AAPI Drinks Innovators
These 12 leaders are shaping the beverage alcohol industry while trailblazing more opportunities for AAPI professionals
The overwhelmingly white image of alcohol culture eclipses the work of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders whose influence rings through all three tiers of the system.
We have our stars: The recently retired Annette Alvarez-Peters, who moved markets from the helm of a $2 billion wine program at Costco; Alpana Singh, the youngest American woman and only South Asian to achieve the rank of Master Sommelier (which she renounced in 2020 in light of sexual harassment allegations in the organization); and Hae Un Lee, who in 1981 opened a small liquor shop in Las Vegas and grew it into the largest alcohol retailer in Nevada—Lee's Discount Liquor.
But beyond these established names, we're shining our light on a new class of AAPI innovators—and their latest innovations.
Located across the U.S., these 12 drinks professionals are brand creators, bamboo ceiling breakers, culture ambassadors, all of them walking uncharted territory as the only one, or one of a few, who look like them in the room.
Caer Maiko and Sharon Yeung. Photo by Sam McCracken.
Celebrating Asian Culture Through Cocktail Pop-Ups
Caer Maiko and Sharon Yeung, Co-creators, Daijoubu, Austin, Texas
Until bartenders Caer Maiko and Sharon Yeung joined forces in 2019, Asian-inspired cocktails in Austin were defined by the overuse of lychee. But at their Daijoubu pop-ups (meaning "it's fine" in Japanese), the veteran bartenders can finally dig into their roots, using childhood ingredients in their inventive concoctions. The Tapioca Express—aged rum, Earl Grey tea cream, homemade Italicus bergamot liqueur-infused boba—and Milk and Hunnay shots—Yakult, vodka, sake, and honeydew melon served inside Yakult cups—have been surefire hits.
A group of Asian guests "saw me pour the shot into a Yakult cup, and all of them gasped. They were like, 'This is my childhood, and now you made it into an alcoholic beverage,' and it gave me this moment of, 'Oh, yes, you feel like you belong. I feel like I belong,'" recounts Maiko.
The pop-ups present a fun and holistic way of celebrating Asian culture and community. Yeung and Maiko, who studied and taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, are masters at taking over a space and creating a vibe whether it's a dance party with fifteen different bamboo plants with giant pandas at a restaurant or a collaborative state-wide tour in their fire engine-red "Bruce the Daijoubus" (named after Bruce Lee) cocktail truck with Indian-, Vietnamese-, and Korean-American bartenders. They're currently saving up for a nationwide tour in 2022.
Guests can feel good about themselves, too. Japanese-American Maiko and Chinese-American Yeung have donated $13,000 of their pop-up revenue to AAPI nonprofits like Chinatown Community Development Center and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
Thanh Nam Vo Duy. Photo by Brent Herrig Photography.
Paving the Way for Future AAPI Leaders
Thanh Nam Vo Duy, Vice President, Commercial Development, Moët Hennessy USA
Sixteen years into his career at Moët Hennessy USA, Thanh Nam Vo Duy is now leading a team of over 200 brand specialists, ambassadors, influencers, and merchandisers, which he grew from a third of its size. His trajectory is proof of his leadership skills—double-digit sales growth turnaround for Hennessy, the launch of Hennessy Black, which quickly topped sales projections. Yet he recognizes his path is one not often experienced by Asian Americans.
Vo Duy admits that "not having a mentor, a role model" particularly stung. A Vietnamese immigrant by way of France, he had to learn to adapt to American culture and "speak up," countering Asian customs of respecting one's elders, speaking only when spoken to, and having a shut-up-and-work mindset.
That's why he co-founded the Asian Employee Resource Group (ERG) in 2020 at Moët Hennessy USA. "None of us could look up to a VP who looked like us, and we had similar stories of how to speak up in meetings and how to advance our career," says Vo Duy. At the ERG, "you talk about those issues with people you can relate to culturally."
The ERG also provides mentorship opportunities, speaker series and celebration of cultural holidays. "I dream of a world where there's more diversity at the top," says Vo Duy. "It happens by us, the people who are in the ERG, doing everything we can to become the people on the top."
Ed Marszewski. Photo by Reuben Kincaid.
The Serial Community-Focused Entrepreneur
Ed Marszewski, Co-owner, Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar, Chicago
Chicago would not be what it is today without Ed Marszewski, who has been building a highly synergistic drinks-food empire since 2010. He grew up watching his mother, Maria Marszewski, engage in kye—a private lending circle often used among Korean immigrants—which in 1987 allowed her to save up, buy out, and operate Kaplan's Liquors in the South Side of Chicago.
"To see how all these Korean ladies chipped in money together to help each other run their businesses—that spirit of helping people in your community embedded in me," says Ed. "You know, immigrant families helping each other out."
Inspired by her entrepreneurial savvy and knack for drawing a diverse crowd, Ed started to forge a community-focused, family-owned complex. He converted Kaplan's to Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar, a 41-tap, two-bar "slashie" (liquor store-slash-bar), and built the Marz Community Brewing Co., a 15-barrel brewhouse and taproom whose inventive and conscientious brews—like the Triple Crown rice lager with jasmine, via a partnership with the eponymous dim sum restaurant—are sold at Maria's.
The slashie has long been cherished for its fantastic selection of local craft beers such as Half Acre and Off Color, a range of eclectic ciders, bottled house-made cocktails like the Royal Wailuku—gin, orgeat syrup, pineapple, lemon, and Peychaud's bitters—and Marz-label CBD-infused sodas and coffees.
Maria's long-running "policy of tolerance and respect for others" is another draw for guests. "We have a really mixed group of people coming to our establishment," says Marszewski. "We try to be open to all demographics and all people."
