Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Curious Monica: Season 3

Be Willing to Reinvent Yourself to Grow with Erica Vogel

Curious Monica – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

The Curious Monica podcast features candid conversations with innovators in thriving organizations across various industries. In each episode, host & founder of InnovatorsBox, Monica Kang interviews her friends in diverse fields about what they do and why they love what they do. If you’re curious too, you’ll gain incredible insight into the workplace patterns that can change the way you think about work, no matter what industry you’re in or who you are.

Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your preferred platform of choice!

You can’t do anything about an opportunity you do not take. This is the mantra that gave Erica Vogel the courage to always reinvent and adapt herself – professionally and personally. Erica is an award-winning Senior Product Manager with 20+ years of experience in design, strategy and product management, currently working at Kforce Inc. She is also a queer, transgender woman who is passionate about cultivating safe, inclusive spaces for LGTQIA+ people to thrive. It wasn’t always easy reinventing yourself, but it taught Erica an important lesson in life that helps her thrive as an innovator today – you won’t know what you don’t seek out! Today she lives in Washington D.C. with her partner and family. This June, as we celebrate Pride Month, we are excited to learn from Erica’s courage to reinvent her career and personal journey. We also learn how you can be a better ally to transgender people, how to agilely adapt in your career journey, and more. We welcome you to this space of learning and growing. Erica can be found on her website and LinkedIn. 

Erica Vogel

Sr Product Manager, Kforce

Erica Vogel uses she/her/hers pronouns and is a queer transgender woman, parent, and spouse. Frequently referred to as resilient, fearless, authentic, and inviting, Erica meets people where they are with love and grace. She is passionate about improving the quality of lives around her and creating safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQIA+ people to thrive within. Erica is an award-winning Senior Product Manager by trade in the world of financial technology. With more than 20 years of experience with design, strategy, and product management for some of the top companies in the world, Erica leads teams to success and makes the most out of strategic initiatives. Erica is a previous leader on the national leadership team for Capital One's LGBTQIA+ Business Resource Group, representing thousands of queer associates. In addition, she regularly participates in panel discussions, hosts events, and speaks about her experience as an LGBTQIA+ human in various forums inside and outside of her company. Erica is married to a wonderful queer woman and is a proud wife. She is the parent of both adult and tween-aged children and two hefty cats. Her family is full of LGBTQIA+ representation as well, with members that are lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, and asexual/aromantic.

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Episode Shownotes

1. Title of the Episode:
Be Willing to Reinvent Yourself to Grow with Erica Vogel

2. Host:
Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox

3. Guest:
Erica Vogel, Sr Product Manager, Kforce


4. Key Topics Covered:

  • Erica’s personal journey of self-discovery and gender transition.
  • Challenges and triumphs in navigating societal norms and personal identity.
  • The spectrum of transgender experiences: social, legal, and medical transitions.
  • Importance of community support and resources for transgender individuals.
  • Insights into gender affirming care and its impact on mental and physical health.


5. Highlights:

  • Erica shares her transformative journey from self-doubt to self-acceptance, highlighting the pivotal role of trusting her intuition.
  • Discussion on the diverse paths of transgender individuals in navigating identity, from social changes to medical interventions.
  • Insights into the legal and societal challenges faced by transgender communities, including access to gender affirming care.


6. Quotes from the guest:

  • “Learning to take risks and getting comfortable with that will pay off in the end. If you’re wondering whether you should do the thing, if you should write the book, if you should change the job, if you should transition, if you should come out, whatever it is, if you’re dwelling on it and you’re thinking on it, you’re looping on that, just do it.” – Erica Vogel
  • “Gender is not binary. We see this through quite a few cultures in the modern world, but particularly in older periods of time. When we take a look at Native American tribes, for example, they recognize as many as six genders. This is not a new concept; trans people have been around since the beginning of people being people.” – Erica Vogel
  • “Taking a risk on my gut intuition being right is far better than not trusting my intuition. I can repair a situation that doesn’t go well. I can apologize. I can make amends. I can change my behavior. I can’t do anything about an opportunity I did not take.” – Erica Vogel

7. Some people suggested that we should learn from:

Emily Schilling, Leo Caldwell, Max Siegel, Chase Strangio – leaders and advocates within the transgender community.


8. Contact Information for the guest:


9. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

Monica encourages listeners to embrace authenticity and support transgender individuals by educating themselves and advocating for inclusivity.

10. Episode Length and Release Date:
Episode Length: Approximately 46 minutes
Release Date: June 25, 2024


00:00

Monica H. Kang
No matter how much we prepare for success at work, things keep changing. And the truth is, it will continue to be. This is the reality that Erica Vogel, our guest today, noticed as she continued her career throughout her life. Even though she was really interested in marine biology and in fact wanted to be a professional illustrator and animator and pursue careers at Marvel and all that jazz, she quickly realized that maybe she can use her passion for design and connecting the dots in a different way and dove into many different paths and careers that led her to now being the senior product manager in the world of financial technology, you see 20 plus years. 


