February 6, 2023
May 25, 2023

Uncovering Authenticity in the Workplace with Jose Bastida from DeepL

Adrian McCarthy

Uncovering Authenticity in the Workplace with Jose Bastida from DeepL

Providing a culture where people feel like they can truly be their authentic selves at work is arguably now as important for companies in the startup/tech sector as factors like compensation, benefits and rewards are. According to an article published on Codility, 60% of employees believe that HR strategies focused on diversity are beneficial and essential, with a further 70% believing that more diversity is needed. 

For any company that’s striving to be innovative and attract the best talent, a culture that not only promotes but also embraces diversity to empower people to be their authentic selves is essential. Research from Mckinsey has also shown that companies with greater ethnic and gender diversity are between 25% and 36% more likely to perform better than their counterparts. 

In this interview, ACELR8 Talent Partner Adrian McCarthy discusses the topic of authenticity at work with Jose María Rosa Bastida, member of the Language and Localization team at DeepL.

Enjoy it!

AM: What is authenticity to you and how do you keep your authenticity at your workplace? 

JB: To me, authenticity means to stay true to my values and to who I am. As an openly LGBTQ+ person, authenticity is important for me at work. It is important to feel accepted just as you are and know that your colleagues encourage you to be yourself. It also means to feel comfortable, safe and secure, and talk about me and my life as much as anyone else.

AM: You mentioned staying true to your values in relation to being accepted in the workplace. What would you say those values surrounding authenticity are to you? 

JB: These are being honest with what you do, honest with what you decide that is good or not good, honest in the way you think that we can best work together to reach the same goal. 

AM: Why is it important to try and express yourself authentically with your colleagues and within your organisation? What are the benefits(for you and for the company)? 

JB: We spend a third of our day at work interacting with colleagues, and success can only be achieved with teamwork. Feeling that I can be my true self gives me confidence, and allows me to focus better on my tasks and build stronger relationships with my colleagues. It makes such a difference for me! Not being myself is energy-draining, can add up unnecessary pressure to our daily life and can have serious consequences on our mental health. At DeepL, we come from all over the world, so we celebrate and embrace diversity. We appreciate everyone's personality and we take care that everyone has a feeling of belonging. It is so enriching to work with people who think differently and at the same time share the same vision and goals at work.

AM: With the nature of DeepL being an international company comprised of people from many different cultures, do you think an environment of authenticity comes naturally to it or is it still something that needs to be actively worked on? 

JM: Both: On the one hand, I think that being in an international environment helps. At the same time, someone could think: ‘I’m uncomfortable that I’ll have a culture clash because I don’t know if how I behave will be seen well by others’. On the other hand, it’s important to actively work on it, we know how important it is to be yourself, to be authentic, as much as you can and as much as you want. We encourage this vision also from the start, even during hirings: we value everyone as they are, and we value respect to our colleagues. 

AM: What do you think some of the challenges to being authentic in the workplace are?

JB: I think that these challenges revolve around how we define our company culture, how we bring it to life and broaden its horizons. The way we speak at a company level can be challenging if we don't use inclusive language, for example. At employee level, one may be afraid to be seen as less capable to do their work if they are authentic, or may be afraid of being viewed by others as being ‘weak’, while you’re simply being your true self. And at DeepL that is not a weakness at all. As I mentioned before, promoting authenticity also means to share as much or as little about ourselves as we want, and that’s a challenge: that some colleagues are so open about themselves doesn’t mean that you have to open up that much. No one sets any standards as to what is authentic and not authentic: Everyone is free to be authentic in their own way. 

AM: I think that’s a great point, you can’t ‘force’ authenticity or impose on people that they have to share the intricacies of their own lives. Identity can be a personal topic for some people and different people can be on their own journey and at different stages in relation to what they’re comfortable sharing about themselves. It’s great to provide an environment where people can be authentic and be their true selves, however it’s not necessarily something people should feel obligated by either. 

