Aiven Blog

Jun 7, 2023

Leading with Pride

Meet Alessandro Barone, Team Lead People Operations North America and Asia-Pacific, and our LQBTQ+ community lead, as he explains what led him to Aiven, and why embracing differences and being true to yourself is everything.

Jen Szabo

Jen Szabo

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Senior Specialist Employer Brand at Aiven

Kate Macdonald

Kate Macdonald

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Talent Acquisition Manager at Aiven

“Dress how you want to. Think what you want. Love who you do. Embrace differences. Be true to who you are and not bound by the status quo. There is freedom in that.” Words to live by, and Alessandro (who we refer to as Ale) Barone’s response to what Aiven’s Employee Value Proposition, “Think Sideways,” means to him.

On his arm, Ale has “Queer” tattooed upside down. He loves the daring nature of “Think Sideways” and feels that this represents the same energy as his tattoo, which defies the norms. “To me, queerness and ‘Think Sideways’ align.”

Ale is our Team Lead of People Operations for North America and Asia-Pacific, as well as the Employee Resource Group (ERG) Lead for Proud Crabs at Aiven; our LQBTQ+ allies community. He’s located in Toronto, Canada. As a member of the Cast, Ale exemplifies what it means to be a sideways-thinking Crab; that we are all moving in the same direction, just not in a straight line.

To tech or not to tech

So what detours and side-steps led Ale to be who and where he is today, as People Ops and ERG Lead for a Finnish Tech company?

What may (or may not!) surprise his friends, is that as a kid, Ale loved anything tech. “I would go to Value Village™ and buy old technology for spare parts so that I could build a better computer or make different upgrades.”

He was the go-to techie in his family and eventually taught himself to code in Visual Basic. During his teen years, Ale and a friend built a chat app and messaged each other through their computers. These days, he stays current with tech trends and has a “smart”-equipped home.

Creating a safe space for others

Ale’s affinity for tech might well have led him to a more IT or engineering-oriented career path, but it was a feminist high school friend who opened his eyes to many human rights initiatives. Through this friend, Ale developed the passion and desire to learn more about social justice and human rights. “I wanted to create equitable policies for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups. This is what motivated me to go into HR.” He wanted to influence the experience of those most impacted by the system.

A big influence in Ale’s own life has been his brother, a family member by choice. He met his brother at the age of seven through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. “He helped give me the confidence to, unapologetically, be who I am, whether in relation to my sexuality, my career, even so far as how I engage with family and friends.”

The other strong influence in his life has been his mom. “She accepted and showed up for me. She knew the battles I would face in the world and removed those at home. The psychological safety she created has helped my ability to navigate healthy relationships. I am secure. So many of my friends didn’t have that.”

That psychological safety at home is what Ale and Proud Crabs have created for colleagues at Aiven. Proud Crabs provides “a safe space for community members to connect, learn, and educate, by sharing views, knowledge and interests. We continue to make Aiven an LGTBQ+ positive workplace by bringing attention to issues where Aiven can do better.”

Our Proud Crabbies

One way Ale and Proud Crabs have made Aiven a better place is through the introduction of a gender transition support program. This program makes available information and financial support to reimburse the costs associated with changing one’s legal name and gender.

“From the top down at Aiven, there is a commitment to support ERGs and Proud Crabs.” Ale says that aside from the support of Aiven’s leadership and allies, it is our values of Ownership, Courage and Openness that allow Proud Crabs to take control of the narrative and tell their own story as to what it’s like to be at Aiven.

To Ale, Pride is about, “celebrating the highs, mids and lows of the queer experience. I see Pride as a protest in the face of the injustice that still occurs today. Pride ensures we continue to carry and push forward the fight for equality.”

Whilst Aiven is at the start of its DEI journey, it’s heading towards a hopeful future. We are fortunate for courageous Crabs like Ale who bring attention to matters where Aiven can do better. With Ale’s help, we know we will build a stronger sense of community and inclusion, where all our Crabs can show up and thrive as their authentic and true selves.

Thank you Ale, for sharing your story!

Interested in joining the Cast? Check out our open positions. And keep your eyes peeled (sideways) for more content on the blog as we continue to take a peek under our shell and uncover Life at Aiven.

Visual Basic is a trademark of the Microsoft group of companies.

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