00:46

Monica H. Kang
One thing that she found consistently is whether it’s design strategy or product management, and having worked in many of the top companies, is that the best growth happens when you are willing to reinvent yourself and be adaptive to the changing environment. She’s had to do it professionally multiple times as she moved up the ladder of different careers and different journeys. She had. And not let what, quote, what you’ve done just for your undergraduate be the defining thing that you do professionally for life, as well as her personal and in fact, this reinventing, the courage to continue to adapt and this particular skill of reinventing herself was something that she found particularly important for her personal journey, too. You see, Erica Vogel is a queer transgender woman. 


01:40

Monica H. Kang
She has gone through a transition two years and a half ago, but she has always felt something was off throughout her life. Even with all these successful professional growth, something was off. And it was about time that she said, you know what? I gotta do something about this. And as she has finally stepped into her full identity, she realized how much more liberating it is both to innovate and also to show up fully as herself. So as she looks back at her entire career and her personal journey and how she had to constantly adapt and reinvent herself, she shares an important message that all innovators could relate, that reinventing takes time and courage and curiosity. 


02:25

Monica H. Kang
So whether you are here to learn more, how you can reinvent yourself or learn how you can also be a better ally to transgender women and men, or yourself going through a transition and want to have inspiration, youre in for the right place. So meet Erica, who’s ready to share her journey with you today. So very excited to have Erica here on the show. Erica, thank you so much for joining us. Very excited as we continue to celebrate pride month, celebrating innovator stories, and so excited to have you on the show. A little shout out to Jen, who made the introduction to have Erica here, so very grateful to make that direct. So let’s dive right in. Erika, you have worked in different places as especially the role of product manager. 


03:20

Monica H. Kang
And I’m curious, like, when you were young, though, is that something that you wanted to do, or is there something else that you wanted to do as a child when you were growing up? Because I don’t think we knew product manager way back then. 


03:30

Erica Vogel
No. That is, it’s quite an interesting story. So when I was young, I remember being, wanting to be like, a marine biologist all the way into, like, middle school. I loved dolphins and whales and read about all of that all the time. And a lot of my friends were into it, too. So it was like, oh, we’re all going to be marine biologists, right? That was the deal. But prior to this time, I had started drawing every day. I love to draw. I huge fan of comic books. My friends were drawing, so I taught myself how to draw, how to illustrate. And as I went through middle school, right, I was like, maybe I don’t like science enough to do this, but I do love to draw. I do love illustration. I could not get enough of my art classes at school. 


04:20

Erica Vogel
My mom enrolled me in the performing arts high school. Had, like, a Saturday program for, like, middle school kids. So I learned, like, puppetry and a lot of, like, drawing and everything. So as I got to high school, I was really invested in that. And I was fortunate to have a graphic design class in high school. And by the way, I’m an older gal, so this is like, 1988 89, and shout out to Taylor Swift. Sorry about that. And so in this graphic design class, I was really exposed to the world of designing posters and logos and things like that. And I really fell in love with, like, old school travel posters from, like, the thirties, forties and fifties. That’s sort of my favorite genre of art. And so the plan became like, hey, I love reading comic books from big companies. 


05:13

Erica Vogel
I’m going to go to art school and go to work for Marvel or DC or something, drawing comic books, right? And that was the plan. And, you know, I was exposed to quite a few other things in school as well. My, my father is an audio engineer and does a lot of videography. So I grew up around being around recording studios and sound boards and big events. So I also sort of had that percolating in the back of my mind because I love audio, but I just really kept coming back to, I love to draw. That’s what I want to do every day for the rest of my life. So I go off to design school and I do pretty well. Right? I investigate illustration, sculpture, photography. Photography is my second love. 


06:00

Erica Vogel
But as I realized in school, it’s like, hey, you’re pretty good, but you’re not that good, right. So I realized that a job at Marvel or DC, drawing comics was not in the cards, but I really fell in love with the idea of designing, you know, brochures, websites, books. Well, there weren’t really websites at the time yet, right. But all forms of media. And were just sort of coming into the digital media world. So when I left university, I forced my way into the graphic design world, working for advertising companies as initially an illustrator, but then became like a Photoshop pro. And over a period of many years, I think the first website that I worked on was in 1998. 


06:48

Monica H. Kang
Oh, wow. 


06:50

Erica Vogel
And this was actually for a business. Right. I remember this very well. This, there was this gal who came to the advertising company who was selling solid gold golf teas. Yeah, it’s crazy. Yeah. To, you know, various, you know, people in the business and they really loved them. So she decided to create an entire website around it. So it’s my job to create this website. So it’s like called the golden tea or something. So that was the first website I built and it was, it was a really fascinating experience and I was like, oh, now this is a viable art form. I’ve always loved technology. I’ve always been an early adopter. I could focus on web development since I’m not doing as much illustration. 


07:30

Erica Vogel
So I dived in that for a few years, but I wound up working for an international home decor fabric company at one point as the marketing director for the US. This company’s based out of Germany. Right. 


07:41

Monica H. Kang
Whoa. 


07:42

Erica Vogel
So that got me into high fashion photo shoots and having to do all the photo editing that comes out of that, planning the marketing materials and having to go to companies like veranda or better homes and garden and make, you know, present our line every year. So it’s only after that I wound up jumping wholly into digital design. Right. And at the time, we still don’t have what we would call a product manager. Right. That comes along much later. 


08:10

Monica H. Kang
Yeah. 


