2022 marks the 30th anniversary of when the United States congress passed Public Law 102-450, officially designating May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This month is a wonderful time (though, certainly not the only time) to learn about, reflect on, and admire Asian cultures and important contributions made by Asian Americans over the years.
This year, we wanted to introduce you to some admirable individuals who make valuable, recognition-worthy contributions at SmartBear each and every day.
Q: Have you ever had to (or, perhaps do you continue to have to) overcome any challenges in your career around your AAPI heritage? How did/do you do that?
My parents came to the United States in the 1990s and worked in blue-collar jobs to support the family. I did not let my background determine my success, and my parents’ hard work taught me to always persevere. When I was growing up, my parents did not speak English. Therefore, the language barrier had a profound effect on me. Looking back on the struggles my parents had reading documents in English, I wished that they had help. I served as my mom’s interpreter once I could comprehend English as a child.
The trials and tribulations that my parents had to experience because of a language barrier taught me never to give up and always keep trying. I am proud that my mom taught me how to speak Cantonese and had me take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes growing up. The role of language in cultural heritage is important because it helps me persevere in my culture and to constantly learn new things. Learning Cantonese gave me deeper access to a community, and I am proud of my Chinese heritage. My parents’ grit and perseverance still hold strong for my career values. Therefore, I always get back up when I fall.
Is there anything about your AAPI heritage that you directly attribute to the goals you’ve set for yourself and/or have accomplished in your career?
Something that quite a lot of people know about South Korean culture is that it’s mandatory for all adult males to serve in the military for about two years. A lot of people look at it with resentment, but to me, it provided me an opportunity to take a break from college, hit the reset button, and recharge. I looked at this time in some ways, like a longer, less voluntary gap year of sorts.
After my junior year, I enlisted in the Republic of Korea Marines and ended up working as a heavy machine gunner. It wasn’t fun all the time, but I met so many people from all walks of life, and I learned to appreciate all the little things and small wins.
What really stuck with me was the mentality of completing any task on my backlog. One of the unofficial mottos of the ROK Marines is “안되면 될 때까지” which roughly translates to “If it doesn’t work, find a way it does.” I think this translates beautifully into the core responsibilities of a product manager.
One of the core functions in this role is “problem finding.” You have to fall in love with the problem, as well as the process of fixing it. With a mentality like the above, anytime I hit a roadblock, I first try to look for steps and ways to fix the core issue causing problem.
As for my current goals, I’m currently invested in bringing to life some of the machine-learning-based projects that were selected from our internal portfolio/company hackathons. There are so many learning opportunities (and hidden roadblocks) along the way when it comes to taking something from ideation to production, but there’s no doubt I’ll find a way.
The idea of success plays a strong role in my AAPI heritage. My parents were not afforded the opportunity of education, and it was instilled upon me that education was the key to better opportunities.
Growing up, I saw the sacrifices that both my parents made after immigrating from China. My parents always told me to not "be like them" when I grew up, because, in their eyes, they were not successful. In reality, they were, and are still to this day, very successful, because their goal was to do everything in their power to afford me a better life and they absolutely did that.
Having grown up in an environment that was always “chasing success,” I’m now a lot more open-minded to what “success” really is. That open-mindedness is what helped me when I told my parents that I wanted to pursue Graphic Design and not Computer Science. I've learned to not to put the definition of success in its own rigid box. Realizing that success can take many forms has helped me grow in my career. Every time I learn something new or gain a unique experience I am building upon my own success, and I am not afraid of making mistakes as they, too, lead to future successes.
We encourage you to learn (and share!) more about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and the amazing Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans in your lives. Thanks for reading!