Beyond Labels: Stories of Asian Pacific Islanders at Yelp
Below is an article originally written by Tenzin Kunsal, Nivedita Mittal, Gabe Ramos, Julie Truong, and Wing Yung at PowerToFly Partner Yelp, and published on October 28, 2019. Go to Yelp's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, ColorCoded (a Yelp employee resource group) hosted a panel discussion called "Beyond Labels: Stories of Asian Pacific Islanders (API)* at Yelp."
We heard stories from five API Yelpers about their cultural backgrounds, identities, and thoughts on what it means to be an API in today's world. Their stories helped us understand that identity is both multilayered and contextual, and that individuality goes beyond labels.
Read more from their unique perspectives below.
Tenzin Kunsal, Events + Partnerships, Engineering Recruiting
From a young age, I knew the concept of "home" was complicated. Like many refugees, my family called multiple countries home. My grandparents left my first home, Tibet, in the 1960s, after it was taken over by China. My second home, India, is where I was born and where I grew up, in a Tibetan refugee community. I was not automatically granted Indian citizenship, so for the first few years of my life, I was state-less, born without a country. That was until 1996, when Minneapolis became my third home. Soon after, I became an American citizen and finally officially "belonged" to a country. Growing up, this was all very confusing. I never felt like I fully fit in anywhere. It wasn't until college that I started to accept the multifacetedness of my identity and that it's okay to call multiple places "home."
Nivedita Mittal, Software Engineer, Reader Experience
I moved to the U.S. four years ago to get my Master's in Computer Science. Since then, it's been a journey of self-discovery. When I moved from Mumbai to Boston, I always said "I'm from Mumbai, India." Then, after moving to San Francisco, it became "I'm from Boston." Something that has always stuck with my identity is how my immigration status defined whether I "belonged." Whether it's finding a job that sponsors your H-1B visa, or filling out your green card, defining who you are and whether you belong in the first place is an ongoing insecurity. It didn't help that during grad school, every conversation I had with other international students revolved around my visa situation. The same applied to recruiting conversations with companies—I would always get questions like, "Did you get your H-1B yet? Did they file your green card already?" Once this is all said and done, I wonder if I'll finally find that sense of belonging, or whether it'll still be a conscious thought in my head to remind people that I belong here.
Gabe Ramos, Director, CorpEng
I identify as Filipino American, a person of color, and a Hapa. "Hapa" is a Hawaiian word that's used to describe people who are part Asian and part Caucasian. Growing up in the Bay Area, I bounced around schools that had different ethnic make-ups. People often can't tell what race I am. When I was in a predominantly Black and Latino school, classmates teased me for being "white." When I was in a mostly white Palo Alto public school, classmates teased me for being "Japanese" because they didn't know what race I was. I felt like I was between worlds because I didn't pass for white yet often didn't feel Filipino enough. Learning about different racial identities in college was pivotal for me. I have a liberal arts background, and my education really helped me learn about other Asian Americans' experiences, the history of racial violence in the U.S., and anti-miscegenation laws. This helped me gain more of a sense of shared history. Most importantly, this empowered me to feel more ownership over my opinions of my own racial and cultural identity.
Julie Truong, Software Engineer, Restaurant Plan
From my last name, you may assume that I'm Vietnamese; I'm actually Chinese. My family immigrated from China to Vietnam (and later to the U.S.), and in order to blend in, my paternal grandfather changed our last name. My family is a mix of Chinese and Vietnamese cultures. At any given family gathering, you can hear English, Cantonese, and Vietnamese—all within the span of a couple minutes. I grew up in a primarily Latinx/Black/Samoan/Fillipino neighborhood in the East Bay. When I was younger, I had an idea of what being a "cool Asian" entailed, and Chinese people weren't necessarily portrayed in this light. So I actually wished I were Fillipino, just like the cool kids in school. Now, as an adult living in the Bay Area, I feel I'm actually quite privileged. There's a large Asian American population here, and I don't have to think about my cultural identity very often. Interestingly, I find I have to think more about my gender and sexual orientation and how these parts of my identity show up in my personal and professional life.