08:11

Erica Vogel
So I, from there I go to work for Staples for several years, running one of their business units, doing all of their website design and building up their catalog. I had their first Amazon store that was wildly successful. I think I increased profits like 1500% in one year off of that. And then from there I go to Wells Fargo, right. Big, you know, retail bank in the US. And that’s where I get exposed to product management, even though I’m still kind of working in the design world, right. I become a product strategist there, and they’re working on the retail banking app. So, like, if you use banking on your mobile phone, that’s what I was designing and building products around. So I launched their first iteration of touch id and then Face ID. 


08:54

Erica Vogel
I launched their various AI chat bots, I built their security tower. How you change all your preferences, how you connect Wells Fargo to third party data providers like Intuit. I did all of that work. So when I left that job, I wanted to be fully in production. Then I went to Capital one, right, where I was working as a product manager, and I worked in data with ML and AI initiatives there. And since then, I’ve come to K Force, working for a bank that Walmart owns. And we’re modernizing. So that’s. That’s my journey from wanting to be a marine biologist to illustrator to product manager. 


09:33

Monica H. Kang
What? I mean, I feel like you’ve, like, cut through all my questions that I was gonna ask, but, like, I know, I’m sorry. No, Erica, I love that you’ve shared it because I think when we look at somebody’s life and chapter like that, I think it feels like in retrospect, it’s easy, right? It’s like, okay, let me tell you my full journey. But I bet, Erica, when you were in each of those moments, like, did you have that clarity and knew where it was heading? So then what helped you? Because I think that’s part of the secret of what helps innovators know somehow you kind of always found a way that was different and you paved that path. What helped you? 


10:07

Erica Vogel
Yeah. So for me, I have always been willing to reinvent myself. Right. I’m very physically living that these days. Right. But as a child, I always got invested in new things and was willing to try out something entirely new, whether it was getting deeply invested in playing soccer and going all the way through college or teaching myself to draw or like I said, learning about marine biology or just whatever was fascinating to me. And as I got into the business world, you know, coming in effectively to business in the late nineties, early two thousands, so much was changing, right? The job that I do today did not exist. Didn’t have this name. It pretty much didn’t exist at the time. Being a digital designer was relatively new. You couldn’t even get a college degree in that like you can today. 


10:53

Erica Vogel
We didn’t use software in college very much at that point. A little bit. Right? So I found myself throughout my career, looking at, have I outgrown my job? Have I outgrown this company? Is it supporting me and my vision? Am I supporting it? Am I giving back as much as it’s giving me? And what I’ve run across four times now is that while I loved what I was doing, it doesn’t take me to where I now see I want to go. So I’ve made four. Even though it doesn’t sound like it. There’s been, like, four career pivots that have happened in this. Moving from being a frontline designer to, you know, a high level product manager is a drastic swing, because in the middle of that, I also did front end coding for websites, so I had to learn code, which I hated, right? 


11:44

Erica Vogel
I learned to be a Photoshop Pro, which is an entirely different skill set than being an illustrator or a graphic designer. Like, when you’re doing high fashion photographs, you have to, like, go over everything into that photograph and make sure it is exactly the way you want it. So what I kept running to is I kept hitting these barriers that I was like, I’m not advancing anymore. I’m not doing what I want to do. I also found myself in front of clients more and more. So I was exposed to leadership, I was exposed to thought leadership, I was exposed to bringing about ideas, not just for me on paper, but for a whole team. And it was that ability to think critically about where I am and where I want to go that really gets me to where I am today. 


12:29

Erica Vogel
Because I, like I said, I very easily can decide that now is the time to make a pivot to something else, because I have the vision to see what I need to do to get there. 


12:41

Monica H. Kang
Thank you so much for sharing that. I think it’s so important because nowadays in careers, like, we look at the title, I’m like, jace, like, I wonder how this person did it, but you’re reminding us that there’s constant adaptation. I’m curious for you. When did you first know that was a skill that was important for you as a professional and as an innovator? 


12:59

Erica Vogel
Okay, so this is. This could be an interesting one because it ties into, I think, what we’re going to hit later on in this discussion. My status as a trans person. Right. So I’ve always had a lot of emotional intelligence. I’ve always had this ability to talk to people and draw out what’s important. You know, as a designer, you have to understand what your client wants. You have to know where they’re trying to get so that you can bring about their vision as opposed to your vision. Right. You need to have a vision for them. Right. And in that process, I realized that I had a real gift for talking to people, and it was that being able to be emotionally present, to be sort of soft and listen. 


13:42

Erica Vogel
And these are skills that I was lauded for in my life, you know, especially as when the world thought I was man, they’re like, wow, you. You don’t. It’s so easy to talk to you. You’re so great to talk to. You’re just so friendly and warm and welcoming. I’m like, well, you know, I have a little secret I haven’t told you and that has served me so well throughout my life, right. Because it made me stand out as a leader originally. And it turns out that it’s just a core part of my being that sort of softer feminine energy, right. And without that skill, I would still be probably pushing pixels around on a computer, wondering what I’m doing with my life, right. 


14:20

Erica Vogel
Sort of stuck at the lower echelons and feeling like all I’m doing is bringing about what other people’s visions that I don’t feel connected to. So it was that empathy that I have that allowed me to connect to people, which drove my career. 


