My name is Andrew Coe and I’m a business analyst in Boots Information Technology. I joined the company in 2018 on a software engineering graduate program, and have had a keen interest in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives since Day 1. As such, I am also on the UK leadership team of two of WBA’s business resource groups (BRGs), as governance lead for WBA Pride Alliance and membership lead for InclusivIT.
The past year has been incredibly isolating, but our BRGs have really helped to create a sense of community. Working with InclusivIT, which provides DE&I resources and events for the global WBA IT function, I have been lucky enough to hear from a fascinating array of guest speakers sharing their experiences. These have ranged from resiliency during COVID to being your authentic self at work to gaining insights into the lived experience of transgender individuals. Storytelling like this has really motivated the workforce to learn about the intersectional nature of DE&I and how we can all be allies.
With June marking Global Pride Month, we have also been working hard in the WBA Pride Alliance BRG to put on a series of events to empower and give a platform to LGBT+ colleagues and allies. Minority groups have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, so the work of the BRGs to create visibility and drive genuine improvements for these communities has never been more important. Examples include encouraging colleagues to share their pronouns on their email signatures and in meetings to create a more inclusive culture. You can now add your pronouns to your LinkedIn profile, too, which I heartily encourage!
I believe that the ability to be your true self in the workplace is key, so from the moment I started at Boots in my store placement, I have always been “out” as a gay man if ever it comes up in conversation with team members or customers. Coming out is not a one-off event, and LGBT+ people are faced with decisions about whether to come out in different situations throughout their lives. It takes a degree of bravery to be yourself at work, and my advice to allies is to foster an environment where language is inclusive (and gender-neutral where appropriate) and mistakes are seen as learning opportunities rather than something to be avoided. I acknowledge that as a white, non-disabled, cisgender man, I carry a lot of privilege and have that same responsibility to improve the world I work and live in. In doing so I’ll get it wrong sometimes, but as long as I apologize and choose to learn from these moments, we all benefit in the long run.
Prior to March 2020, I was working full-time in our Nottingham, England, office where my desk contains store equipment for testing new code, but since then I have been working from home. Though working remotely is a real privilege, it has been challenging to keep my mental health in a good place and to start new projects, meet new people and even take exams for qualifications I’ve pursued through work in an entirely virtual capacity. Luckily, as a workforce, we have risen to the challenge and have done our best to support our frontline workers who we owe so much to.
On a typical day…
I’ll make the “arduous” commute across my flat from my bed to my desk and start the working day around 8 a.m. I’ll check emails, update my to-do list and prepare for my meetings. A business analyst typically acts as the go-between for IT and business users, meaning we help to gather requirements for a project and effectively translate these into an IT context so that our solution architects can make the project a reality. Around 10 a.m. I’ll be into my meetings with team members, most of whom I’ve only seen on screen for over a year. Although it can be exhausting being on Teams calls for a lot of the day, it has given us invaluable tools for productivity and collaboration.
By 12 p.m., I have a slot booked in my diary for my “Golden Hour,” where I take a full lunch break – a work/life balance is difficult to manage when you’re in the same space for both, so having this sort of discipline is key.
In the afternoon, my day can get much more varied. I may have workshops, team meetings or time to focus on my project work. The thing I enjoy most about my job is the variety of projects I work on – I’ve helped design a new portal for suppliers to negotiate with Boots, worked with senior stakeholders to implement rapid changes in our appointment booking systems and carried out an assessment of the Boots Benevolent Fund’s process to help past and present team members in urgent financial need, to name a few examples.
Around 4 p.m., I often have calls with our WBA Pride Alliance team members in the U.S. to review current workstreams. One of the added benefits of working across different cultures is that we get to learn from each other, which was reflected in the energy we collectively put into the World Day for Cultural Diversity events in May.
By 5:30 p.m., I switch the laptop off, making sure to put it out of sight so I can enter relaxation mode. Inevitably, I end up in front of the TV watching Netflix or YouTube, often shows about travel so I can live vicariously through the presenters during this time, and I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race religiously for the escapism it offers! I’ve always had a creative side, and so I keep that alive with various hobbies – I’m currently working on a copy of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ in cross-stitch, which I anticipate will take me at least another year.
Having lived alone for the bulk of the pandemic, I’ve been truly grateful for the moments I’ve had with family. I was able to spend a few months living with my support bubble (my parents and sister – and cats) which would otherwise have never happened. With restrictions easing in the UK, my boyfriend has finally been able to come and stay with me after 10 months of only seeing him on screens, so now there are two of us working from home in the flat, and I’m far happier for it.
The pandemic is by no means over, but I’m focusing on things to look forward to as the world re-opens. For now, I will be celebrating Global Pride Month with joy and optimism for the future.