Next door to Maria's, Marszewski opened two counter-service restaurants: Kimski, serving riffs on the foods he ate in his Korean-Polish home and Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream. He's also building a second outpost for the brewery.
Carol Pak. Photo courtesy of Makku.
Bringing Korea's Oldest Alcoholic Drink Stateside
Carol Pak, Founder, Makku, New York City
Makgeolli isn't yet a household name among non-Korean drinkers, but Carol Pak is trying to change that. That's why the Columbia Business School graduate and Anheuser-Busch alumna is canning the centuries-old fermented rice alcohol for nationwide distribution under her Makku brand.
Makgeolli's complex personality—milky, fizzy, sweet, and sour—is achieved through a complicated brewing process that America is literally not equipped for. Makku requires a brewery with both sake and beer production capacity, equipment for canning, carbonation and pasteurization, and the capability to handle a fermentation agent called nuruk that's "uncontrollable like a wild child," describes Pak.
"But no one in all of America that I could find—and I talked to brewers, scientists, founders, everyone I could possibly think of—could figure out how to pasteurize this product," says Pak.
With maxed-out credit cards and depleted savings, she finally drew in Strong Ventures as an investor, teamed up with a brewery in South Korea, and launched Makku in 2019.
For Pak, the trouble is worth it, particularly in a country where cultural appropriation is common. "I'm doing this because I'm Korean, and I'm proud to do it," she says, recalling makgeolli flowing at family dinners in the Korean immigrant enclave of Flushing, Queens. "I'm supposed to be the one who's bringing makgeolli over." She's selling Makku at spots like Momofuku Noodle Bar and Sunac Natural Market and trying to start a new alcohol category for makgeolli (which can either be classified as beer or sake currently) while she's at it.
Krista Farrell. Photo by Eugene Lee.
Championing Craft Spirits
Krista Farrell, Spirits Sales Manager for the Northeast and Spirits Specialist, Skurnik Wines & Spirits, New York City
Before Krista Farrell gets behind a spirit, she zeroes in on its production. Was it made in a farm distillery? Is the distillery growing its own grain? Malting it?
"Whether it be in New York or Martinique or Guadeloupe, it's just so cool to see people using what is endemic to their land, supplying their communities and their GDP with their own products," says the Korean-American industry vet who grew up gaining insights from a small family distributorship in Martha's Vineyard. "It keeps the craft in craft spirits."
In 2019, she transitioned from Caribbean rum producer Spiribam, where she managed Northeast sales, to one of its distributors, Skurnik, which offered her a more diverse portfolio of wines and spirits to sell from. "As a supplier, it was cool to see a distributor who was mindful about the things that they put in their books and not just picking up things because they could sell tons of volume of it," says Farrell. To her, Skurnik had a tight spirits portfolio that really delved into a producer's key sustainability practices like farming processes, packaging, disposal of distilled waste, energy efficiency for production and transportation, and impact on the surrounding communities.
It was a perfect match for Farrell's farm-first approach. Some of her favorite producers—which she sells to on- and off-premise venues through Pennsylvania, California, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky—include Uruapan Charanda Blanco, an "under-represented, historically significant" Mexican rum that highlights the country's sugarcane cultivation on volcanic soil, and combines sugarcane and molasses in its distillate for "a really funky yet accessible rum," and Idaho-based Square One Vodkas which is distilled exclusively from Montana-grown rye—infusing a nutty complexity—and is the largest consumer of Rocky Mountain Wind Power.
Farrell is also helping expand the Skurnik portfolio with more women and BIPOC producers.Ran Duan. Photo by Jesse Hsu.
Building Creative, Cross-Cultural Cocktail Programs
Ran Duan spots opportunities that others don't. He seizes them, and then blows them out of the water.
When his dad asked for help with the bar inside the family's Chinese restaurant, he taught himself to bartend and built Baldwin Bar into an acclaimed tiki cocktail destination, drawing bloggers and journalists out to a small suburb outside Boston to pair homestyle Sichuan cuisine with Duan's creative Mai Tais.
For his second act, Duan saw how Latin and Sichuan cuisines overlapped and conceived tropical drinks with the likes of cinnamon and star anise for Blossom Bar, located in his dad's other restaurant.
Duan's latest is an original concept: A seafood restaurant and oyster bar with multicultural flavors called Ivory Pearl that specializes in wine-inspired, carbonated cocktails like the Champagne Papi—a blend of vodka, fermented koji rice, honeydew, and citric acid, sold in both single-serve and large formats.
Fanfare follows all his projects—all undergirded by a deep sense of gratitude to his immigrant father who had sacrificed his passion for opera to provide for the family.
"The American dream for me is being able to set my kids up for success in the future, making sure they don't experience the same struggle as me," says Duan. "We're gonna work as hard as we can until we get there, even if that's seven days a week, twelve hours a day. That's the intelligence my parents were able to put in me. It's all about legacy."
Maya and Naoko Dalla Valle. Photo by Jimmy Hayes.
Revitalizing a Legacy Cult Wine
Naoko Dalla Valle, Founder, farmer, and proprietor, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Napa Valley
Maya Dalla Valle, Winemaker, director, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Napa Valley.
When the husband-and-wife Dalla Valle team—Japanese-born Naoko and Italian-native Gustav—purchased their eponymous vineyard in 1982, they had no idea their estate would catapult to cult wine status, fetching $500 a bottle.
Dalla Valle's 1992 Maya cuvée, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend, earned a rare perfect score from Robert Parker. The Maya is still considered one of Napa Valley's greatest wines featuring Cabernet Franc.
