Orlan Boston and Maneesh Goyal discuss leveraging LGBT+ identity in business

Todd Sears moderated a conversation between two longtime friends who have leveraged their LGBT+ identities – both of whom have been profiled as #OutLEADERS.

Orlan Boston, Global Life Sciences & Healthcare Senior Partner, EY, said:

“I think early on in my career, I was thinking, ‘Wow, okay. I’m black. I’m Hispanic, and I’m gay.’ That was three strikes in corporate America. I realized very quickly when I first started at Deloitte that I was going to have to come out in some way, and it was actually made much easier for me because my immediate boss and a number of other folks were openly gay. So I felt comfortable coming out, but beyond that a light bulb sort of went off in my head a couple of years into my career where I thought, ‘You know what? Rather than look at my identities as disadvantages, what if I looked at them as competitive advantages, embraced each one of those three dimensions of my identity that make me different, and celebrated them?’ I flipped in on its head and learned to see those three things as what made me unique amongst my peers, as differences to be leveraged. Why not use them to make connections with people in every community that I fit into? I learned early on that the foundation of business, sales, and client relationships, is trust. You build trust in relationships by being honest and open about who you are. People know. If you’ve got a decent amount of EQ, you know when people are hiding things. And when they’re hiding things, it automatically makes you uncomfortable, right? We’ve all felt that. That, to me, has been a key way that I connected with my clients, and it’s worked very well.”

Maneesh Goyal, Founder & CEO, Pineapple Co., talked about a moment when he realized he didn’t need to cover anymore:

“When I first started my first company I wanted to be anybody you needed me to be as long as I could get the contract. So when a client asked me to go to a strip club, I didn’t say no. I didn’t say yes. I found a way to maneuver out of the situation and suggested a hotel bar for a drink. I found a way to avoid the situation rather than to be honest as I would be today, and just say ‘Actually, that’s not my thing,’ because I was desperate to get and maintain clients. Once my business took off I finally started to feel I could let my guard down. I remember I was in the middle of a big contract at Estée Lauder, and somebody asked me about my romantic life. I wasn’t married at the time, so I didn’t have a wedding band on. They’re like, ‘Okay. So you’re really sweet and great. And I’ve got this Indian girl…’ I was like, ‘Does she have a brother?’ I could only finally do that because I felt like it was a safe space given my client relationship. If it had been a different environment, maybe I wouldn’t, but I distinctly remember that moment. I remember that conference room, even though I had been in thousands of conference rooms at this point. I remember being able to walk out of that and say, ‘Wow, that felt good. Nobody cared.’ But I also remember where I was when I tried to avoid the conversation going to a strip club.”

Orlan Boston continued:

“I talk a lot about having a day job. While I love my day job, it’s also important for me to have passion projects. I have them because I’m curious about many of these causes and passionate about many things. The common themes throughout those are civil rights, the environment, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Those are things that matter to me and get me excited. My projects have taken many forms, but a few years ago I had the opportunity to produce an HBO film called The Outs. I’d never produced a film. Honestly, I didn’t even know what a producer did. But what I wanted to do was get a message out there, and so I did. For me passion projects that are symbiotic with my day job portfolio work well for me and keep things interesting.”

Maneesh Goyal concluded:

“You have to be a committed citizen. I’ve always gravitated towards organizations that I can help to serve. When I became an entrepreneur, I wanted to have best-in-class charitable programs. As an employee of any of my companies, in order to be eligible for a bonus at the end of the year, you have to give. All committed citizens, in my opinion, should be giving with their time and resources. You have to find what gets you excited, find how your company can support you, find out how you can get involved. You’ll find that your world just opens up. I’ve met the most interesting people because I am a committed citizen.”





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