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Kenny Whyte
Kenny Whyte

Posted on

I'm a Software Engineer, wearing a mask, but it’s not COVID-19 related…

I joined about a year ago because it was a very welcoming space. As a black man, I thought it was a safe space where I could be 60% me. Why not 100%? Well, I was hesitant to bring my whole self because I was fearful that someone would make assumptions about me solely based on the color of my skin. That's why when I joined, I decided not to add a profile photo. I thought, "If I don't put up a profile photo, maybe they will be nice to me and see what I offer without judgment"

I took a chance and moved from "Lurker" to "Participant"

Now, I feel somewhat comfortable sharing how I feel. I was going to write a post about Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter protest but a friend (Damion) already summed up.

Original post by Damion Wright on Linkedin - Link

I’m wearing a mask, but it’s not COVID-19 related ...This is
exactly how I felt last week at work. There is a real fine balance
between talking about social issues with your team, peers, and
executives for fear of you saying something wrong, someone else saying something wrong, or something being said and taken out of
context. Fortunately, I work for a company where this is encouraged
(through my experience) to bring diverse thoughts to the table and as we say internally, “bring your whole self to work.”

For the first time in my 4.5 years, I felt like I couldn’t bring my
whole self to work. To be clear, it wasn’t because of the actions of anyone at work, it was because I felt completely smothered by the
events that have happened over the past several weeks. Ahmaud Arbery, Central Park 'Karen', Patricia Ripely, Breonna Taylor, and most
recently George Floyd all have a common denominator, they directly
impact the Black Community and people who look just like me.

I had to wear a mask… because I had work to do! I had one of my largest projects kick off on Tuesday and I needed to show up for my team. There is no way I could leave them hanging. Behind the scenes, I was hurt, I was angry, I was frustrated, I was terrified, there were several times I had to turn off video on Zoom because I was literally in tears. But I had to put my mask on and step up for the team, as I mentioned before, there was no way I was going to let them down. Very few people within my internal teams knew I was fighting these feelings, but the few who did, showed a ton of support.

As we moved into the latter part of the week, several peers reached out and asked how I was doing, if I was okay, lending an ear if I needed to talk, etc. Through these conversations, I had an epiphany, I learned the majority of people want to reach out in times of crisis, but a lot of the times, they just don’t know how to approach the situation, they don’t know what to say, they don’t know if is the right time and they don’t know how to say it. In addition, they don’t know what your response is going to be. So I thought I would share with some ways we, as leaders, can reach out to our peers, team members, or leadership in times of crisis.

  1. Don’t wonder, just ask. I learned this principle from one of my peers Simon Pass. If you are thinking about it, it won’t hurt to ask.

  2. Be genuine. “I don’t know if this has an impact on you or not, but I want you to know I am here for you if you want to talk.”

  3. Show empathy and acknowledge their pain. “I want to understand how you are feeling and how I can help.”

  4. Be ready to listen. Some people may open the flood gates, others may not be ready to have the discussion. Everyone processes things differently

  5. Let them know you are an ally. Allies come in all forms, decide what role you want to play. Support and comfort, educate yourself and others, listen for understanding, and lastly STAND UP (silence is acceptance)

In conclusion, for those of you who know me well, you know I am an eternal optimist. This week my optimism was definitely challenged. The mask I wore carried me through the week and gave me the fortitude to share my thoughts, feelings, and be vulnerable with my network. My family, friends, co-workers, and network are definitely a pillar of strength. I appreciate every single one of you.

✌🏽+ ❤️


Top comments (10)

graciegregory profile image
Gracie Gregory (she/her)

Thank you for spending energy on this topic by sharing your valuable thoughts. I'm wishing you continued support, safety, and a rejuvenating weekend, Kenny.

victorinspace profile image
Victor Velasquez

Thank you for speaking out on this. I've been a long-time lurker here as well (as well local Nevadan!) for a lot of the same reasons you described. You're inspiring me to speak out more and perhaps do an introduction of my own here. Thank you and solidarity ✊🏽

hatsrumandcode profile image
Chris Mathurin

Thanks for sharing @kawhyte . I really like the 5 points on how your peers can reach out!

felipperegazio profile image
Felippe Regazio

Thanks for this post, it was basically education for the soul.

darryl profile image
Darryl Young

Thank you for sharing this, Kenny. Just as Gracie said so kindly in her comment, I also wish you continued support. This is an important and educational post and I particularly like the five points you gave.

rudylattae profile image
Rudy L.

Thanks for stepping out of the shadows Kenny. I look forward to seeing more from you. I'm inspired to exit the "Lurker" state myself ... but the blankie is so safe and warm... ✌🏾

wmetge profile image
wmetge • Edited

thanks for sharing!

ypedroo profile image
Ynoa Pedro

Thanks for sharing @kawhyte

dpashutskii profile image
Dmitrii Pashutskii

Thank you so much for sharing this! I hope you can always be yourself on 100% because you're great!

If I can help in any way just let me know!

rbseaver profile image
Rob Seaver (He/him) • Edited

Thank you for sharing 100% of yourself, and for sharing different ways to reach out. I'm glad you are here.