AEO Pride Spotlight: Caitlyn H., Quality Engineer

At AEO, we celebrate the diversity of one through the inclusion of many. Throughout the month of June, we will be celebrating associates who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community – highlighting their accomplishments, learning about their unique roles and hearing about their experience at AEO!

As we continue to celebrate Pride month, we’re excited to introduce Caitlyn H. (she/her/hers), Quality Engineer and lover of the outdoors and art. Caitlyn joined AEO three years ago and shared her story with us about being her real self at work as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Let’s catch up with Caitlyn below!

Tell us about yourself and your work at AEO.

Hi, I’m Caitlyn H.! In my free time I love being outdoors, going to concerts, and making art. Oh, and I’m bi!

Currently I work as a software engineer within AEO’s technology team. My team works on the back end system that supports the shopping bag. So if you’ve ever added anything to your cart on – you’ve interacted with my project!

I started at AEO three years ago. I joined the quality engineering team (responsible for testing the website and mobile app to ensure it functions as it’s supposed to). Eventually I started working on software engineering projects (writing code to process data), and now I’m stepping up into a Tech Lead role where I’ll coordinate my project team.

Congratulations on your feature in the recent American Eagle Pride campaign! What was that experience like?

It was unreal, everyone who worked on the campaign was so validating. From getting my makeup and hair professionally done, to how kind everyone who implemented the vision was, to the hype the photographer gave while we were posing for the camera, I could feel the love and care that was put into this project.

The best part was hanging out with my fellow cast mates. Everyone brought such a positive vibe to the photo shoot and it was so nice to meet folks from all over the company. We really brought the star energy and it was so fun to see everyone shine.

Also, seeing the livestream of the Time Square store with our photo on it was world changing. I feel like I crossed something off of my bucket list that I didn’t even know was on my bucket list! I’m so grateful for having had this opportunity. I think it speaks to how AEO encourages its employees to show up as our real selves.

How has AEO encouraged you to live your REAL self?

At AEO, I have had such a unique career progression in a relatively short amount of time. My manager has enabled me to pursue my technical interests, and I’ve worked on really cool technical challenges. In the wider industry, there are still biases against women in technology but I haven’t felt that at AEO.

I have been wholly encouraged to show up as who I am, and the employee resources groups I’ve joined (shout out Women@AEO, AEO Anti-Racism Connections, and of course REAL PRIDE NETWORK!) have provided additional support and a great way to meet people across the company.

. Joining AEO in my early career has enabled me to grow and e blossom into my self-confidence. I know my voice is valued on my team. I am so glad I decided to join AEO, and look forward to where my future takes me.

What does PRIDE mean to you?

To me, Pride is a celebration of love and life. It is also a protest – that we are here, we exist, and nothing will erase us. The level of visibility Pride has today gives me hope that young people will feel validated in their experiences to exist, thrive, and love exactly as they are. Pride is a celebration of the spectrum of ways we exist in community with each other. It’s highlighting our differences, the refraction of light that shines on us all and makes us feel a little less alone.

Those who came before us fought, marched, mourned, and celebrated love so that we have Pride as we know it today. We must now work to protect our rights so that those who come after us may have an even better life.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I wish I could show the AE Pride campaign photos to myself at 16 – to show how sweet my life is now and to remind me to keep going. Short of that, I hope that kids today see the possibilities that lie ahead of them reflected in this cast. I hope they know they are loved and so important, and a community exists that will welcome them with open arms.

Watch below to hear Caitlyn talk about coloring her own rainbow and see how AEO makes her feel part of a community!