends came to work for the company and started getting involved with EQUAL! As she was “brave” enough to come into a new company and be totally out, it made me think about my own comfort level. Being secure with my position in the company, I made the decision to talk to my closest peer and then my manager. I was supported much more than I gave anyone credit for. I was at an EQUAL! conference a few months later and president of our local chapter within two years. Needless to say, once I jumped in, I jumped in with both feet. I have never looked back.

Jérôme is one of EQUAL!’s vice-presidents, based in Hong Kong, China. Get to know him, as part of our ‘Meet the Board’ series!

What country is on the top of your list to visit?

Japan has always been my all-time favorite. Although I’ve already traveled there a couple of times, its culture never fails to fascinate me every single time! Next year though my partner and I are going to try something a little different and spend a vacation in the US (hello, NYC!) – which is kind of exotic as we are so far away from it here. Oh, and I don’t mention China because that’s where we currently live – but there are so many things to do here, too!

What sport do you practice?

I’ve been playing badminton for a while (and since it’s very popular in Asia, it’s somewhat easy to find venues to play in) and recently I’ve started to enjoy squash, too (although I’m terrible at it!). But at least it’s fun – much more so to me than, say, being on a treadmill. I’m actually a specialist in taking gym subscriptions I never use; I’m proud to say I’m a bit stronger-willed now – I will simply refuse to sign any more of those contracts ;-).

What is the decisive factor that triggered your involvement in EQUAL!?

In 2010 my partner and I entered into a civil union (for those of you familiar with the French system – a ‘PACS‘) and I suddenly realized that I could not get the same benefits as my co-workers. This led me to discuss with my local HR team to try and harmonize those benefits, and shortly after to take a more active role in EQUAL’s Board.

The other interesting thing is that while we have a strong and active membership in the US and Europe, there aren’t that many EQUAL! members here in Asia-Pacific. So I thought I’d get the ball rolling and make our organization more visible in the region – which is sometimes a challenge as GLBT topics are often not openly discussed in the society at large. Thankfully my co-workers have shown nothing but support, so I’m very hopeful things can change for the better.

What is the craziest thing you’d do for the one you love?

Spending the Christmas/New Year break at my in-laws? 😉

Which movies made you cry/laugh the most?

Hmmm, tough one. I’m more of a TV series person though, so I’ll just say that one of the very few times I’ve actually cried in front of an episode, it was the ‘Six Feet Under’ series finale. Loved the series – one of HBO’s finest.

And in terms of laughing – no brainer for me – it’s any episode of 30 Rock. Tina Fey is just that good!

Sylvie is President of HomoSFèRe, an NGO which gathers lesbian, gay, bi and trans employees of the SFR group and their friends. SFR is the second biggest telecom service provider in France, and its workforce includes more than 10,000 employees.


Sylvie has been working at SFR for 12 years; she was a victim of lesbophobia at work, which pushed her to change things in the company so that any employee could discuss freely about this topic and GLBT matters in general. Then, as SFR was working on its “Diversity” policy, she started thinking about creating an organization within the company; when she saw the float of Homoboulot at the Paris GLBT Pride – and in particular with signs of Mobilisnoo, the LGBT group within France Telecom Orange – she had made up her mind! With other employees of the group, Sylvie launched HomoSFèRe in October 2009 – just two years ago.

Very quickly, the Employee Resource Group gets visible by posting an article on the company-wide intranet which allows to get a snapshot of the perception of people, with some hostile reactions arguing the usual comments on splitting private/professional life or being cliquish, somewhat revealing that taboo was still very present for some employees.

Since then the NGO is regularly in contact with the executive team (although it is sometimes a challenge to be heard) in particular to set up visibility actions inside the company walls, e.g. for the international day against homophobia (IDAHO) on May 17 or for the World Aids Day on December 1st. These actions are key in developing awareness for employees and favor prevention instead of limiting the actions to punishing inappropriate actions.