Since Gustav's death in 1995, Naoko, who lives at the vineyard, has been directing the daily vineyard operations, walking weekly through the vines, and sorting grapes. "We work so hard to grow those grapes and this is the moment of truth," she says. "So yes, I take my pride in touching pretty much all the grapes." She's also ensuring that her daughter Maya, the famed wine's namesake, continues the legacy.
With oenology degrees from Cornell University and Bordeaux Science Agro, stints at renowned wineries like Ornellaia e Masseto and Château Latour, and four Dalla Valle vintages under her belt, Maya is now head winemaker and vineyard director. She has been pushing the company in new directions, by aging wine in clay amphorae instead of oak, and spearheading the conversion to biodynamics.
She's already observed higher vineyard resilience despite the increasingly extreme weather conditions. "One of our biggest issues was trying to protect the vines from the heat," says Maya. "And 2020 was the first year there was no sunburn on the grapes, which is rare." Microbial diversity has also increased with eight different types of naturally occurring yeasts which she employs for native fermentations.
"I really feel like the future is bright. By becoming a winemaker, it's like having your own destiny in your hand, and she does," Naoko proudly says of Maya. "She is the complete picture of the ideal winery owner—everything that's built into her."
Jhonel Faelnar. Photo by Mike Rush.
Setting the Standard for Wine and Korean Food Pairings
Pairing wine with Korean food is a relatively new thing, one that's followed the development of haute-Korean, Michelin-starred tasting menu restaurants like Atomix, where Filipino-American Jhonel Faelnar is leading the charge in this front.
"It's almost like open territory where nobody really knows what to pair with miyeokguk (seaweed soup) or galbi (barbecued short ribs) or whatnot," says Faelnar. "So then it becomes a process of experimentation and just, truly, freedom. Scary freedom but freedom nonetheless."
To pair chef JungHyun "JP" Park's food—heavy on seafood and vegetables, delicate in flavor—the former NoMad sommelier leans on white wines for 60 to 70 percent of the list, along with plenty of Champagne and lighter reds like Pinot Noir and Burgundy.
So for a deep-fried langoustine with doenjang (soy bean paste) caramel, he suggests Champagne from Jacquesson or a slightly off-dry Riesling with 20 to 30 years of age. For a grilled fish with sesame oil: a Godello from Spain by Raúl Pérez. "Actually, when I opened [the Godello], it had a bit of reduction on it, and was smelling a little bit like sesame oil itself."
Paula de Pano. Photo by Daniel Turbert.
Building a Big Wine Program in a Small Town
Paula de Pano, Beverage and Service Director of The Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, North Carolina
In a town that doesn't have the buying power of New York, Paula de Pano has championed a high-demand beverage program well-suited for the Relais & Châteaux property Fearrington Inn and Restaurant. The former Eleven Madison Park sommelier negotiates hard for every Champagne and Burgundy in Fearrington's roughly $200,000 cellar of 1,500 unique labels.
Heir to an existing wine list that focused on off-the-beaten-path regions like Chile and South Africa, De Pano expanded into classic regions like Italy and Spain during the 10 years she has been at Fearrington.
"We have a bottle for every person," says De Pano. Her well-rounded approach is key because she's charged with catering to the distinct needs of every venue in the villa: lunch counter, pizza and beer garden, fine dining restaurant, bookstore, and spa, in addition to the wine classes that she teaches.
Though De Pano used to doubt whether her opinions and ideas were worthwhile, finding the courage to speak up has resulted in new and exciting ways of approaching wine. "Suddenly you say [your ideas] out loud and people are like, 'Oh yeah, we didn't think about that,'" she says.
Take the "double" wine pairing concept introduced to Fearrington by the Philippines-born beverage director. "I find wine pairings to be subjective," says the Culinary Institute of America graduate. "What you taste might not be something that I taste."
So she'll serve a sea bass with two wines side by side: a Meursault and a Syrah. This way, diners can explore how each wine plays with either the fish or the ingredients in the sauce. Her method also invites a teaching moment for her guests: The perception of Syrah is that it's too full-bodied for fish. De Pano enlightens with a light Rhône Valley Syrah.
Joanie Kwok. Photo courtesy of AB InBev.
Bringing Innovation and Diversity into the Beer and Malt Beverage World
Joanie Kwok, Senior Marketing Director, Flavored Malt Beverages Portfolio and National Co-Chair of Pac-Asia, Anheuser Busch, New York City
Anyone who wants to know what's next in the world of flavored malt beverages—and how to market them to a more diverse consumer base—need only chat up Joanie Kwok.
She and her team have launched six brands (with two more on the way) for the Beyond Beer division at Anheuser Busch—a new group that was formed in response to today's drinking culture of declining beer sales and growing consumption of hard seltzer, whiskey, and tequila.
The second-generation Chinese American brings her lived experiences as an Asian American into the process, helping ensure that AB's products are launched with elevated social impact and culturally inoffensive messaging. For a Budweiser commercial featuring Dwayne Wade and Natalie Johnson, she heightened its impact by helping implement a scholarship to hire more Black brewers. For Super Bowl ads, she guarantees that a diverse list of advertising agency partners is considered.
"I think we're all trying to learn how to sell products in a way that's authentic," says Kwok, noting that contemporary customers are placing more weight on brand values. "There's more emphasis on, 'who am I supporting and are they then supporting my community back?' What is the quid pro quo?"
Reaching the consumer requires a multi-faceted approach, and for Kwok, that includes fostering an inclusive workplace where employees feel heard and educational conversations around experiences like Black Lives Matter happen—and engaging in a good dose of self-reflection.
