By Richard Burnett
From a small country house in the North Carolina hills to a high-rise in one of America’s technology hubs, Xander Brown’s trek in life has been anything but conventional.
In 2015, then as Sarah Brown, he was a quiet, anxious newcomer to Beacon College — 700 miles from his rural home. Fast forward to last year, Brown came out as a transgender male while working for Dell Technologies in suburban Austin, Texas. It was the culmination of a lifelong pursuit to express his true gender identity.
Along the way, he overcame a bundle of learning difficulties, including dyslexia, dyscalculia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD — thanks in a large part to Beacon, Brown said. He graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s in computer information systems in the web & digital media track. Brown chose Beacon after taking a long look at larger universities.
“It all came down to the personal experience and attention you get there,” said Brown, who earned the college’s coveted Dell Technologies internship in 2018 and parlayed it into a full-time job. “The teachers really take the time to talk through assignments. They have the patience to sit down with you and understand how your brain works. If you need even more help, they open their office doors to you.”
Winning respect of peers
A year after starting the job at Dell, Brown returned to campus for a speaking engagement to share insights for Beacon’s computer technology students. The room was packed to hear Brown, who then was still known as Sarah, said Dr. James Fleming, chair of the department of business & technology.
“She was very impressive that day, describing the work she had done and what her goals were,” said Fleming, whom Brown credited with being one of her strongest influences. “She attracted a lot of students at that meeting. It was clear how much they respected her.”
Brown’s transformation at Beacon was memorable, he said, from a shy, quiet first-year student to a confident, knowledgeable senior, who “built that confidence over time, clearly stood out among the other students, was excellent with peers and had a lot of friends on campus.”
Love and support of family
It may seem improbable that Brown would rise from a tiny hamlet in North Carolina to become a top student at Beacon and project analyst at Dell. From the moment he began elementary school, it was clear that “things just weren’t working for me,” he said. He couldn’t spell or do math. He failed tests, had no attention span, and fell behind other students.
Fortunately, his parents moved quickly to get him tested and diagnosed. Once his problems were identified, they enrolled him in a specialty school for students with the full spectrum of learning differences, he said. It turned out to be an excellent school that customized learning for students with specific needs, instead of lumping them all together. That experience boosted his education and laid the foundation for Beacon, which took it to the next level.
At each personal, professional, and educational milestone, Brown said he has always had the love and support of his family. “I was raised female and they were always supportive of me in everything I did then,” he said. “Now, coming out has been a breakthrough in my life, and my parents still love me for who and what I am.”
Brown combines confidence with humility as he considers the opportunity that has opened up for him at Dell Technologies.
“I consider myself really lucky getting a job like this right out of college,” he said. “Not a lot of people in the world have a chance to start out in this field like I do. It’s exciting but also a little daunting, being 20-something, going into the big corporate world. It’s not something to be taken lightly and it definitely has its challenges. But I can really see myself doing this for a long, long time.”