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Together with Pride: Naadia shares their journey to self acceptance, and the positive impact of showing up authentically

Rogers employee Naadia Ahsan head shot with caption: Happy Pride! Naadia Ashan, Senior Technology Advisor

As part of the Rogers Pride month celebration, we’re featuring stories from a few of our team members who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. Throughout this series you will read open and vulnerable personal stories about their lived experience and what Pride month means to them. Click here learn more about how Rogers celebrates Inclusion & Diversity during Pride month and beyond.

Naadia is a Senior Technology Advisor at Rogers and joined the team after making a career change from a non-technical field. They attribute their success to the confidence and determination they’ve built by embracing their queer and nonbinary identity. Outside of work, Naadia enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, connecting with nature, and learning from others’ perspectives to strengthen their practice of community care. 

 Here is Naadia’s story: 

You shared that you are queer and nonbinary, as well as neurodivergent. Can you expand on why you believe these identities are linked? 

Growing up, I consistently received feedback that my behaviour wasn’t acceptable or aligned with others’ expectations. Unspoken social codes don’t make sense to me, and gender norms are no exception. I wasn’t interested in the same activities as boys or girls my age, but was also acutely aware that I wouldn’t fit in even if I tried. Did I spend so much time alone because my gender was different, or because my brain was? It feels impossible to consider one without the other. 

You currently work as a Senior Technology Advisor at Rogers, although you didn’t originally go to school for tech. Can you share more about your journey to finding your authentic self? 

I spent a lot of time around computers growing up. Online I was free to independently pursue whatever interests I wanted, and I found I picked up new tech skills with ease. I’ve thought a lot about why it wasn’t my first choice of career, and I think a big part of it is that I was afraid to choose myself. 

If you asked me in high school for a list of reasons I didn’t fit in, I’d have said I was too logical, too independent, too uninterested in socializing—all personality traits that don’t fit the box of what femininity is supposed to look like. Out of a desire to feel accepted, I was learning to hide those parts of who I was. When it came to choosing a career path, I remember picturing the stereotype of a tech employee and feeling an aversion to being tied back to the same traits I had been trying to get away from. I applied to school programs that had more of a social focus, and that didn’t make the best use of my skills.  

I’d internalized this idea that I’d be happy if I just “improved” in areas I was supposedly lacking. I didn’t recognize that what I was really doing was suppressing my authentic self. I think that’s a large part of why, even though I’d never really thought of myself as straight, it took a long time before I consciously recognized myself as having a place in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. I was too preoccupied with trying to be someone else. 

Of course, when I achieved all the traditional milestones I thought I was supposed to want, there was no sense of fulfillment. I gave myself permission to let go of values that had never been mine. I quit my job. Concerned friends were calling offering to help me network—but I felt more on track than I ever had. I surrounded myself with people who accepted me the way I was. I was cultivating closer friendships, developing a confidence I’d never had in my life, and successfully pivoting my career into a field I love and that makes better use of my skills.  In some ways I still feel like I’m at the beginning of my story and I feel lucky to have been so supported at Rogers while figuring it all out. It makes such a difference to feel comfortable being authentic in every part of my life, and it makes me better at what I do. 

Looking back, what is one message you’d share with your younger self about accepting and celebrating yourself as you are? 

Don’t settle for acceptance from others when that comes at the cost of ignoring who you are. There are people out there who will understand you and value the way you see the world, and if you keep trying to blend in, you won’t find them. I promise as soon as you start living by your own rules, all the other ones feel a lot less important.