"What are my privileges? What are the things that I've been taught that I need to unlearn, and then how do I lend a hand?" asks Kwok. "And everyone has the power [to do so] based on the rooms that they're in."Caroline Shin is a food journalist and founder of the "Cooking with Granny" video and workshop series celebrating diverse immigrant grandmothers. She grew up in Queens, NY with all its food, diversity, and attitude. Catch her work on Eater, New York Times, New York Magazine, and @CookingWGranny on Instagram.
According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.
As we reflect on recent events and how they fit into a much larger history of discrimination, we're also taking time to celebrate and acknowledge the many achievements of the AAPI community.
We asked several of our partner companies what they're doing to honor AAPI Heritage Month at work, and we were inspired by the range of responses, covering everything from campaigns to #StopAsianHate to educational events on AAPI history.
Here's what they're doing, in their own words:
Empowering authenticity - LogMeIn
"Our theme this year is AIM to Be Real. We are embracing our new company values and celebrating those who bring their authentic selves to work, who help create space to celebrate diversity of thought, and who give back to the API community. Our Asian ERG, Asians in Motion (AIM), is hosting several events: a discussion about bringing your authentic self to work with Jerry Won (Dear Asian Americans podcast); a refugee-led virtual cooking class; ERG Movie Club discussions featuring Bollywood films, and a virtual volunteer event where we will offer career development mentoring for young women across Asia."
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Educating on current events — Raytheon Technologies
"Raytheon Technologies is honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with an enterprise-wide global town hall event – Real Talk: Building CommUNITY Together. Organized by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) employee resource groups across the company, employees will share their personal experiences and discuss ways to support Asian American Pacific Islander communities. The event will also feature prominent leading advocates from renowned civil rights organizations to provide insight into the national context surrounding recent events. We will also feature AAPI employees internally and on our social media channels."
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.
Encouraging awareness, growth, and learning — Moody's
"Moody's is encouraging awareness, growth, and learning during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the following activities, led by our Multicultural Business Resource Group and DE&I team:
- Weekly newsletters featuring AAPI employee profiles and cultural resources
- Video screening and small-group discussions supporting #StopAsianHate
- Cultural panel discussion featuring employee stories
- Professional development activities
- External speakers speaking about Asian leadership"
Supporting professional development — Freddie Mac
"Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Freddie Mac – Together, We Are Stronger
Freddie Mac supports the professional development of Asian and Pacific Islander employees while promoting an increased awareness of the value they bring to the organization and our local communities. Our InspirASIAN Business Resource Group is hosting various activities throughout the month such as:
- Personal development session on empowerment led by a coach from our Employee Assistance Program.
- "Stop Asian Hate" lunch and learn geared toward discussing the hurdles facing the AAPI community.
- Fireside chat about racial injustice with leaders from our InspirASIAN and ARISE (employees of the African diaspora) BRGs."
Fostering inclusion, learning, and belonging – Nestlé USA
"At Nestlé USA, the Pan Asian Network (PAN), one of our many employee resource groups that support our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiatives, will host a variety of events to honor and acknowledge Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. These activities will foster greater inclusion, enhanced learning, and belonging for the AAPI community. PAN will highlight women's development in Asian cultures, Asian leadership and what their culture means to them, culinary innovation of Asian cuisine, intersectionality of LGBTQ+ and Pan Asian community, as well as an enhanced learning watch party of the PBS movie 'Asian American.'"
Learn more about Nestlé USA here.
Promoting cultural literacy – Relativity
The Community Resource Group at Relativity
"For Relativity, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportune time to not only celebrate the rich AAPI cultures represented within our company, but to also foster awareness and allyship amidst the current rise of AAPI hate. RelAsians, our internal community resource group, has organized a few activities for May: a book club focused on AAPI heritage—because we feel it's never too early to gain cultural literacy, a weekly spotlight on AAPI Relativians, and a virtual event that takes attendees on a tour through an Asian grocery store, introducing native vegetables and staple ingredients for traditional home-cooked Asian recipes."
- Contribution from Neha Pant, Sr. Performance Engineer & Angie Ocasek, Sr. Specialist, Partner Enablement – Co-Chairs of the RelAsians Community Resource Group at Relativity
Learn more about Relativity here.
Creating transformative experiences – Facebook
"At Facebook, our APIs employee resource group's mission is to create transformative experiences for all APIs at Facebook, Inc through key cultural awareness and engagement highlighting the API community. To kick off APIHM, we will host a series of events and conversations for the community and its allies designed to support the API community around the theme, The SUM of Us, including:
- Letting Others In: a mindful discussion series that privileges intersectional voices, storytelling, feedback, and vulnerability as tools for building empathy and inclusion amongst organizations.
- Racial Healing Learning Session: specific to the API Experience focused on naming of experiences and emotional responses, understanding the body's responses to racial trauma, what the audience can do in the moment for self-care, and long-term strategies to overcome the effect of the traumatic experience.
- Bystander Training/self Defense Workshop"
Learn more about Facebook here.
Extensive and exciting programming — 2U
"At 2U, Inc. we'll be honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with extensive and exciting programming coordinated by our employee-led Asian Pacific Islander Network (APIN). In a year marred by exceptional challenges APIN has centered activities around the ameliorating themes of joy, culture and wellness. Be it delighting in a ukulele mini concert, reading an interview highlighting an API coworker, winding down after too much screen time with a somatic healing session or engaging in a panel discussion with API tattoo artists, we have a packed month ahead with opportunities to support oneself and the API culture! Follow along @Lifeat2U on Instagram for more!"
Learn more about 2U here.