14:36

Monica H. Kang
Thank you so much for sharing that. I mean, it’s so key to realize the roles, the wheres might be different, but the who will continue to grow if we have and take the time to get that clarity of what is my, indeed my strength regardless of where I go. And I think its so inspiring to hear how you tapped into that early on to find a way, how you kind of like repurpose and continue to adapt in all these different chapters. While we revisit some of the professional chapters, im going to piggyback on your hint and where we touch upon your personal chapters as we celebrate. Of course, pride month. Folks might be wondering if they’re listening. They might not catch all the details of. I mean, they might have heard from the introduction that I said at the beginning of the conversation. 


15:23

Monica H. Kang
But your full journey into being a transgender woman so would love if you’re willing to share, because I know you’ve shared some other fun facts growing up as a child of gay fathers and how you came up also very early, which I think is very special. Not a lot of people get to recognize their identity and have that confidence and feel safe early on. So curious if you can bring back to your childhood how it was like. 


15:49

Erica Vogel
Yeah, for sure. So it’s been a real evolution for me. Right. I was, my father came out of the closet when I was three. My parents split up at that point, and we, I was living in Atlanta, that’s where I’m from. And we moved to Florida with my dad. My mom kind of went off and did her own thing for three or four years. And we saw her occasionally because she was also sort of a wild hippie flower child. So she’s like, great, I’ll just go do my own thing for a while. And even then, at that young age, it took me a while to figure out who my father was, right. I noticed that he had a lot of male friends that hung around, and they seemed really nice and friendly. 


16:34

Erica Vogel
It was when we wound up moving back to Atlanta and I moved in with him, mom. That I really was old enough to get the picture by this point. I’m seven or eight, right. But I don’t have a memory of my parents together in a relationship because I was too young. My brother does, who’s four years older than me, but I don’t. And so growing up, I became quickly aware that my father was gay, especially when we moved back to Atlanta and he moved his partner in with him, who I think of as like a second dad to me, growing up, right. And I would spend times at his house at the weekend. We would, you know, there would be drag queens there, right. Because this is, that’s part that’s big in the Atlanta community, even for the eighties, right? 


17:15

Erica Vogel
But having grown up watching my father come through the gay panic of the eighties and the AIDS crisis of eighties and nineties and survive that whole. And healthy, thankfully, I was exposed to the idea quite young, that, well, being heterosexual isn’t something that’s has to be that way if you don’t feel that way. Right. Obviously it’s not a choice. Right. But I came up knowing that I was likely bisexual, right. And so I was out to myself quite early. Didn’t really make it known to my friends, but all my friends know who my dad was, so they inferred it anyways, right? They’re like, well, we know who Erica is. And so having known that my whole life. But I also started to come to the realization that I wasn’t a girl by the age of five, right. So this is a really interesting story. 


18:09

Erica Vogel
My, I was going to, of all things, the southern Baptist Christian pre k. And it took me a while to figure out that though I liked playing with the girls, no one thought that I was girl. I thought I was right. And so the story that. How this really comes to my attention was, for some reason, my dad moved me from that school to a catholic private school, which is a weird choice for him to make, but he did. And when we arrived at school, I remember thinking, dad, why am I not wearing the right uniform? Right? Because we know what a catholic school girl looks like, right? She typically got depleted, plaid dress on, and I didn’t. And he’s like, what are you talking about? I’m like, why aren’t I dressed like the girls? He’s like, you’re not a girl. 


18:56

Erica Vogel
And that was kind of the first realization that I was like, oh, okay. And that sort of comes with me through the rest of my life, being part of the southern baptist church. You know, I. When this would sort of leak out, because it doesn’t. Things like this don’t stay inside. They, you know, we get identified young as being different in some way. I was taught shame around it. I was taught that it was a sin, right? So it stayed repressed for a long time. But as I came into my teenagerhood, it was. It’s like, coming up again. I’m like, oh, my gosh, what is this? I’m in the high school, and I think I’m probably bi. And now I’m dealing with this. It was. It was quite a crisis, so I, like, shoved it down again. 


19:31

Erica Vogel
And at the time, there’s not really good representation of what trans people are like out in the world. We don’t even have good representation of gay and lesbian people in the world at that point, too. 


19:41

Monica H. Kang
Right. 


19:41

Erica Vogel
So it’s something that you’re like, oh, I need to not talk about this. So it’s. It’s been there on and off throughout my life, right. And I’ve done a lot of work myself. I’ve been through tons of therapy to try to solve this problem of being trans, though at the time, we didn’t have words for that. Right. And so that led me to do a lot of self investigative work, a lot of work that involves me. And it’s only in the last several years that I finally decided now’s the time to come out as my full self instead of just the part that some people know. Right. And it was causing me tons of distress. Right. It’s anxiety, depression. Right. 


20:21

Erica Vogel
I also had, like, a really bad back injury at the time, which I was in the worst pain in my life for, like, four months. And interesting, a lot of people that go through some sort of traumatic event find that. That propels them going forward because they’re sort of evaluating what they’ve done with their life. So, yeah, I came out and started my transition about, where are we? Two and a half years ago. It’s truly been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I am the most authentic version of myself, the best version of myself that I have been pursuing my whole life. So I’ve gone through this process with the community, with the broader LGBTQ community, where I grew up, within the community, where I had great representation in the community, where I had friends in the community. 


