As Lead Security Engineer in IT, Michelle Chabot’s primary responsibilities include identifying, designing and implementing security systems for Atlas’ network infrastructure.
In other words, she works to ensure that everything – servers, network devices, applications, phones, even planes – that gets connected to the Company’s network can safely “talk” to each other.
And if you know Michelle, it probably isn’t surprising that she is focused on creating a safe space here at Atlas.
“It’s important to me that I use my voice for those who, for whatever reason, are too scared to use theirs,” explained Michelle. “I am driven to help make Atlas a place where every voice, no matter how low, is heard, where every employee, no matter the color of their skin, is seen, and every idea, regardless the gender of the brain that thought it, as it is now or at birth, is considered.”
While Michelle knew at a young age she was “attracted to girls,” she never thought that would be a big deal, or of interest to others. It wasn’t until she was 19 that she learned some people would in fact have a problem with who she loved.
“I was on the phone talking to my girlfriend,” she recalled. “Her mother was listening to our conversation and said some awful things.”
Michelle continued, “I was really confused and asked my mother why this woman would say such hateful things. My mother said, ‘Michelle, you’re gay. Some people aren’t going to like it, they might say mean things and you just have to be prepared for that.’”
Accepting this was complicated for Michelle.
“I didn’t want to wear this label and be judged for who I love,” said Michelle. “And that segued into my first feelings about Pride – it didn’t make sense to me that I had to say, ‘I’m proud to be gay.’”
That changed when Matthew Shepard died in 1998 for, as Michelle describes, “being gay in the wrong town.”
“Shortly after the tragedy of Matthew Shepard, I was horrified to learn about children who were killing themselves because their families didn’t love or accept them and their sexuality. This was the complete opposite of my experience. I didn’t realize until then that the unconditional love I had from my family wasn’t always the norm for others.”
The seeds of advocacy had been planted and Michelle’s resolve to help others feel welcome only got stronger after joining Atlas five years ago.
“IT Security is the most colorful place I’ve ever worked,” said Michelle. “Nate Maurer has a great eye for diversity and has built a team of people with truly different perspectives and experiences. As a result, I am 100% myself here at Atlas – no one has judged me for how I live my life.”
Michelle is one of the first members of Atlas’ DEI Employee Council and is part of the team that launched PRISM, the Company’s new LGBTQ+ ERG (Employee Resource Group) earlier this month. Participating in both has enabled Michelle to contribute to further building a culture of acceptance at Atlas.
“The biggest reason I do all of this is because I now know that some people don’t have a loud enough voice or they are afraid to make their voice be heard. I’m lucky enough that I have nothing to fear by saying out loud, I’m gay. Nothing can make me afraid of speaking my truth. And if speaking my truth makes it easier for my colleagues to feel welcome at Atlas, then I’m happy to keep doing it.”