Amplifying voices and educating others – Smartsheet
"During APAHM, the API at Smartsheet community will be hosting several events and activities to educate others, amplify AAPI voices, and celebrate the AAPI community! We plan to kick off the month with a documentary viewing and discussion to learn about AAPI history, and hope to share personal stories from our AAPI employees throughout the month. We'll end with an opportunity for the community to celebrate itself by gathering together for fun and games, while eating food from local Asian-owned restaurants."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Rising together in sports and culture – NBA
"For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APEX is proud to present a multitude of celebratory activities, headlined by an NBA Family Virtual Town Hall and, with the NFL and MLB, an Asians in Sports & Culture Symposium themed "Together We Rise" featuring prominent Asian personalities from the sports world. We are also launching a PSA with an NBA star, honoring Eid-al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, offering a bystander intervention training led by AAJC, and – because the celebration wouldn't be complete without food – hosting a sushi making class for our members."
Learn more about the NBA here.
Creating courageous conversations – Commvault
"This May, we are celebrating all our Asian/Pacific Islander employees, not just Asian Americans. We will spend the month learning about and celebrating the diverse cultures of Asia through weekly events and activities led by our Multi-Culture ERG. Vaulters and external guests will teach us the history of practices such as yoga, origami, and Asian cuisines. We will also discuss topics like the rise of hate crimes against Asian people and the recent spike in COVID-19 in India. These activities and courageous conversations will engage our workforce and create support for our Asian and Pacific Islander communities around the world."
Learn more about Commvault here.
Honoring history through virtual events – Collins Aerospace
"Collins Aerospace supports our AAPI colleagues not only in May, but all year. Our parent company Raytheon Technologies hosted a virtual Town Hall last month to provide a safe space for open dialogue about recent events targeting Asian Americans in the U.S. In addition to this entity-wide event, our Asia Pacific ERG at Collins is hosting events that educate and honor the importance of Asian Pacific American history such as virtual Lunch & Tours spotlighting South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and India; and Thoughts & Support sessions. Site-specific events include virtual cooking class, and viewing PBS docuseries Asian Americans."
Learn more about Collins Aerospace here.
Highlighting new perspectives – MongoDB
"MongoDB will share daily historical facts, highlights of Asian American pioneers, and perspectives from our AAPI employees in a dedicated Slack channel. We will also be providing access to an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month webinar, organizing a trivia night, and holding Processing Together sessions for our internal AAPI community due to recent hate crimes happening across the globe. These sessions are a safe space for employees to share their stories and sentiments of what it is like as an Asian American in America today. (Read MongoDB employee Monica Lu's story about being an Asian American woman in tech here.)"
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Spotlighting diverse communities – Bumble
"At Bumble, moments like heritage month celebrations are often our anchor to ensure we are spotlighting diverse communities. In alignment with AAPI Heritage Month in May, Bumble is rolling out a series of thoughtful programming to encourage internal education and around how to support the Stop Asian Hate movement and better serve the Asian community globally. The lineup of initiatives include:
- BuzzWord DEI Discussion Series with featured guest speakers: This conversation will focus on the Asian community within the context of larger cultural issues such as dating app experiences, fetishization, masculinity, and representation.
- Bumble will be inviting employees to join a virtual Vietnamese coffee-making class. Created in partnership with Phin Bar, an urban brew-bar that offers Vietnamese-style steeped coffee combined with house-made ingredients, Bumble hopes to facilitate a deeper cultural learning and community bonding experience for the team.
- Bumble will also be activating channels across social media and our product to educate our community about bystander intervention and raise awareness around the importance of supporting the Stop Asian Hate movement."
Engaging in daring conversations – Procore
"In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, Procore recently organized an internal event to recognize and support the AAPI community. The event was hosted as part of our ongoing internal speaker series, 'Daring Conversations & Allyship,' to create space for an open dialogue around diversity, inclusion, and belonging. All employees were invited to tune in as employees from our AAPI communities shared their unique experiences, addressed anti-Asian hate, and discussed actionable ways to support our AAPI community."
Learn more about Procore here.
Taking action to foster change – SeatGeek
"This month the POC ERG will be meeting and hosting different activities to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This includes creating a safe space to discuss current events, and what actions our communities can take to foster change, sending out a newsletter which will highlight the Asian community in every aspect, and lastly, we will be hosting a guest speaker.
We hope with these planned activities and meetings, we can highlight, and uplift the Asian/Pacific American community, as well as bring awareness to the horrible ongoing attacks they are facing."
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Uplifting and inspiring the community – Okta
"Okta's People of Color (POC@Okta) ERG is planning to commemorate AAPI Month with a series of fireside chats and iconographical facts posted internally in the #poc and #all diversity Slack channels! These chats will feature Dion Lim of ABC7 News and Comedian/Actor, Ronny Chieng. We will conclude the series with a partnership with Pride@Okta featuring supermodel, TED speaker, and transgender advocate Geena Rocero. The goal of this series is to educate, uplift, support, and inspire! The Okta leadership supports its AAPI employees, customers, and community."
Learn more about Okta here.
Empowering cultural diversity and leadership – Quip
"Salesforce will be celebrating through multiple virtual events, such as a leadership panel on the power of cultural diversity, a tea tasting, a tai chi class, a haka workshop, and more! Members of the Quip team have also compiled an extensive list of resources to support AAPI communities, including ways to donate, take action, and learn more."
Learn more about Quip here.
Focusing on lived experiences – Mindbody
"The Mindbody United ERG focuses on a different heritage or history each month, with May devoted to Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This ERG seeks to provide a platform to both celebrate and learn together. This will manifest in two ways: As a newsletter and a Zoom meeting. The newsletter will feature contributions directly from team members, while the meeting will feature Assembly member Evan Low as our speaker. It is our goal to focus on the lived experiences of the AAPI community, address discrimination, and how to chase after the part of the world we can make better."