JB: That can be a challenge on both sides. As a company, you want to make people feel safe, but that can turn into a blind spot if you’re getting pushy, or if someone feels you’re being pushy and that they have to come out. I think when we’re talking about diversity, or being queer/gay in my case, I think it’s healthy to talk about my life as much as I want to talk about it, but also in the same regard as a straight/cis-gendered person would talk about their lives. There’ll be some straight/cis people who will tell you what they did at the weekend with their partners, others might be more reserved and some other people will share even more. The same applies to everyone else: someone might say ‘I met my boyfriend’ without stating they’re gay but if they say ‘boyfriend’ and express themselves as a cis person maybe that’s as much as they’d like to share or not share. Some people may still be discovering themselves, and each journey has its own way, its own pace. 

AM: Exactly, when we discuss diversity it can come in all ‘shapes and sizes’ regarding different types of authenticity and diversity and also different comfort levels in terms of what people want to share. 

JM: Totally, also to give an example we started to use pronouns on our Slack profiles. When we are approached by someone, the person can see which pronouns we’d like them to use towards us. Only if we want to show these: This is not a compulsory thing but I personally relate to that habit, not only for me, but also for other colleagues who would see this and know they can feel comfortable if they want to be addressed with they/them pronouns, for example.

AM: How do you think companies can further encourage people to fully express who they are and be authentic in what they do? 

JB: Every little step counts. In my opinion, the best thing is to live by the example: if you show your authentic self, the people around you will feel safe to be themselves as well. Maybe it would be good to start with a simple anonymous survey of how they feel, as part of that company.

AM: How do you try to implement that in your own day-to-day work as a leader in the workplace and set that example? 

JB: I don’t consider myself an example of anything, but I try to speak in the most natural way possible. I don’t mind saying something like ‘I went on holiday with my boyfriend’: people put two and two together from the beginning. You want to make sure that you help create a safe space. While being authentic, I also like to show myself vulnerable: at the end of the day we’re human, and we’re not perfect. Being transparent and showing for example that I’ve made a mistake can show others that we’re allowed to make mistakes, too.

AM: What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to express themselves fully at work? 

JB: If your workplace feels safe, but you don't feel ready to come out openly, you don't have to – It's really up to you. But if you feel ready and don’t know where to start, it may help to speak to people that you may feel more confident with. Exchange with friends who work in other companies and hear from their experiences. From my experience, it was very liberating opening up and speaking as naturally as other colleagues would, and I am grateful that DeepL’s culture spares myself unnecessary stress in that regard. If you feel a bit lost, don’t worry: There are also amazing groups and associations online or at the local level ready to listen to you and give you further advice.

AM: Do you feel comfortable being authentic when working with ACELR8 Talent Partners? 

JB: Definitely! I felt comfortable from the first time, and I am grateful to work with colleagues from ACELR8 who are equally authentic at work. 

AM: For sure, it’s a very transparent/open level of communication which links in with that topic of authenticity where we feel comfortable expressing ourselves. I think that helps how we work together, communicate any challenges and find a sync together. Is there any closing thoughts you’d like to share around authenticity in the workplace before we finish the interview? 

JB: It may sound repetitive, but it feels liberating to be yourself. Not being yourself is energy-draining: when you’re working in an environment where you have to focus on your tasks, there can of course be some stress around it. The last thing you want at that moment is to have extra stress because you feel that you can’t be your true self. I’m so grateful for what DeepL is and the culture we create at DeepL. I can’t wait to see how we further develop the topic of ‘diversity’ to strengthen our company culture even more.

Well, there you have it, an amazing and open interview. We hope you come out of this article understanding the power of authenticity in the workplace. This is an increasingly important topic for companies that strive to attract the best talent and foster innovation. Creating a culture where people feel comfortable to be their authentic selves can lead to stronger relationships and improved mental health among employees. This is especially important in an international setting where diversity is celebrated and embraced. However, challenges still exist such as defining company culture, using inclusive language and respecting personal boundaries. It is important to strike a balance between creating a safe environment for authenticity and not imposing it on individuals. Ultimately, promoting authenticity in the workplace can lead to a more diverse and productive workforce.

If you need support with hiring and authenticity in the workplace, do not hesitate to contact us here: https://www.acelr8.com/hire

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The Power of Authenticity in the Workplace with Adrian McCarthy and Jose María Rosa Bastida