21:08

Erica Vogel
But feeling safe enough to be out as trans took me getting to a point of stability in my life. Like, I had financial stability. I had job security. I had a partner that was able to support, you know, be there and support me. I had. I lived in the right place. I lived in a big, liberal city. That made it very easy. I had access to resources, because for me, losing the stability with transition was like a no go non starter. Right. And that’s. That’s kind of something that happens for a lot of people. For those of us who wait later in life, that’s typically the issue, is we feel like there’s too much at risk. Right. Those of us that are able to transition earlier, it’s usually other factors, like that feeling of transness is so strong, it’s undeniable. 


21:53

Erica Vogel
It’s causing you a lot of pain. It must happen now. 


21:58

Monica H. Kang
Thank you, Erica, for sharing that, piggybacking on some of the details. When you say two year and a half ago, is that two year and a half ago from this year? 


22:07

Erica Vogel
Yeah. Where are we? This is the pandemic. 


22:10

Monica H. Kang
So during the pandemic. 


22:11

Erica Vogel
Yeah, yeah. Coming out of the pandemic, I’m one of those pandemic trans babies. That’s the real thing. 


22:16

Monica H. Kang
Wow. You shared what helped. You know, it was the right timing, but even when those are aligned, one could still pause. What helped? You know? Okay, maybe now is the time. 


22:30

Erica Vogel
Yeah. Okay. For years, I’ve been able to put it sort of push it back down. Right. To just disassociate from it, push it down. Maybe it comes up as a curiosity, and I’m like, oh, here’s that thing again. But I’m okay, I’m safe. Like, it doesn’t have to happen. Like, I can deal with this and just move on and that. That worked on and off for quite a while. Right? And so I thought I really had it beat. At the end of the day, that’s what I was chasing most of my life is getting rid of this issue. But coming out of that back injury, it really set off tons of anxiety and depression, because, you know, one of the things that came out of that was I went through, like, every medical test you can go through. Cause it was, like, rapid onset. 


23:13

Erica Vogel
It was the worst pain I’ve experienced every day of my life for four months straight. So were even looking into cancer, and that really scared me. That is scary. 


23:22

Monica H. Kang
Yeah. 


23:22

Erica Vogel
And even though things worked out with a bunch of physical therapy, and I’m 75% back to where I was before, it just wouldn’t go away after that. Right. That’s a. That’s a big thing that happens in the community, mainly because our fear is our fear of lack of acceptance, our feel of accessibility to resources, our feel of our fear of being unloved or losing our jobs prevents many of us to turn that pain further inside. Right. So as I started to communicate with my partner about that worry, were both like, okay, that’s it. We gotta. We gotta move forward. We can’t. This is, like, too much. And at the same time, I also have a daughter who’s trans who really struggled with this fact. She came out before me, so we had this experience already. 


24:09

Erica Vogel
And so I think for both of us, it was like, not going forward is not worth it. And so that’s really what, to be totally honest, that what leads today, if I don’t have that depression, that anxiety, I don’t know that I would do it. 


24:25

Monica H. Kang
Wow. In an ironic way, when we felt like were at the edge, it pushed us to say, you know what? Fine. I’m gonna figure out how to flag that. Yeah. 


24:36

Erica Vogel
I mean, and, you know, for me, that’s. It’s an interesting point, because I’ve hit that type of moment before in my life with quite a few of the things that I’ve been through is the knowing that I can get through anything. I can survive anything. I’ve learned that lesson so many times that now, pardon me, now I am much more willing to trust my gut and be like, okay, we can get through this. It’s not going to be fun. It might not be pretty, it might not be easy, but you’ve seen yourself get through some really hard stuff throughout your life. So we can do this. 


25:10

Monica H. Kang
For folks who’s learning about this for the first time, if you don’t mind sharing a little bit more kind of on the background perspective, how long does the preparation process work? How long does the surgical process work, and how long does it really take. You’ve already hinted that it takes a little bit more time to get used to it as well. I’m curious if you don’t mind giving some timeline to understand how we can be a better supporter for those who might be going through that transition, too. 


25:36

Erica Vogel
So I think the first thing to understand is that nobody’s transition is the same. There’s a wide swath of options. Some people transition socially, right. So they might change their name, they might change their pronouns, they might change the way they dress, and that for them, is perfect. Some people might take the next step of a legal transition where they legally change their name, they legally change their birth certificate. They can, you know, they take those steps to legalize that process. And then there’s. There’s really the third category that most people assume is transition, and that’s medical intervention. Right. And the way it works today, and this is really dependent on the state that you live in and certainly on the country you live in. Since we’re in the US, I’m going to talk about the US. 


26:18

Monica H. Kang
Yes. 