Learn more about Mindbody here.
Promoting harmony and unity – T. Rowe Price
"T. Rowe Price is aware and appalled at the recent spike in hate crimes against the Asian community. In response, the firm will center Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month efforts around harmony and unity, in alignment with the Hawaiian value, Lōkahi – Forward as One. To share best practices, successes and areas of opportunities, T. Rowe Price will co-host a Leadership Panel on Asian Leadership Challenges with Baltimore Asian Connect, a consortium of Asian business resource group leaders at local corporations. The firm will also host a book club and restorative listening circles for Asian American associates and their allies."
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
Celebrating Asians globally
"May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. Although traditionally a US celebration, at Autodesk we are celebrating Asians globally. The Autodesk Asian Network is hosting Innovative Leaders, including Lori Mukoyama and Jonathan Zee. Lori Mukoyama is redefining experience-driven design globally at Gensler. Jonathan Zee has an extensive portfolio of buildings that are helping to shape cities around the world at Goettsch Partners. Lori and her husband Jonathan combine design, architecture and engineering in their work while simultaneously manage a family together during this pandemic. This event is hosted by AAN, as part of a monthlong series of APA Heritage Month events."
Learn more about AutoDesk here.
💎 Looking to boost your career growth? Tune in to catch 3 top tips to develop a growth mindset at work!
📼 Press PLAY to hear tips from Haley Wolf, Manager of the Sales Development team at Lattice. These 3 tips that she's learned throughout her own career, as well as her experience with colleagues, will help you develop a growth mindset at work.
📼 Tip #1: Request Feedback - The first of the 3 tips to develop a growth mindset at work is to request feedback from your manager and coworkers whenever you feel there is room for growth or improvement. This might be after a presentation or project, or even before that next step in your career. By requesting this feedback, you can learn what gaps need to be addressed to keep growing.
📼 Tip #2: Overcommunicate Curiosity - The second of the 3 tips to develop a growth mindset at work consists of continually asking questions. Whenever you feel you're in a pivotal moment in your career, seek advice from colleagues about their experience and even how they've overcome obstacles. Think about what you want to learn. All of this will help you grow and get career-boosting advice.
Don't Miss The Last Tip To Develop A Growth Mindset At Work
📼 Tip #3 may sound strange, but it's absolutely true: Fail Fast. What does Haley mean by that? Approach each new beginning with a fearless mindset—which will help lead to a growth mindset. When you're jumping into a new presentation or trying a new skill for the first time, think about this: probably everyone in the room has had to do this for the first time at some point! So failing fast is when we can grow the most.
📨 Are you interested in joining Lattice? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Haley
Haley Wolf has been working at Lattice for 4 and a half years. When asked what her favorite part about working at Lattice is, she says: It's cliche to say, "the people," but I think it'd be wrong not to because our core values at Lattice are centered around our people! I believe that's what makes a difference here, too. And that's always stayed constant as Lattice has grown. But I think there are two elements to that. One is when the people that we're surrounded with and the people that we work with are so brilliant, so inspiring, so dedicated, with a pool of knowledge that is so diverse — that makes such a difference. But the second is the leadership team. Our exec team has done an amazing job of building that foundation that's collaborative, safe, and meaningful. I trust the decisions they make because they share everything very openly and transparently.
More About Lattice
Lattice is a people management platform that empowers leaders to build engaged, high-performing teams that inspire winning cultures. With Lattice, it's easy to launch 360 performance review cycles and engagement surveys, keep track of OKR/goals, gather real-time feedback, and encourage manager 1-on-1 meetings.
Most people have one home town. Syamla Bandla has 13.
With a father serving in the Indian army, Syamla got used to adapting to a new environment every time his role changed and her family moved to a new city.
That flexibility served her well as she moved from fintech to insurance to startups and eventually into a role as Facebook's Director of Production Engineering—and as she managed a massive team through the pandemic-induced shift to all-remote work.
We sat down with Syamla, who had already shared part of her career story with PowerToFly, to ask her how she's grown and developed her own career, and how our readers can do the same in their own roles, especially now that remote/hybrid work is here to stay.
Step One: Adopt a Growth Mindset
Syamla's career really began to take off when she took on her first leadership role. The startup she had been working for was acquired by Dell, and she was tasked with integrating it into Dell's SaaS portfolio and taking four different products to market.
Oh, and she was a bit busy having her first child right at the same time.
"The learning curve was very steep!" remembers Syamla. "When I look back, I am really proud of myself for what I accomplished."
She credits one thing with her ability to juggle work and motherhood: her deep belief in a growth mindset.
"When we say 'superwoman, supermom, superhuman,' it's a myth," she says. "Everybody has the same 24 hours. It was a muscle I had to build in both roles–in motherhood and in work–about focusing on the journey."
Here's how Syamla defines a growth mindset: "Believing that talents are not innate and that everything can be developed with sheer dedication and hard work and focus—an absolute obsession and love for learning."
In practice, applying a growth mindset looks like not being afraid to fail. Whether that is Syamla stepping into a leadership role while balancing new motherhood or one of her direct reports taking on hiring responsibilities for the first time, Syamla says that it's all about believing that you can get through something.
"When you think about it, it's not the outcome that you're chasing—but the joy of the process itself," she explains.
And while volunteering for new initiatives or putting your hat in the ring for a promotion may have been easier when we were all in the office and you could grab a senior manager in the hallway, it's certainly easy to broadcast your willingness to take on more learning opportunities, says Syamla.
