Orlan Boston is a Senior Partner in EY’s Global Life Sciences & Healthcare Practice and has served as a Global Client Service Partner for four years – just his latest role in a distinguished corporate consulting career that also included a long stint at another professional services firm.
A passionate social entrepreneur, Orlan’s projects range from publishing, civil rights and philanthropy to film – he produced HBO’s critically acclaimed 2013 documentary “The Out List.” In 2016, the Financial Times named him to its list of the Top 100 LGBT Leaders in business.
He advocates for looking at diversity and difference as assets rather than potential liabilities.
“Figure out what makes you different and how it can be a competitive advantage,” he’s said. “The moment you realize this is when you begin to soar.”
Please describe how and when you first knew you were LGBT+:
In retrospect, I first realized that I was different around the age of 6 or so. I just didn’t know that it was because I was gay. Growing up abroad in the 1980s and early 90s – pre-internet on military bases in the south of Spain – I wasn’t exposed to any people that were openly LGBT+ on base or off base. It wasn’t until I moved to NYC to attend NYU that I first met openly LGBT+ people and learned that it was just fine to be gay. Over the course of my freshman year, I came out to myself and eventually to my immediate family.
In 25 words, describe how you came out:
The first person I told was my younger sister, Gladys. She came down to visit with me in NYC when I was at NYU, and I told her thinking that it would be a big deal for her when in actuality it was a non-issue. My little sister has always been in my corner since as long as I can remember and I am very grateful to her for that.
How has coming out, and being LGBT+ or an Ally at work, influenced your leadership approach and style?
Coming out and being openly gay at work has made me a more empathetic, confident, proud, inclusive, creative, and innovative leader.
Who are your role models?
My father and mother, President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Ken Chenault, David Stern, Mark Weinberger, Edie Windsor
The most important thing I have learned from a boss is:
Know your blind spots.
The most important thing I have learned from an employee is:
The importance of proactively soliciting upward feedback.
If I could tell someone who is graduating from college this year one thing I’ve learned, it would be:
You don’t have to decide now what you are going to do for the rest of your life. Look at your career in three- to five-year increments.
My most important Ally is:
This person is my LGBT+ hero, because:
Edie Windsor is my hero because she was a dear friend of mine who showed me to live life to the fullest, fight for what you believe in, and never take no for an answer when it comes to human rights.
My first job was:
The most tantalizing leadership opportunity I see in the world right now is:
Unifying our country.
The best piece of advice I ever received was:
Live your life, not someone else’s.
The next big thing for the global LGBT+ community is:
International LGBT+ civil rights and confronting some of the rising waves of homophobia in emerging markets.
If you were planning a dinner party and could invite any people from history, who would they be, and why?
Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Princess Diana