26:19

Erica Vogel
And access to medical care is driven at the state level. Right. We’ve seen, if you’ve paid attention, we’ve seen a wide swath of anti trans legislation across the United States. Something like, I think in the last three years, over 1000 laws trying to be passed, many of them have been blocked. Right. Preventing us from access to the care that, frankly, many men or women have. Right. Gender affirming care applies to cisgendered men and women. Right. Like, if you have breast augmentation, that’s gender affirming care for women. If you are going through menopause and you want to stay on hormones, that’s gender affirming care for women. Those same hormones are applied to me. Right. So my first step was that I talked to a therapist that specialized in change trans therapy, and she just really helped me get through the. 


27:09

Erica Vogel
My own fear of going forward. There are a few steps where her interaction are required. Right. So, I happen to live in a state in Virginia where you, we have informed consent. So all I have to do is go to the doctor and talk to them. I don’t need to bring a therapist along. I don’t have to have a letter for that. And if they agree with my statement that, yes, I am a trans woman, then they can prescribe me hormones. Right. And so I went to a trans clinic in the DC area, which is where I live and work with a specialist after having worked with my therapist. Right. And they put me on a course of hormone therapy. And we started with something quite low dose. Right. Because I was really unsure about how this was gonna go. 


27:55

Erica Vogel
I was really quite scared of this step, right? 


27:58

Monica H. Kang
Anyone would be, oh, yeah, you’re totally. 


28:00

Erica Vogel
Changing out the hormones. So. But within two weeks, something amazing happened. I’d always had this sort of static, this sort of buzz in the back of my brain that was always in the way. It disappeared. My brain started working the right way. It was running on the right chemicals, finally, right? And so let me diverge for a second. There’s a couple of studies that back up that the brains of trans people are more similar to the brains of the cis people that they align themselves to. So trans women’s brains are closer to women’s brains than men’s brains. There’s been a couple studies on this, and there needs to be more, but there’s enough evidence there to sort of lead us to the idea that we are actually a little bit different. Right. 


28:40

Erica Vogel
And so for me, getting my brain running on the right chemicals was really the main thing that I needed. So I’ve been doing that for two and a half years at this point. So I have a weekly injection of estrogen that I give myself. I take progesterone daily because that has other beneficial effects for me. But sort of the next phase that we have are the variety of surgeries that people can have. So I think when we talk about the community at large, we have to understand that there are people that want different things, some that go all the way, that have every surgery, that do everything, and that’s what they need to feel whole in themselves. And some people, like me, only need some things, right. 


29:21

Erica Vogel
So it depends on how you feel about your gender and if you have any discomfort with various pieces of your anatomy. I don’t have tons of discomfort at this point. So to me, taking that next step is not something I’m going to do at this point, because that needs to be driven by something I want instead of something I should do. That’s my personal opinion. So, again, we’re not a monolith where there’s lots of different ways to express and be. And when we think of trans people, we tend to think of them binary. So we think of trans men and trans women, but there are a lot of non binary people in the middle that also have their own care. Right? So we can’t just force people to the ends. There’s a whole spectrum. 


30:03

Monica H. Kang
Well, what’s something for folks who might be listening, who is perhaps going to that transition, right? Now and hearing this story as an encouragement to know their voice matters, what would you want them to know first? 


30:15

Erica Vogel
Oh, yeah. I think the thing that I say all the time is just. Just keep going. Right. It’s a process to fully go through all the options. If you picked every option and transition that you could take that were applicable to you, it’s a three year process. Right. And that’s here in the United States in a state that’s friendly, it can be quite a bit longer. If we’re talking about England, it’s quite a bit longer than that. It can be ten years. So it’s like, keep going, keep pursuing your authenticity, keep checking in with yourself and doing the work to become more of who you are. It’s incredibly worth it. 


30:54

Monica H. Kang
And for those who want to better allies learning about this, whether first time or, you know, deepening their learning now, what would you want to share with them? 


31:04

Erica Vogel
Oh, well, we just, we’ve hit on some of it already. But I think the biggest thing is to remember that trans people are, like I said, that we’re not a monolith. We’re not all the same. Right? Everybody’s a little bit different. Just. Just as in your expression of your womanhood is different than maybe your mother’s expression or if you had a sister or your friends, it’s a little bit different. We are the same. Right. My expression, my sense of my womanhood, my femininity is different than other trans women, and it’s different than other cis women. And in some ways it aligns. Right. So understand that we don’t have to perform femininity even more than you do or less. Or if you’re transmasculine, we don’t have to perform masculinity any more or less than masculine people do. Right? 


31:54

Erica Vogel
So understand that there’s a whole spectrum, I think, when we’re talking about any marginalized community, right. We don’t go to that community and ask them to answer all of our questions for us. Right. We work to get educated. Right? So there’s plenty of books, three, a great website if you want to get grounded in the nuts and bolts, especially of the medical aspect, because I know that’s what everybody’s interested in is the gender dysphoria Bible. Right. You can just search for that. It will be the first thing that comes up and it talks you through the process. For trans women and trans men, the things that change, it’s quite fascinating because it has a lot of medical information in there, but it’s very approachable, but it also covers, like, the mental state. 


32:34

Erica Vogel
It covers the changes that will happen, how, for example, trans women will not necessarily experience more emotions than they did when the world thought they were men, but they’ll experience, like, a higher volume of emotion. So while it used to be quite hard for me to cry, I will cry at a commercial today. Right. That’s the effect of estrogen in my system. So that’s a great resource for people to check out. I think PFlag is another great resource. You know, it’s parents of. It’s for parents and families of the LGBTQ community, and they have tons of information on whether your family member is lesbian or gay or pansexual or transgender. So it’s a great resource to get information. So, again, find reliable sources of information. 