Step Two: Be Vulnerable
Syamla's current job includes managing all of Facebook's revenue-generating platforms, including Ads and Marketplace. "This role is very, very dear to my heart, and I love doing it at this scale," she says. It's a big remit, and in order to manage well, she needs to keep her team connected.
Her strongest tools for doing that are trust, authenticity, and radical inclusion.
"Listening is super important, whether it's with customers, peers, or managers. Listening with empathy means you're getting the big picture, not just the short-term," she says.
Here are her specific tips:
- Put your phone aside while you're on video calls. It shows your team that they have your full attention, says Syamla.
- Share personal updates when they feel appropriate. For instance, when Syamla's father-in-law got COVID, she ended up sharing that to the broader Facebook community, prompting dozens of people to reach out to her and share their own experiences.
- Show that you understand other people's situations. From being conscious about scheduling calls at times that work for coworkers in other parts of the world to checking in on teammates who are going through life changes, leading with empathy can go a long way, says Syamla.
Step Three: Build a Network of Advocates
"I used to believe my work would speak for itself," Syamla says. She found out that wasn't quite the case. "As a leader and a woman of color, I needed to find my voice, but also to make sure that my allies and sponsors were able to speak on my behalf, so I didn't have the burden of self-promoting all the time."
Syamla thinks that remote work actually provides more opportunities on this front. Not only can you drop humble-brag updates in company chats she says, but you can also more easily branch outside of your own company to connect with industry peers, which is key for upward mobility and recruiting opportunities.
"It's a blessing in disguise, to have so many virtual events," she says. "Being a working mom, I used to refuse events, because they required long travel away from my family. But the top tech conferences are online and they're really quality."
Same goes for learning opportunities. With platforms, including our internal learning resources at Facebook, says Syamla, it's easier than ever to make time for learning, and to share your progress with your managers so that they can see how committed you are to self-improvement.
She also suggests making use of social networks to connect with peers of similar backgrounds. "You will be surprised how many people actually respond back and they want to connect and talk about experiences when they come from similar domains," she says.
Step Four: Don't Forget to Prioritize Yourself
It's easy to let work bleed into your real life when work happens in the same place that you see your family and friends, says Syamla. Career development is important, but not at the cost of your own mental health and enjoyment of life.
"It's hard to draw that line, especially as a working parent," she says. "The key is to pace it out and draw really hard boundaries." For example, Syamla makes sure to take occasional Fridays off where she fully disconnects from work. And on family vacations, she makes sure to take at least an afternoon for "guilt-free mommy time."
"It's important to put on your oxygen mask first, because you can give a lot more when you are in your strongest mental state and physical state," she explains. "After I've taken that time, I'm a better person, a better mom, and a better leader."
Personally, Syamla likes to spend her downtime hiking, diamond painting with her daughter, and creating vegan versions of family-favorite recipes like thandai. She's slowly morphed into a morning person, too, going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until she was able to get up at 5:15 a.m., which gives her much-needed quiet time to walk, do yoga, and get into the right headspace to start her day.
Prioritization needs to happen at work, too, and can sometimes be easier in remote or hybrid workplaces. For example, Syamla is now taking executive coaching sessions, which she says she wouldn't have had time for had she needed to travel to them. "I get good ROI because it's a lunch session, and I don't have to block half an hour before and after to get there," she says.
She's also seen higher participation in Facebook's Coaching Circles—small support groups where participants can learn new skills, network, and help others solve problems in an engaging and confidential environment—now that they've moved online.
Looking to the future
As someone who is personally and professionally passionate about inclusion, Syamla is keeping an eye on what the future of remote and hybrid career development looks like.
"A lot of leaders will be tested on building inclusive environments when some people opt to work full-time remote and some people are coming into the office. I think we have to be super intentional and even more laser-focused on getting the inclusion part right," she says.
Anne Do was recently visiting her cousin in San Francisco, California, for less than 48 hours. In that time, she made two cakes and a dozen French macarons.
"I told my family, 'You won't be seeing me for a while!' and packed up what I could for their freezer," says Anne, smiling.
The web analytics team lead for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, is accustomed to accomplishing a lot in a short amount of time.
With less than two years under her belt as a full-time employee at the Agency, Anne has already taken on the role of a team lead, became the co-lead of the NGA's Asian Pacific American Council (APAC), and collaborated closely with multiple components to successfully executed a five-person live broadcast panel event for this May Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPHM).
We sat down with Anne to find out how she makes this all happen — and, importantly, how APAC has worked to support its members during a year of unprecedented racially-motivated attacks.
Driven to Serve
Anne says that public service is in her blood. As a first-generation Vietnamese-American whose father and grandfather both served in the military, Anne knew she wanted to follow in their footsteps by giving back. She earned her undergraduate degree in Information Technology (IT) – Network Administration and master's in Information Systems Technology Management, subsequently working as a systems, database and cloud engineer for various government organizations.
After working technical integration logistics management for the State Department, she was hired as a contractor at NGA while pursuing her graduate degree at GWU. After a few years in, she realized that one of her customers could modernize how they delivered map specifications to industry, military and international partners by moving from a local database to the cloud.
She wrote a proposal, including her own research and cost calculations, and it was approved. For three years, while managing her daily work responsibilities, she was also successful in learning achieving data and cloud migration accreditations. It was then that Anne realized she wanted to work as a NGA employee in a data science capacity.
"I have done the network aspect. I did the system and data engineering. I really enjoy dealing with methods of transforming data into a strategic asset, and seeing it come to fruition, so I figured, let's see what opportunity NGA has in the data field. I put my name into the hat without really thinking that I would get it," says Anne.
