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Dr J Harrison


The first email received by The Hot Breakfast from Dr J in October 2018 was of the type that leaves you feeling a bit like you've been winded (very hard (potentially terminally)) by your own stupidity.

They wrote: "While you talk a good talk about diversity - your sign up form doesn't include me. Which means I am not sure I can join. I am non-binary. I don't identify as Male or Female (I have an official Gender that is "Transgressive Non-Binary GenderQueer" - so I'm not a 'Prefer not to say'; more a 'Stating with Style')".

There ensued a sweaty scramble as we speed-dialled our developer, while Dr J patiently explained the changes we needed to make if our Guest List application form was to be truly inclusive.

This is, as Dr J plainly puts it, not an uncommon experience: "I bring a diversity challenge wherever I go, with a first name that is one letter, with a non-binary gender, and a pronoun preference." Their role at ThoughtWorks is as a service designer-cum-business analyst (officially known as the "Harbinger of Change": ThoughtWorks allows its staff to pick their job titles and Dr J rose to the challenge), which means Dr J figures out how people, processes and technology need to adapt to make the most out of new learnings and new ideas. In all of that, their focus alongside the work is making the team mindful about the inclusion of all sorts of differences in people and experience.

Why do you do what you do?

I want to make the world a little bit less shit for underrepresented minorities across the board. Technology is an industry with the potential to be inclusive to a huge diversity - that we aren't thinking this way is a shame.

What's the one thing that your work has taught you that you wish everyone knew?

One of the things I have discovered since Covid-19 is that my first reaction to anything is to collaborate, to look at how the group can be more inclusive of other voices, and how we can consider experiences of people unlike ourselves. How to get as many different voices into a space in a way where they can all collaborate and feel safe and empowered to do so.

What book or resource do you most commonly share at the moment?

The thing that I find myself sharing and using the most is "Be Kind. Presume the Best. Empathise." as a mantra for all meetings and interactions. It is the "Prime Directive" from the retrospectives summarised to six words - it works to remind everyone on the call, in the meeting.

What are your plans for the next 6 months?

I honestly have no idea what the next six months hold - it's been more than 3 months since I could spend time with my partner - we don't live together and she's flatting with a nurse working on a Covid-19 ward. So my ambitions are to actually be in the same physical space as my partner and hugs may follow. But as she points out - in the meantime I am providing online hosting capabilities for Queer House Party, have built a virtual community centre for the Outside Project, am helping out with Black Lives Matter - and starting a podcast.

I work for a technology company with a strong Social Change ethos, and I am starting to build a virtual ideation day around the "normal" we want to go back to after all of this, with a focus on what changes we can make that impact on the climate and environment.

What's your morning routine?

I tend to have the same routine and breakfast every day - get up, shower, coffee, eggs, fruit juice (and possibly toast - I bake my own bread) - and while I eat I listen to podcasts or audio books (I gave up on Radio 4 after the nth discussion on trans rights where balance meant a trans person argued against someone who was obviously transphobic - my blood pressure couldn't take it) - and I usually read news or long form articles while finishing my coffee. I love the LRB, Granta and Guardian Long Reads for the breakfast pondertime. I have to say using my "commute time" like this is so relaxing.

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