Tom Hillstead, 24, has been working for Shell as a languages services translator and translation co-ordinator, for six months. He is actively involved in Shell’s Gay and Lesbian Network. He graduated in 2004 with a degree in modern languages from Nottingham university. He gained a Masters in interpreting and translating from bath university in 2005.
What’s your background?
I’ve pretty much always known that I wanted to work in languages and, more recently, I decided to go down the route of translating and interpreting. People have told me that jobs in languages are dominated by women and gay men and while I’m not sure if that’s true, it did mean that I felt I didn’t have to worry about being discriminated against.
How did you handle your job hunt?
I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to work when I finished my postgraduate degree, so I decided to ask a temping agency what they had available. They laughed when I asked if there were any jobs in languages and offered me a simple warehouse job instead, which I took because I needed the money. After a while, the agency contacted me and said a translator job had come up, so I did that for about six months, at which point my university said Shell was looking to take on another in-house translator and asked if I wanted to apply. I decided to go for it. I assumed that Shell would be cool about me being gay, so I didn’t think about it.
Did you face any barriers?
Not at all and I’ve been very open. In fact, as soon as I joined, it became clear that Shell has a big drive on diversity and inclusiveness and that’s how I found out about the gay and lesbian network. I contacted the head of the network, and we went for lunch. Ever since, I’ve been an active member and recently, I was on the Shell Pride Float steering group. I told my managers about that because I’ve often had to go off for photo shoots for the float or for a meeting. They’ve been completely fine. In fact, I got my department involved in Pride – helping with banners and photos.
Any tips for fellow graduates?
I think a lot of people have reservations about working for big corporations because they assume there’ll be some discrimination. But at Shell, it’s not an issue and there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. My advice to anyone who’s really concerned would be to check if there is a gay and lesbian network. Even if they don’t have one, the company might run lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender socials in conjunction with other companies.