She did get it. And two months later, she was provided with an opportunity to serve as the web analytics lead.
Determined to Lead
When Anne started as a NGA employee, she ran into a challenging situation.
"I realized I needed to balance being organizational, tech savvy with being savvy at office dynamics", she explained. "I needed to extend myself beyond tackling specific goals and be the kind of leader, who could successful manage demanding situations."
That need for community and support drove Anne to join APAC, a Special Emphasis Program (SEP), NGA's employee resource group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
At her first meeting, she met the APAC's co-lead who was serving food for everyone. She was shocked—and impressed—to see such gracious leadership.
Shortly after joining the council, that co-lead position became available. Anne took charge and raised her hand to become the new co-lead.
That was in February 2020. A month later, the COVID-19 pandemic began, and anti-Asian sentiment began to rise in the US.
"I have two elderly parents who take daily walks, and I had to wonder if I needed my parents to curtail their normal routine," says Anne.
Other members of APAC shared their concerns with the council: they found themselves looking over their shoulders in their neighborhoods and grocery stores, wondering if a violent attacker was near, and they struggled to focus on work amid news coverage of increasing violence. They wondered what kind of support NGA could provide them.
Anne and her co-lead focused on a three-part response strategy: listening, providing resources, and advocating. Here's what it looked like:
- Listening: "I had to learn to ask people I work with, 'How are you today? versus How things are going? I emphasize the 'you' part because that gives them a chance to open up and discuss how they're feeling," she says. APAC started sending emails, partnering with other agencies' AAPI leads to provide a platform that served as open forums for anyone who wanted to share their thoughts, fears, or reflections.
- Providing resources: Anne and the APAC & SEP team communicated the NGA resources available to employees, including counseling, monthly meetings, speakers, reminders about mental health and sick days, and access to the AAPI network in the greater Intelligence Community, for anyone who needed help. "It was about enabling them to feel that their voices were being heard and showing there are efforts put in place to help prevent any uneasiness with what was happening outside of the workforce," she says.
- Advocating: On a personal and professional level, Anne believes in advocacy. "The more you open yourself up and have these hard conversations, the more you can educate people on the AAPI experience and move past the model minority myth..." she says.
As important as Anne knows her work with APAC to be, she acknowledges that it's not easy to heal from the threat of violence and experiences of everyday racism. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to my pre-pandemic comfort level," she says.
Finding Inspiration to Keep Going
Anne didn't meet her APAC co-lead in person until this May, well over a year after becoming an advisor to the council. They were working together virtually up until broadcasting rehearsal for the AAPHM observance event.
"It hits a little closer to home for a lot of us," she says of this year's celebrations. Anne signed up to be the logistics manager for the event, and found herself designing a speaking panel that was the agency's first all-Asian-American-descent panel. The event's keynote speaker was Huan Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy.
"We couldn't have asked for a better keynote," Anne says. "He addressed the community about the events that had happened, saying, 'It's real. What can we do to make sure that not equality but actual equity gets taken care of?' and 'It doesn't matter what your heritage is — you're American first.'"
The event was the highlight of Anne's tenure at NGA, she says, and she knows she's not the only one who felt the power of coming together as a community.
"A coworker who has been in federal service for over 30 years told me that was one of the most honest, genuine addresses that she ever had experienced in her career," says Anne.
Anne wants to pay that feeling forward, and has one last piece of advice for anyone considering stepping up and becoming a leader in their own organization: "Be more willing to take part in the change that you believe in, even if it scares the heck out of you. I definitely never expected to be where I am now, but I'm so glad that I raised my hand."
Approved for public release, 21-823
💎 What does a recruiting process with "diversity at work" in mind look like?
📼 Press PLAY to hear some insights from a recruiter at Procore into what it's like to work at a company that encourages diversity. Cynthia Griffin, Senior Talent Operations Specialist at Procore, shares some tips and tricks to stand out in the recruitment process at Procore.
📼 Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are at the forefront of Procore's recruitment efforts. They work to mitigate unconscious bias, address microaggressions, and implement training on leading inclusively during challenging times. Plus, they hold community round tables and listening sessions to amplify the voices of underrepresented employees and nurture the ecosystem of employee resource groups.
📼 Diversity at work is one of the main focuses of Procore's recruiting process. Don't miss Cynthia's valuable tips on how to prepare for your interview with Procore. During your panel interviews, the company has a set of standard behavioral questions and stages that will cover both technical and leadership skills. This will help them identify the qualities that will make you successful at the job. As Cynthia says, "take us on your journey". Think about your past experience, whether it's professional or personal. The recruiting team really wants to understand the journey that you've been on and where you might like to take your career in the future.
The Importance of Encouraging Diversity at Work
Optimism and ownership helped define Procore from their beginning stages. Their values are ingrained in daily operations, from how they run meetings to the ways the team communicates with each other. "It's at the core of who we are, how we lead, how we grow, and how we continue to hire".
📨 Are you interested in joining Procore? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Cynthia
Cynthia is an experienced recruiter with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. Skilled in Coaching, Sales, and Applicant tracking systems, she's a strong human resources professional who graduated from Ventura College.
More About Procore
Procore Technologies is building the software that builds the world. We provide cloud-based construction management software that helps clients more efficiently build skyscrapers, hospitals, retail centers, airports, housing complexes, and more. At Procore, we have worked hard to create and maintain a culture where you can own your work and are encouraged and given resources to try new ideas. Check us out on Glassdoor to see what others are saying about working at Procore. Our headquarters is located on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean in Carpinteria, CA, with growing offices worldwide.