Having served for many years in the armed forces as an officer on a Royal Navy minehunter, Dan Neilson understands the importance of structure and organisation. His work with our LGBTQ+ affinity group Glamazon to develop more inclusive structures and processes is an important part of Amazon’s broader vision to be earth’s best employer.
Dan joined Amazon as an Area Manager in a fulfilment centre before becoming a Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity (DEI) LGBTQ+ specialist, and has been working with teams across Europe to help them develop more inclusive and understanding workplaces. Dan uses both his professional knowledge and personal experience as a cisgender gay man in his work.
We want to help employees become the allies they want to be.
Searching for mines – and authenticity
Before joining Amazon, Dan spent over a decade working in the armed forces as a Mine Warfare Officer on a Royal Navy minehunter where he reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was an Executive Officer – second in command of the ship.
Although Dan deeply values his time in the armed forces, he thinks it wasn’t always an inclusive environment at that time – something that has influenced his view on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in his current role.
“Even though I never felt particularly singled out, there was still a slight disconnect for me during my time in the Navy. People would talk about their girlfriends at work, and whenever I mentioned my boyfriend (now my husband) there was visible discomfort. It is something that has influenced the way that I approach my work, and I want to be able to create an environment where no-one feels uncomfortable at their workplace.
“It wasn’t really until I became more involved in the LGBTQ+ community at a later age that I really felt I could live my authentic self. It was my now-husband who introduced me to the community, and where I met an entirely new group of people who accepted me completely. That’s something that I’d really like to be able to help others experience in their workplace.”
Going beyond expectations
“Working at Amazon as an LGBTQ+ specialist has been an incredible experience. I'm currently working on a number of projects, including policy reviews making sure they're inclusive of LGBTQ+ people within the business, but what I’m really looking forward to are the exciting projects to develop our operations and inclusivity.
“One of these is an allyship programme with Glamazon that focuses on training and education for those outside of the LGBTQ+ community to help those who want to learn more. We want to increase their understanding of the LGBTQ+ community and help them become the allies they want to be. We’ve found that a lot of our employees are very supportive of LGBTQ+ issues, but don’t always know how to show their support, or engage with the community. Part of my goal is to address this, and help them develop from sympathetic onlookers to committed allies.”
Dan has also developed a series of strategies to help Amazon continue to level-up its approach to DEI, and has an ambitious but clear vision of Amazon’s future as an inclusive employer.
“It’s my view that lots of companies hire DEI specialists with the aim of simply meeting the minimum legal requirements on employment and equality law, but I think that to be a truly inclusive company, you have to go beyond what is required. This is exactly why I’m doing what I do, and Amazon is supporting me all the way.”
Building his own world – in the garage and on the pitch
When Dan isn’t working, he can be found building entire worlds out of LEGO.
“I’m what is known as an AFOL – an Adult Fan Of LEGO! I actually have an entire garage filled with a LEGO city that covers nearly three tables.”
“Every year, LEGO releases another building as part of its city set, and we AFOLs will purchase it, construct it, and place it within the city. It’s quite soothing to work on building something, and I must admit that I get a sense of pride when I look at my city. The only two downsides are that it’s an expensive hobby, and that it’s taking up quite a lot of our space!”
Dan also used to play rugby for an inclusive Rugby team, the Wessex Wyverns, which was founded to encourage more members of the LGBTQ+ community to participate in sports, but remains welcoming of all genders and sexualities.
“Joining the Wyverns has been amazing. A lot of my connection to the LGBTQ+ community came through my husband’s friends and acquaintances, but joining the Wyverns has let me create my own ties and connections to the community.
“I really can't stress enough how welcoming and friendly they have been. I did miss some of the camaraderie from my time in the forces, so it’s been a really enriching experience building a connection with a team again."
The fact that Amazon have committed a job role to focus specifically on the LGBTQ+ community is a great indicator to us that they believe in truly engaging with DEI.
“To me, the fact that Amazon have committed a job role to focus specifically on the LGBTQ+ community is a great indicator to us that they believe in truly engaging with DEI. It certainly feels like a vote of confidence in myself, as well as a sign of support for the LGBTQ+ community. Some companies might hire a DEI specialist that will deal with inclusivity across a wide spectrum, but very few hire specialists for a particular community like Amazon has done here. I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Read more about another one of Amazon’s LGBTQ+ employees, Jonathan Lund