“Change is inevitable, but it is how you approach change that you have control over”
BY ZOE SCHULZ (MYGWORK), IMAGE BY LECHATNOIR
“It was innate for me – if I didn’t like something, I wanted to change it.” Zion Sage, Change Management Business Partner at Travelport, spends her time sparking change and fostering inclusion. myGwork sat down and spoke to her about just what a change management career entails and how the tools she uses at work could impact social justice movements.
Growing up, if Zion saw something she didn’t like she wanted to change it. Surrounded by a big family in Connecticut, she describes them as the typical family – with a lot of strong personalities and humour. Her mum had eleven siblings, and her dad seven, so there was always the exciting chaos of extended family around her. Both her parents were incredibly hard workers, rarely taking a day off, even if they were sick. “They were just part of that generation,” Zion adds, “And even when work was tough, and they dealt with discrimination or racism, they continued on.”
Zion’s mum was a preschool teacher and her dad a manufacturing engineer. Often, they would come home, exhausted from working so hard, and facing prejudice on top of this, and all Zion could think about was how she wanted to change this. “It was innate for me – if I didn’t like something, I wanted to change it.”
As a kid, Zion loved art, and was always creating, then she came up with the idea to sell artwork at her dad’s workplace to his colleagues. She also entered different art competitions and was delighted when she received a letter back from Little Tikes about an idea she had drawn and sent to them. In this way, she was engaging with businesses early on, seeing the symbiotic relationship she could have with them.
“I automatically saw businesses as ‘Here’s this amazing idea I have, and I want to share it with the world’. So, I looked at businesses early on as both a consumer and from a business perspective, and it made me interested in helping business prosper through change management.”
As a young girl, having crushes on other girls, and the butterflies these would lead to always just felt normal to Zion. Despite being aware of these feelings she didn’t associate this with being lesbian – the negative connotations around the word ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ meant she just didn’t relate these words to the sweet feelings she had.
“You don’t learn the vocabulary when you’re born, you just have these feelings – and I do believe that I’m born this way,” Zion explains. As her knowledge of LGBTQ+ identities expanded past the “You’re so gay,” playground banter, she soon realized she was a lesbian and has been out and proud ever since.
“I’ve embraced it, I feel so much understanding of myself, which is why I’m not afraid and won’t hide who I am. Being in the LGBTQ+ community, we are so loving, and we have these safe spaces, where we are able to come together and there’s peace there. This is why I just want to continue to promote safe spaces and help people understand our differences, similarities, and biases.”
The need to create change and simultaneously foster safety and community has followed Zion throughout her career. She dabbled in several careers before finding her home within change management, including as a massage therapist, where she saw her role to support and help her clients through stress. Moving to New York, Zion decided to pursue a masters in change management, taking her one step closer to her dream career.
Since starting at Travelport just over a year ago, Zion has felt at home, surrounded by people who accept her and have listened to everything she needed to be successful. As their Change Management Business Partner, Zion feels she is given creative control and allowed to show up wholly as herself – as is everyone else across the business.
“I think I have the coolest job in the world. I get to help people through change – and change doesn’t have to be so hard, but it is challenging, and I won’t minimize this. It requires a certain skill set, it takes business acumen, psychology, being willing to relate to people and be the calmest person in the in the room, so you can help people navigate through change and you must be able to put yourself in their shoes understand where they are.”
On top of her change management responsibilities, Zion is an Ambassador for Travelport’s Global Diversity Council. Part of this has involved public speaking around her lived experience and expertise, and the way she is listened to when sharing has really stayed with her. “There isn’t any censorship or editing, but instead collaboration, listening and thoughtfulness in Travelport’s approach to diversity and inclusion. I’m here because they want to elevate my thoughts and feelings. I think that other companies could learn from them in the way they are able to be people centered. They really mean it when they say that they want their people to feel seen and heard.”
The link between diversity and inclusion, and change management to Zion is an obvious one, with the two aspects having so much to learn from one another. Even back in grad school she recalls speaking to social justice activists around Black Lives Matter and hearing the techniques and tools they have for sparking long-term changes – but realizing there was nothing about change management included in this.
“I want activists to know that they can use this, there are tools over here in change management that can really help you affect change. And this goes both ways – there’s things from activism and social justice initiatives that can be utilized in change management as well.”
In the lead up to Pride Month, Zion was enthusiastic to revamp and increase Travelport’s activities. Based in Atlanta, with a vibrant LGBTQ+ community, she can see there are so many ways to engage the wider organization in visible allyship. The visibility of the LGBTQ+ community in her now-hometown constantly amazes her – particularly having not had this growing up herself – and living with her partner and daughter, she’s grateful they are all surrounded by such a supportive local community.
With Zion’s role expanding from change management into diversity and inclusion, she utilizes the tools in both. “Change is inevitable,” she shares, “but it is how you approach change that you have control over.” Understanding the difference between what is permanent and what is temporary, is something that has helped Zion in both her personal and professional life as she both supports people through change and sparks change herself for a kinder and more equal world.
“The beauty in being a change manager is that I know that change is possible. I know that there are resources and tools out there to help make a more equal world. Sometimes things happen very quickly, sometimes it takes longer, but if you just stay the course and be the last person standing, it can happen, and it’s worthwhile.”
Travelport is a proud partner of myGwork, the LGBTQ+ business community.
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