Personal initiative is a trait that helped many Googlers find personal and professional success in their lives. It was also the theme of last week’s Live Out Loud’s Behind the Scenes program at Google, where the company’s LGBTQ employees, known as the “Gayglers,” shared stories about the role that personal initiative played in their lives.

40 students sat captivated in a conference room as Gayglers took turns sharing their stories of being openly LGBTQ at one of the most successful tech companies in the world. Afterwards, students were treated to a tour of Google’s amazing offices, as well as a hands-on activity that gave them real-life experience with the tech industry.

Here are just a few of the lessons the Gayglers shared:

  • Recognize your strengths and interests. As a young man, one Gaygler had an epiphany that “no one’s coming to help” and he had to define his own career path. He recommended making a list of your strengths and interests to help identify possible careers.
  • You have to take initiative to be yourself. One trans panelist described a realization that helped her on her journey: No one at Google bats an eye when employees have green hair, so why should she stop herself from expressing her gender? Panelists agreed that Google is a supportive environment where employees are judged by their skills and the content of their minds.
  • Pick your battles. One panelist shared about a time when she found herself in a hospital with only her girlfriend by her side. An orderly decided to kick her girlfriend out. While she could have stood her ground and fought, she realized that you have to pick a moment when you can truly make a difference. Know your rights and history and look at the big picture.
  • Find your people. Gayglers agreed that finding other LGBTQ people who understand you and “speak your language” is a key to success. Get involved with groups that allow you to be yourself.
  • Call people “IN,” not OUT. Starting a respectful conversation with a co-worker about an offensive statement they made is a skill to learn–especially when that co-worker happens to be higher on the pay scale. Understand that differences in generation and experiences can shape a person’s vocabulary, but don’t be afraid to explain why a word or phrase is offensive. Most likely, they were probably unaware and will be open to dialogue.

Thank you to Google and the Gayglers for hosting an inspiring Behind the Scenes program! Your stories and insights were invaluable for the younger generation.