Life in Lockdown with Jay

As part of our Life in Lockdown campaign, we caught up with Jay, who tells us his story about working throughout lockdown in a company that were producing respirators to help support the NHS and fight coronavirus!

Hi, I’m Jay, 27 and I’m a senior project engineer at a company called 3M. I live with my partner Jamie, 30 who is a planning manager at Ubisoft (In Newcastle)  We live in Darlington. We have been together for 4 years. 

My hobbies involve travelling (I’ve been privileged enough to visit 43 countries, so far!, climbing, and CrossFit. I also mentor Teesside University students on how to run effective social enterprises (called Enactus). In our downtime, we love to bake, cook and watch Drag Race!

I work in a manufacturing factory environment, my site has been making all of the respirators and masks that have been protecting NHS staff and the public from COVID 19 – so as you can imagine it’s been very hectic.

My job is to primarily lead large projects installing new equipment, or improving current processes to make them run better. Initially, as someone who is primarily site-based, I was asked to work from home at the beginning of the lockdown, but I struggled… mostly because my work is pretty hands-on (working with contractors and site engineers).

I was allowed to return to work 2 weeks later as it made it hard to do my job, working from home. 3M did everything to make the site as safe as possible to work in. In my two weeks of working at home, I really struggled, in our small apartment as Jamie was also working from home! We would often have to sit in separate rooms just so we can attend calls without speaking over each other. 

“I’m really proud to a be an out gay man in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Community.”

We are really underrepresenting in STEM and the recurring theme seems to be that many STEM graduates end up going back in the closet after uni when they start their formal jobs – especially in manufacturing and engineering roles.

To counter this, I am the LGBT Resource Group Leader for our North Europe Division – I have delivered training to many people across the company on how best to be an ally to LGTBQ employees and raised awareness through initiatives like rainbow laces (where we gave out rainbow laces for employees to wear on safety boots (Stonewall campaign) and we raised the Pride flag on our flagpoles!). 

I am also a volunteer for a Sikh LGBT+ group called Sarbat where we host meet ups allowing for a creation of a safe space for queer Sikhs.

In January we had a meet up in Newcastle! Through lockdown we have had to get creative and we now host weekly zoom calls and the attendance has been incredible! We can have up to 80 people join when normally we would only ever get 8-9 people to turn up to a meetup. This lockdown has really enabled Sarbat to really touch many lives. Some of our Zoom themed sessions have been ‘how can we be better allies to the black community?’ and ‘challenges of being a POC LGBTQ person in the workplace’.

For me, as a big climber and gym go-er I really struggled, however, managed to find various apps to help me keep my fitness levels up – and I strongly believe I might be fitter now than i was before lockdown! I even feel empowered to exercise without the need for a gym! I would visit my local Sikh temple on a weekly basis – and that obviously stopped during the lockdown – I have struggled to find a place where I can be spiritual but it has been manageable. 

Jamie is still working from home – and has gotten used to his new normal – I think he prefers it. Before COVID he was very concerned about working from home as he thought it would impede his work but he has found that by working from home he can focus better.

I think this lockdown showed many people that working from home is possible (in certain roles). He won’t be going back any soon but he now has a nice, proper desk set-up. Another benefit is he no longer has a 40 minute commute one way – which means he has had more time to enjoy other things. 

In terms of new skills, Jamie has used this extra time to become green-fingered – we are currently growing green chillies and they’re coming along nicely. However, negatively, our gym closed and that meant Jamie didn’t have an outlet from a fitness POV and is still struggling to find his preferred way of exercise. Since the lockdown he has become much less active (which he is trying to mitigate with more walks). 

Life in Lockdown brought together with support from Haydn Brown Photography and DW Media

We know that COVID-19 and global pandemic has impacted the community in many different ways. From key working to homeschooling, to being furloughed or education being moved online. Some of our LGBTQ+ community have found it harder than most. The community can sometimes be the family we chose, and we may be isolating alone or away from our support network. We also may be living in hostile environments where we are hiding our true identity to remain safe. We think that it’s important to reflect and remember this moment in our history and highlight the challenges we’ve had to overcome Find out more and apply to take part: