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One 3Mer Shares Her Experience Transitioning from Male to Female

Monday, June 17, 2019 2:38 pm CDT


 

For Alison Heebsh, every work day feels different. As a quality specialist in the Automotive and Aerospace Solutions division, she’s responsible for ensuring that 3M is producing high quality solutions on a global scale — which means that in the past 18 months, she’s gotten to work in both China and Europe, and she’s currently working with a team in Thailand.

Alison loves that her work is always changing, but she also loves that one thing has remained constant throughout her 15-plus years at 3M: she always feels well supported. While working at 3M, Alison transitioned from male to female. Navigating this transition in and out of the workplace was no doubt complicated, but she says everyone at 3M — from her colleagues to managers — made it as easy as possible.

“My transition was a non-issue from the start,” she says. “Management was very accepting and did several things to make me feel welcome, including reassure me that things wouldn’t change – I would still have a place at 3M after the transition.”

Recently, Alison shared with Fairygodboss – an online community aiming to improve the lives and workplace for women – how her experience transitioning reflects her overall experience at 3M. Here’s an excerpt from Alison’s interview.

While at 3M, you went through a significant life change. Can you tell us a bit about what that was like?

I transitioned from male to female while at 3M. I had already worked at 3M for 10 years when I transitioned. I was well-connected and was leading a large group so there were a lot of people to tell. I was involved in the Pride LGBTQ Employee Resource Network (ERN) at 3M before I made the decision to transition, and I told them first before management. I was already out to the ERN and the HR benefits team for several years before my full-time transition.

In the year leading up to my full-time transition, I started to talk to my management team and select coworkers. Management was very accepting and did several things to make me feel welcome, including reassure me that things wouldn’t change – I would still have a place at 3M after the transition. My coworkers were also so kind through it all, and some of my female coworkers started inviting me to girls’ nights out. So, when the day of my transition came around, many people already knew. Things have always been really good. I wasn’t the first person to transition at 3M headquarters – to my knowledge, I was the third. And since then there have been several others, so it’s been great to meet with them to help them prepare, and then see them living as their true selves.

How did you approach your manager/supervisor to discuss what was going on? What was that conversation like?

When I talked to my manager over a year before, I laid out what I was going to do and explained that some HR representatives and executives already knew. That conversation was challenging for both of us. It was clear that he didn’t know how to respond and later said he was just afraid he’d say something wrong. But he was great about it. I stopped in a few days later with a technical question, and he had seen an article in the newspaper about something I had done with the Pride ERN group. So, he showed that to me, and I knew that was his way of showing he cared. He started talking about the next role I was going to step into and how I could prepare for that, which helped me know that I still had a place at 3M.

Read Alison’s full interview with Fairygodboss to learn how her experience transitioning reflects her overall experience at 3M, what she loves most about her job and the number one thing she thinks women should know about working at 3M.

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