Citi Belfast ‘Changemaker of the Year’ Hannah McNamara: “Conversations about equality made me feel included as soon as I walked in the door”

  • Following her naming by Stonewall UK as a ‘Changemaker of the Year,’ Sync NI sat down with Hannah McNamara, an Infrastructure Senior Technology Analyst at Citi Belfast, to discuss her journey of coming out in the workplace, the encouragement and support she has felt from her employer and how Citi has helped to foster a work environment where staff can bring their whole selves to work each day.

    As a Computing and IT student at Queens, a friend of Hannah’s recommended she consider Citi and invited her along to a CitiSpire event, one of a series of events held by Citi for women students applying for graduate programmes in Belfast. 

    She was encouraged to apply for the Citi technology academy and, following her application journey, was successfully placed within the Citi Technology Infrastructure (CTI) department. She underwent 7 weeks of intensive training including technical skills, business and financial skills, team building skills and more, culminating in a large project with teams of 40 other grads which were presented to managers in various departments at Citi. 

    Following her two rotations within CTI, Hannah put her interest in data analysis and SQL to work in End User Services. “I wanted to use more of my technical skills and got my permanent position in User Experience Core Services Quality & Analytics within End User Services,” Hannah says. Her current role includes data analysis and reporting for the user experiences of all end users at the bank, over 300,000 users globally. Her team gathers metrics on the performance of their machines that they work on every day and create dashboards and reports using Elastic Stack, SQL, PowerBI and more. She was promoted to Assistant Vice President in this role in 2021 enjoys the opportunity to use her technical and analytical skills to help find and solve issues affecting end users.

    In addition to the wide range of career pathways which Hannah has been able to explore in her time at Citi, she explains that her bond to the Citi team has been strengthened by its approach to ensuring an inclusive and supportive workplace for all of Citi’s staff. “Citi has five affinity networks within our Belfast-based team which staff actively engage with including Women, Pride, Families Matter, Disability and Multi-cultural. I was delighted in 2020 to be elected as Co-Chair of the Pride Network, making LGBTQ+ issues part of my day job,” she says.

    Hannah learned about the Citi Pride Network during her training in the Technology Academy. “We had a networking event that had representatives from all of our affinity networks at Citi and I happened to get chatting to the Co-Chair of the Pride Network,” she explains. “A few months later they were advertising for new members of their steering committee and I leapt at the chance to join. Citi had been working on the marriage equality campaign and seeing my workplace be a leader on an issue I had been campaigning for myself since 2014 was life changing.”

    LGBTQ+ issues were especially important to Hannah as she navigated her own sexuality both in and out of work. Hannah was active in campaigning for marriage equality from 2014 – and even marched in the marriage equality rally in 2017 on her graduation day, still wearing her graduation robes.

    “In 2018, I had only been at Citi a few months but was getting heavily involved in the campaign for marriage equality with the Pride Network, as well as campaigning outside of work, running for election and still finding myself,” she says. 

    “I joined a group called Bi+ Ireland, which is a peer support space for bisexual+ people on the Island of Ireland. Very few of my friends knew and my family didn’t know at all, I had maybe only come out to the co-chairs of the network at work. However, I met such a wonderful group of friends at Bi+ Ireland, including my partner, who were all supportive and out there living their best queer lives, I knew I could do that too.”

    Hannah got the opportunity to attend the Pink News summer reception in 2018, hosted by Citi. The event was to be the first LGBTQ+ event attended by a DUP representative with then First Minister Arlene Foster present. 

    “I was able to speak to senior leaders at Citi before the event, sharing my personal experiences and what marriage equality would mean to us. Later that evening, I came out to our Pride Network business sponsor (and later on my boss), Peter Holden. He was so supportive and even encouraged me to talk with my family. Since then he has been such a key ally for me and many others at Citi.”

    Following that night, Hannah was able to come out to her family, friends and colleagues as bisexual in a speech she gave at an event called Alternative Queer Ulster. There, she stood on the steps inside Stormont and spoke her truth. In September 2018, Hannah ran Citi Belfast’s first bisexuality awareness session with The Rainbow Project and has run this event annually ever since. 

    Commenting on how supported and encouraged she felt by the team at Citi on coming out, Hannah reflects on the active support she receives from all levels of the Citi Team. “My manager and team are so wonderfully supportive of me and the Pride Network. Some of my team also have LGBTQ+ family members and friends and we openly talk about our experiences and Pride events that we run in Belfast.”

    “Locally in Belfast, we are supported by our business sponsor and my senior manager Peter Holden, who is a fantastic ally and advocate for us. Being a good LGBTQ+ ally means listening to what matters most to us, being passionate about LGBTQ+ rights and leading by example. My team is split across Belfast, America and Singapore and it’s so great to also have allies in the Global Citi team.

    Driving home Citi’s commitment to workplace inclusivity and equity, the organisation was named among the UK’s Top 100 most inclusive employers by Stonewall, the world’s second-largest LGBTQ+ charity. Citi’s Belfast teams received added commendation by receiving the title of Northern Ireland Employer of the Year, and Hannah was recognised as a ‘Changemaker of the Year’ for her tireless work to shift mindsets and provide leadership in enabling important discussions to promote cultural changes at an organisational level at Citi Belfast.

    Commenting on her personal recognition Hannah said, “Working at an inclusive and diverse company like Citi gave me the confidence to bring my full self to work and have the voice to make changes that benefit all LGBTQ+ people and our allies. When I first started working at Citi, conversations about inclusion were already happening thanks to those who came before me and the support from our senior leaders. I am thankful for them to have created a safe and welcoming space to allow people like me to grow and make change at a local and global level and I am honoured to have been awarded one of Stonewall's Changemaker of the Year awards."

    “My experience at Citi as a queer person has been so different and unique compared to the many other places I have worked over the years. There have been places I have worked where you couldn’t have even mention the word gay other than with hushed tones; where homophobia, biphobia and transphobia were the norm and joked about in the office.”

    “I spent many years feeling very isolated, especially being bi. At Citi, conversations about equality which were already happening made me feel included as soon as I walked in the door. The Pride Network was long established and it was a safe and welcoming environment for me. However, we still have a lot of work to do to make all workplaces safe and more inclusive for all LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary people.”

    This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 edition of the Sync NI magazine. You can download your FREE copy and sign up to receive future digital editions here.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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