Ventia employee Taylor Cougle

Taylor Cougle, Ventia Operations Coordinator shares some thoughts on how we can support each other through our different journeys.

Taylor Cougle, Ventia Operations Coordinator recognises R U OK? as something we should all do every day and not just on 8 September. 

"As a business, we always need to live R U OK? Day," she says. "In Ventia we are all busy and have many deadlines and deliverables, but we still need to look out for each other.'

If you ever notice a colleague who seems different from their normal selves or someone who may need help and is having a difficult time, then checking in with them is an everyday responsibility - an everyday demonstration of care.

You're at your best when you are your happiest self

Taylor joined Ventia's Telecommunication business in 2009. She is a proud transgender woman and strong advocate for the LGBTIQ+ communities. 

Taylor made the decision to come out at work and with her family in 2015, but knew she needed to have plans in place with the right people and ensure that everything was in place to support her and work colleagues. 

"Before I came out as a transwoman at work, I spent about six months working with our People and Culture (P&C) team to help the organisation develop new policies, procedures, communications and peer education," she explains. "At the time I remember discussing diversity with P&C and making sure we had the right policies and procedures so people can safely transition, come out or shine as they are. Everything was in place by December 2015 so that I was felt I could transition in a safe, supported and successful way."

For Taylor, success isn't measured by external factors. It's internal - where you are your best and happiest self. Recognising and ensuring the right support networks and processes are in place makes all the difference to ones' wellbeing and success in all they do.

Ventia employee Taylor Cougle


Different journeys: shared experiences 

Taylor shares, "For anyone making any major life change, I think planning and preparation is key. While I had been thinking of transitioning from 2009, it wasn't until 2015 I wanted to make it happen. 

"I'm a planner. So, it's not I wanted to have plans and even alternative plans in place to ensure my success to achieve the happiness that I have today. It is a realistic approach, and I think it's good idea to think about what social, work, family and professional support you need to have in place. Beyond this, it's really important to truly believe you are not alone as many others before us have had similar experiences." 

Taylor says that in her experience, if you have an issue at work don't hesitate to approach P&C as they will be supportive. 

"One of the most important things is finding people who are on the same journey as you are, it is about finding your tribe," Taylor notes. "Reach out to them, be it at Ventia, your private networks or community groups. Not only will you find they usually become your greatest supporters, but you can also support others on their journey through your lived experience.'

While we're all on different journeys, we still can connect over shared experiences, which can make such a difference to your wellbeing.

"From my experience, even the best of families can be challenging. Most of my family are extremely accepting and supportive - but they still went through a 'grieving' process when I came out. I see this as a good thing because I know that they now fully accept and support who I was and today, who I am."

Taylor says that part of this is knowing when and where to pick your battles. 

"If you're closer to a sister or brother, speak to them first and build up your new family support then as you get stronger you can come out to others with your personal struggles. I know that sadly, some families and family members can get stuck in the first three stages of grief and may never achieve acceptance of your situation, remember that you can reach out to those who can support and guide you through your dark times."

"You do need to recognise and prepare in advance for challenges and having a good support structure gives you the strength to cope or manage through those challenges."

Ventia employee Taylor Cougle


Inclusive culture

When asked how people can be an ally or support a colleague who share they're transitioning, or just having a bad time of it, Taylor says. 

You just need to care, show compassion and be respectful, it is a simple as that and not complicated.

Taylor also suggests if someone does share they are transitioning then you should update their name in your phone and in other locations where their old name may appear, as it is a reminder to use their chosen name and not accidentally call them by their old name. 

"It's OK to slip up," she says. "Just say sorry and move on, they will know you didn't do it on purpose or with malicious intent. However, if you feel there was bad intent, take action because this is never helpful behaviour for you or for building an inclusive and supportive culture."

"Another very important support service is to seek out professional help, it is nothing to feel ashamed of. I have used EAP in Ventia when going through a very tough personal time in my life and it helped me a lot at the time," Taylor explains. "A coach or therapist holds up a mirror to you and they don't tell you what to do or how to 'fix' things but gives you the opportunity to reflect on what you already know even though you might not see it at the time." 

Ventia employee Taylor Cougle with a Ventia Award


Reach out

If you don't know who to talk to, Taylor says she's happy for anyone to reach out to her for a chat, particularly anyone that may be considering how to come out or transition in the most positive and meaningful way for them. 

Taylor is participating in a working group looking at Rainbow Tick accreditation for Ventia in New Zealand and what the equivalent may be in Australia. Once successful, this certification would recognise Ventia as a safe and inclusive workplace for anyone from the LGBTIQ+ community.

With many thanks to Taylor for sharing her story with us.