33:24

Erica Vogel
If you’re doing a web search and it’s talking about how horrible trans people are, you’re in the wrong place. Right. By and large, we’re quite lovely people that just are trying to get through our day. So don’t force us to answer your questions just as you would with the new marginalized community. And I think also, it’s one thing for you to ask me here on this podcast where I’ve given you consent to ask me any question. Follow our lead in terms of our pronouns. Try to look at how we’re dressed and how we’re presenting instead of maybe the shape of our face. That’s going to give you a lot of clues. Right. And I know it can be hard to get past, well, that person looks male. So I should use sir if I’m wearing a dress. 


34:02

Erica Vogel
There is no way in which you should use sir. Right. So, again, I think it’s just being curious in the right way, educating yourself, being open to the fact that gender is not binary. Right. And we see this through quite a few cultures in the modern world, but particularly in older periods of time. Right. When we take a look at native American, some tribes represent. Recommended. I’m not recommended. Recognize as many as six genders. Right. And we see this in a lot of cultures across the world. Like, this is not a new concept. What’s new is the age of the Internet to make it something everybody can see. It has always been here. Trans people have been around, as has lesbian and gay people, since the beginning of people being people. 


34:49

Monica H. Kang
No. Appreciate you highlighting those, as well as a reminder that unless we intentionally seek the right resources, we’re not going to tap into it. And, folks, you know the drill. I always add all these resources our guests share in our blog. So come find [email protected]. If you ever lose or have a question, just send a direct message to me or Erica, but send to me so that way I can revert, so that way we can filter and make sure that Erica gets the question that is more intentional. And I appreciate you kind of holding us accountable. 


35:22

Monica H. Kang
What are the ways and languages that we can use to be more supportive as well as for those out there who’s looking for that hope, whether as a parent or as an individual going through that transition, to know that what they can do, I want to revisit now back to your professional chapters, because now what connecting the two, what you’re sharing is that you’ve had the courage to make all these adaption and transformation professionally, despite you having feeling stuck inside personally, I’m curious what helped you still find the courage to do all of that? Because now you’re probably thriving even more. Oh, yeah. Because there’s no box that’s limiting you. But, like, what helped you? 


36:03

Monica H. Kang
Because I bet there’s folks out there, whether it’s because of the box, they feel being, you know, a minority, to your point, whether it’s trans, whatever that box is, we all at times feel limited and feel like, you know, I want to continue to have the courage to, and you’ve somehow done that throughout your life, now doing even more. But when you look back, even more. So what helped you? Because you didn’t get to open that full, even personally. So I’m curious what helped you? 


36:33

Erica Vogel
I think for me, it does really come down to my sort of view on life, and you’ll find this is different with trans people. But throughout my life, I’ve always been able to evaluate a situation and pick out what’s working and what’s not working. I think that’s one of my better skills, is like, hey, this doesn’t quite fit. Like, it really makes sense when we talk about design or product management. Right. My job is to say that’s not quite the best thing to put forward for you, but maybe this is, this fits you better or this serves our customers better. So having that ability to sort of self analyze the self audit, I noticed with self observation that I was overcoming things all of the time. Right. 


37:21

Erica Vogel
And what I decided in the end was that taking a risk on my gut intuition being right is far better than not trusting my intuition. I can repair a situation that doesn’t go well. I can apologize. I can make amends. I can change my behavior. I can’t do anything about an opportunity I did not take. 


37:47

Monica H. Kang
Oh, that’s good. Yeah. 


37:49

Erica Vogel
Right. And so my point of view has always been, you’ve seen yourself overcome so many things. 


37:55

Monica H. Kang
Yeah. 


37:56

Erica Vogel
Does it matter if it goes wrong, you will learn something. What if it goes right? And I think, there are certainly some people in the community that see themselves that way. I think also for some people, it comes down to, I’ve tried everything else and there isn’t. This is the only thing left to try. If this doesn’t work, I don’t know what to do. And it becomes that choice of last resort that gets them going. But once they inhabit themselves, they find that they start to believe in themselves and they start to thrive and they start to flourish. Just as if you inhabit what you want to be in your job and your career, it starts to go well. Right. 


38:36

Erica Vogel
When you are in a role that doesn’t fit you or forces you to put your best skills to the side, you don’t do well. Right. So the more we learn to believe in ourselves, the more we’re going to thrive and do well. And that’s certainly true for trans people. Now, as a marginalized community, we have to remember that there are obstacles in our way, intentionally put in our path. It can be hard to thrive. I have to admit that I’ve been lucky. Look, I’m a white trans lady that lives in a liberal city that works in technology. I have means, I have access, and my whiteness makes my life easier. It’s not true for everybody, but there’s also a certain amount of luck, just like you have that in your career, you have to. Things just sort of have to align sometimes. 


39:19

Erica Vogel
And I think for trans people, we have to keep working on it. We have to keep trying new things until we find what works for us. And for some, that can be quite difficult. You might not have the means to move to the right city. You might not have access to a trans clinic. You might not have role models that live near you that can meet. Keep looking, keep finding people online, keep talking to them, keep building your community, because that’s going to pump you up and make you feel like you’re not alone. 