Wing Yung, Vice President, Engineering
I grew up near Arcadia, California, in a community with many other Asian Americans. Most of my classmates in public school were like me—our parents immigrated here, and we were born here. I can speak three dialects of Chinese (poorly): Mandarin (which I learned through lessons), Cantonese (which my parents speak at home because they grew up in Hong Kong), and Wenzhounese (my grandparents' dialect). Throughout college I became more aware of my Asian identity, but didn't seek out opportunities to explore it. Early on in my career at IBM, one of my managers sent me to an Asian leadership development program. In retrospect, it was one of the first times I became aware that leadership comes in many forms. I'm very much aware of the fact that I'm often the only (or one of the few) Asians in leadership settings. It's important to me to be a role model for others so that they know there are paths to these roles.
What ties all of these stories together is a sense of belonging that impelled us to redefine our identities on our own terms. Finding the right communities and support groups was critical for our journeys of self-discovery. The process of preparing for this panel was in itself extremely empowering, as it allowed us to dig deeper and reflect on what makes us who we are. Opportunities like these provide a platform to learn about others' experiences and to realize how much representation influences our lives. It's important to remind ourselves that sharing these stories makes us stronger and is an important part of cultivating community.
Want to be a part of the dialogue? Here are a few steps you can take right now!
- Join a resource group/meetup/support group that focuses on diversity and inclusion. We have employee resource groups here at Yelp, including Colorcoded, Diverseburst, and Awesome Women in Engineering (AWE).
- For a more personal conversation, grab coffee with someone who identifies as an API to hear more about their journey.
*In the context of this conversation, API stands for Asian Pacific Islanders—people with origins in Asia or the Pacific Islands.
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You've met some of them—maybe they're your family, friends, classmates, or coworkers, or perhaps you identify as neurodivergent yourself.
Sharing inclusivity, not stereotypes, at Raytheon Technologies<p><br></p><p>"Raytheon Technologies and our Raytheon Alliance for Diverse Abilities (RADA) Employee Resource Group (ERG) is committed to trying to bring focus on invisible disabilities, as they are among the most misunderstood. Autism/neurodiversity isn't a mental illness and we recognize how important it is to bring awareness, be inclusive of everyone and avoid stereotypes. During Autism Awareness Month RADA is featuring a multi-regional presentation about Autism Awareness & Acceptance, as well as neurodiversity overall. The presentation is focused on educational information, including what Autistic people want in terms of inclusion and meaningful work, as well as dispelling common misconceptions."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/raytheon-technologies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Raytheon Technologies</em></a>.</p>
Hiring a world-class workforce at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency<p>"The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency recently launched the Neurodiverse Federal Workforce (NFW) pilot program, a collaborative effort between NGA, MITRE, and Melwood. The NFW pilot aims to help government agencies hire neurodiverse talent for U.S. Federal Government agencies. 'NGA mission success is contingent on a world-class workforce with a wide diversity of opinions and expertise,' said NGA Deputy Director Dr. Stacey Dixon. 'Neurodiverse talent can bring new perspectives to the NGA workforce and make important contributions to the mission.' The pilot is a great learning opportunity for NGA to continue to grow and improve our first-class workforce."</p><p>Learn more from the podcast "<a href="https://www.podcastone.com/episode/The-National-Geospatial-Intelligence-Agency-takes-workforce-diversity-in-a-new-direction" target="_blank">The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Takes Workforce Diversity In A New Direction</a>"</p><p><em>Learn more about the </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/national-geospatial-intelligence-agency" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Supporting each individual's preferred environment at Elastic<p>"We distribute anonymous surveys that allow anyone, including neurodiverse folks, to address potential barriers that we should address.</p><p>Our accessibility working group acts as an employee resource as well as an equity-seeking team that works to create and develop a disability inclusive workplace at Elastic.</p><p>The majority of our Elasticians work from home. Our hope is that this empowers neurodiverse employees, including those who may be on the spectrum, to have more control over their environment so that they can manage noise and light sensitivity, control their personal space, and manage their own schedule to reduce anxiety."