Bella’s Story

by | Jun 1, 2022 | Company News

Bella Robbins

Bella Robbins

ROC Technician / Junior Software Engineer
I enjoy solving and learning how to solve the problems at the heart of a BMS environment ever expanding my knowledge in the software of the field.

I realised that I was trans when I was 14. My journey wasn’t always the nicest, there have been some dark times along the way, but I found myself and my community at university.  

I came out last February, after I joined learnd. Because it’s something I have known for so long, I was comfortable, but it took a lot of preparation to get there.  

Coming out for a trans person is quite a different experience because I am outwardly changing myself. Coming out full stop is hard, but it can be very scary at times to change what people see on the surface. 

When I tell the younger generation that I’m trans, especially people under 30, they just kind of shrug and accept it. Which is the perfect response. 

I’ve been estranged from my family for five years. Family is a funny thing, in any other area of your life you would just walk away, but with family it’s not that simple. I had to hide myself for a long time growing up, which led to anxiety, depression and a lot of frustration. But I got through it.  

I met my wonderful partner Jenny, we got married and bought our first home together last year. Together with a large pseudo family of friends, I have a busy, fun and full life. I play water polo (and act as Treasurer) for the Manchester Sharks, a queer water polo club.  

Joining the workforce mid-Pandemic  

After graduating from the University of Manchester with a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 2020, I joined learnd during the pandemic. It was a surreal experience, and most of my first year was spent working remotely. Colleagues and customers were little boxes on screen.  

I’m a ROC Technician. The ROC is a team made up of electrical and software engineers and mathematicians. We analyse our customers’ building data and respond to the changing needs of building users.  

I’ve been blessed with the fact that people here at learnd are accepting of me. I feel supported, which is great. I can come to work and just get on with it. 

However, I’ve just accepted a position as a Junior Software Engineer. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, a calling of sorts. I’ve completed a few courses, including an intensive cloud course. It’s the chance for me to put my own stamp and flair on things.  

We get a lot of exposure and ownership at work. But I would love to get more women and LGBTQ people into software engineering – we need more diversity. We’re laying a path here at learnd.  

Micro-aggressions  

I have faced micro-aggressions in the outside world, of course, but I have a naturally feminine appearance. In the trans community this is called ‘passing’, which is the ability to present convincingly as the gender we feel most comfortable.  

I know there are many trans people who face anger and frustration on a daily basis, and I am one of the lucky ones. I can turn up at learndfest – our annual employee event – and feel completely comfortable. I am accepted, I am passing. Although it might come as a surprise to the colleagues who know me less well when they read this! 

Being able to be me feels as though a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It feels so beautiful. Instead of walking passed a mirror and turning away from it, it means saying “Hey, girl!” I don’t seek anyone else’s validation, being trans for me is about being comfortable in my own skin. I don’t have to hide anymore; I am out and proud.  

Finally, I can be the kind, caring, compassionate person I have always been without anyone calling me out for being ‘too nice’, which happened growing up. The macho culture for guys is so limiting, not all men want to bottle up their emotions.  

Advice for my younger self 

This is the million-dollar question. I would tell my younger self that it gets so much kinder. You might not feel safe now, but you will.  

When I think about my life growing up, it was tough, but I wouldn’t change any of it because it led me here. Where I am working and living now, with the people I’ve got around me, I feel completely safe.  

For support and advice about coming out as LGBTQ visit Stonewall.   

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