39:47

Monica H. Kang
I appreciate these wisdoms of reminders and how we can make sure we continue to go for it. As you said, keep showing up, keep seeking. Can’t believe how fast time has flown by. I know, I know. I feel like we’re just getting started. But thank you so much. I know many who tune in would be inspired and be empowered by your story sharing and your journey a few more things to dive into, one that I loved. Asking my guests to continue our education and learning is asking our guests to introduce us to at least maybe one or three more innovators that they know that they are inspired by, who happens to be from this background. And so in our month of pride, we’ve been asking Arlo Gaez if you could introduce at least three innovators to us who happen to be. 


40:35

Monica H. Kang
Who’s an innovator, who happen to be lgbtQ, who are at least three names you want to shout out. 


40:41

Erica Vogel
Okay, this is easy for me. First one, Emily Schilling. Right? She’s a trans woman like me. She is the highest ranking out trans woman in the military, right? And she is the president of Sparta, the trans military organization. And actually, she just was named, like, curb’s 50 most powerful women’s list this year. So she’s a great follow, but she’s a naval aviator. She is the first trans woman to gain her flight status back after transition. 


41:14

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


41:15

Erica Vogel
So Emily Schilling is a great follow. Leo Caldwell is a professor at Ball State who’s a trans ma’am who not only is educating his kids on journalism in college, but is part of a trans organization called Wright that is working to make gender affirming care an FDA approved process which will make it easy for everybody to access it, those that need it. Right. A third one would be, I would say, max Siegel. He’s a trans man. He’s actually in London. He’s quite famous. His transition has gone very well. He’s very handsome, by the way, and he is out there, one of the driving forces for trans people in the UK in terms of representation and showing up and being seen. He’s a constant public speaker. So those are some great ones. Also, I’ll give you a third one. 


42:11

Erica Vogel
Chase Strangio is a huge advocate for trans people, and you’ll frequently see Chase speaking with the human rights campaign. 


42:20

Monica H. Kang
Love it. Love it. Folks, you know the notes. We will add these four people that she has shared with us in the blog. Find the resources. We’re going to do a shout out to continue to learn and educate ourselves and revisit these stories. Erica, you shared so many different wisdom. What’s the final wisdom you want to share? If there are innovators out there, no matter where they are in their journey, take the risk. 


42:42

Erica Vogel
Take the risk. It will. It may not pay off today, but learning to take risks and getting comfortable with that will pay off in the end. If you’re wondering whether you should do the thing. If you should write the book, I wrote a book. If you should change the job, if you should transition, if you should come out, whatever it is, if you’re dwelling on it and you’re thinking on it, you’re looping on that, just do it. 


43:06

Monica H. Kang
And the final, and the final question is, what’s the best way folks can stay in touch with you? 


43:12

Erica Vogel
Erica, you can find me on I have a website, oerika oherica.com, where you can get my information. You get information on the upcoming book. It’ll be out, we think, early 2025. It’s called advice from your trans auntie. I’m your trans auntie and you can find me there. You can find me on LinkedIn. Erika M. Vogel and you can find me on Instagram. Erica Verica and I’ll give you all that information. 


43:40

Monica H. Kang
Appreciate it. Thank you so much Erika, for joining us. And thank you all for tuning in for another conversation. We’ll be back again next week as we continue our learning of different innovators around the world. So we’ll see you soon. Have a wonderful day. Thank you. 


43:56

Erica Vogel
Bye. Thanks for having me. 


43:58

Monica H. Kang
Thank you Erica, so much for inspiring us. Your resilience, fearlessness and authenticity and inviting voice is felt throughout. I hope that you all enjoyed our conversation today and thank you all for continuing our conversation of learning about innovators around the world of different environments. This has been a wonderful pride month celebration that we had with all of you. If you missed any of the conversations, feel free to check back any of their past episodes and revisit our wonderful guests who shared their stories with us. Next week we are starting a new month, July. July is pride Disability Month and so we’re excited to continue our learning of innovators and in this time, learning about innovators who happen to have a disability or working in the disability accessibility space. Curious to learn more? 


44:51

Monica H. Kang
Join me next week and we’ll continue on our learning and growing together. This is your host, Monica King, founder and CEO of Innovators Box and you have been listening to curious Monica. Have a wonderful day and continue to be courageous, creative, and curious. Ill see you next week. Thanks so much for tuning in todays episode. Your support means the world to us, so we’re so glad you’re here. Want to do a little shout out for those in the team who made this possible. Thank you to everyone at InnovatorsBox Studios. 


45:34

Monica H. Kang
Audio Engineering and production is done by Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering Assistance by Ravi Lad, website and marketing support by Kree Pandey, Graphic Support by Lea Orsini, Christine Eribal, original music by InnovatorsBox Studios, and executive producing, directing, writing, researching and hosting by me Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox. Thank you for continuing on the journey of how to build a better workplace and thrive with creativity. Visit [email protected] and get some free resources at innovatorsbox.com/free.. We look forward to seeing you at the next episode. Thank you and have a wonderful day. 

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