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/elastic" target="_blank"><em>Elastic</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Pioneering neurodiversity at Freddie Mac<p>"Freddie Mac values the insights and different perspectives that result from employees bringing their authentic selves to work. Our Office of Inclusive Engagement works with several organizations to identify qualified candidates, consider them for suitable roles and pair them with mentors who can help them adapt to an evolving new normal. In 2020, we evolved our neurodiversity internship initiative into a more robust training, education and hiring process called 'Neurodiversity at Work' to directly place candidates with Autism Spectrum Disorders into full-time roles."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/freddie-mac" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Freddie Mac</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Decoding inclusion at MongoDB<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTk0NzE2OC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDY3MTY2MH0.Q-ko6g65MC-epHBrx_vr6k9v-lSawHH5jfhPWOVTozI/img.png?width=980" id="a4487" width="1112" height="626" data-rm-shortcode-id="a686a88d639ff3a91a5a4f6b455ce0cc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>"MongoDB supports the neurodivergent community through interview accommodations, providing new hires the opportunity to select equipment and denote special requests, and onboarding checklists broken down into useful sections. To raise awareness about neurodiversity in the workplace, we have a learning and development (L&D) platform which has content on collaborating with different working styles. Our L&D Program focuses on building skills in managing teams inclusively. We also host Decoding Inclusion, a series of events aimed at building community and sharing foundational knowledge about D&I topics, including neurodiversity, to further our understanding of differences."</p><p><a href="https://www.mongodb.com/blog/post/why-now-cool-time-different-steph-johnson" target="_blank">Read more about how MongoDB celebrates difference in this interview with their VP of Corporate Comms</a></p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/mongodb" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>MongoDB</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Encouraging allyship at Folsom Labs<p>"At Folsom Labs, we are passionate about building a culture of acceptance and inclusion. Our goal is not just to spread autism awareness but to strive to be allies and elevate the voices of those with disabilities. Now more than ever, this is important as many are facing the added weight of mental health and wellness challenges due to the pandemic. Encouraging allyship throughout the community and building a culture where everyone can thrive are at the forefront of our current initiatives. We are proud to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month — to set a stage where we can celebrate our differences and continue to create a space of inclusion and support."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/folsom-labs" target="_blank"><em>Folsom Labs</em></a><em>.</em></p><em><br></em>
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Supporting professionals with autism throughout their talent journey at Deloitte<p>"At Deloitte, everyone contributes to our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Our inclusive culture, empowers all of us, including those with diverse abilities, to connect, belong, and grow. Deloitte's Autism@Work program supports our professionals with autism throughout their talent journey. A customized, autism-friendly assessment process helps draw out our candidates' strengths. Our employees have an internal Coach, an Onboarding Advisor, and access to external job coaching. Our Onboarding Mentor/Buddy Program pairs professionals with autism with other Deloitte colleagues/allies. Through Neurodiversity Training, our professionals can help support and manage our differently-abled professionals. We also have our Abilities First Business Resource Group for people with disabilities plus allies."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/deloitte1" target="_blank"><em>Deloitte</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Sharing stories to support awareness at Lockheed Martin<p>"Lockheed Martin shares employee stories internally to help others understand Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and hosts internal events to support ASD awareness and education. The Able & Allies business resource group, whose mission is to build an environment that empowers employees with disabilities, has recently partnered with ASD advocacy organizations to offer resources to assist with managing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with persons who have ASD and their families. Missiles and Fire Control (MFC) is a member of the Florida Ability Inclusion Network and strives to educate employees and leaders on disabilities and recommend best practices to promote a disability-friendly workplace."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/lockheed-martin" target="_blank"><em>Lockheed Martin</em></a><em>.</em></p>
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