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Yelp Inc.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Engineering at Yelp

We work on a lot of cool projects at Yelp, if you're interested apply!

Yelp Inc.

Celebrating the Women of Yelp: AWE the Book

Below is an article originally written by Grace Jiras, University Recruiting Manager at PowerToFly Partner Yelp, and published on February 14, 2018. Go to Yelp's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

As a recruiter, I talk to a lot of people about what it's like to work at Yelp. Most often, I find myself answering questions about the work environment and individual growth opportunities. During my four and a half years at Yelp, I would summarize the people here as very sharp and intelligent, while also humble and open minded. This spirit has fostered an environment that encourages individuals to learn by trying things for themselves (new hires get to push code out their first week!) and empowers them to ask questions.

This collaborative work culture invites tremendous opportunity and gives employees the power to participate in the projects they are most passionate about, whether it's specifically related to work, technology, community or otherwise. This attitude is core to Yelp's values and allows employees from every walk of life and every skill set find opportunity and growth.

In an effort to foster community and build relationships across the organization, Yelp has a number of Employee Resource Groups. One of the groups that I'm actively involved with is Awesome Women in Engineering (AWE). AWE is focused on building a strong community for women in engineering and their allies by facilitating professional career building activities, networking, leadership, and mentorship. Over the years, I've had the privilege of learning more about this groups' experience working in the tech industry as well as their experiences here at Yelp. As I heard more stories, I felt inspired to collect and share them with others outside of Yelp. Thus began the start of our hackathon project: AWE the Book.

As with any hackathon, the idea of creating a book was pitched to a group of engineers and those interested joined to help turn this idea into a final product! Our team came together to craft compelling interview questions ranging from childhood aspirations, what they love about Yelp, and helpful advice they wish they had received earlier in their career. We had over 60 women in Engineering and Product volunteer to participate! Along with the interviews we had (very talented) Yelpers take portraits of each individual. After Hackathon we had even more volunteers, men and women, across the entire engineering organization help transpose, type, and edit the interviews. It was so much fun seeing everyone work together to make the book come together. The finished product was incredible to read - over 120 pages of stories, experiences, and advice shared by women professionals in tech.

Here are some of my favorites!

Pictured above from left to right: Yue Wu, Product Manager; Ya-Lin Huang, Software Engineer; Marianne Gosciniak, Software Engineer

How did you get into tech?

I've always been interested in tech, a lot of my favorite products are tech products. I used to be in consulting and data, working on heavy data driven roles. Then I went to business school to try to find a career change outside of consulting. I found a lot of good opportunities in tech. This is an area I'm very passionate about. I had my favorite products as a consumer and Yelp was right on the top. Being able to work on one of my favorite products ever is awesome!

Yue Wu, Product Manager

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

When I was a child, my parents wanted me to become a teacher because they thought it would be a stable job. It's a very regular job from 8-4 and you deal with kids - what possible trouble could kids get into?! At that time, though, I didn't think too much about being a teacher. I played a lot of video games, a lot of Super Mario, so I wanted to be either the character Super Mario, or someone who creates Super Mario.

Ya-Lin Huang, Software Engineer

What is the most exciting thing you have worked on at Yelp?

I really loved my internship project. I added addresses and street suggestions to the location suggest service. When I was presenting during the intern project presentations, a lot of people said they were wondering why we never had this. It was really exciting to help make a feature that a lot of people had been wanting and then later got to use.

Marianne Gosciniak, Software Engineer

Pictured above from left to right: Alex Phillips, Engineering Manager; Jen Wang, Software Engineer; Ellen Heirbaut, Technical Recruiter

What do you love about Yelp?

When I was looking for a job, I was looking for four things that I really valued in a job. One was mentorship - I would love learning from other people's experiences and I find that I can do that a lot at Yelp. There are so many different people with diverse backgrounds and diverse experiences that I feel like I learn something new every day. Two is problem solving - within Yelp and within Yelp Reservations, it's a fun problem - It's relatable. Thirdly, I think the culture we have at Yelp is really extraordinary. The friendliness, the collaborative nature, the kindness, the relatability, and the welcoming feeling. We're always helping each other learn - that's so wonderful to have. The last thing was opportunities to grow and I think that's something that Yelp has been really focusing on lately. Those are the main reasons why I chose to work at Yelp and why I continue to work at Yelp.

Alex Phillips, Engineering Manager

Have you ever broken Yelp?

Oh, lots of times. I've caused lots of codedeploy rollbacks. I tanked SEO for awhile. I've also recommended changes that ended up breaking Yelp. I won't go into the specifics here, but one of the things I like the most about Yelp is the empathetic environment. It is OK to make mistakes, as long as you take responsibility for them and learn from them and don't keep repeating them. Better yet, teach others how to not make the same mistakes or build tools that safeguard against them. I've broken Yelp many times, but I've learned from all of them and made my peace. None of them give me nightmares now. Well, except, maybe the SEO one.

Jen Wang, Software Engineer

How do you balance a personal life and work life?

I'm a working mom, so I always feel like I should be doing more. I do a lot of events outside of work, like the Expat Women meet-up. It's a lot of time management and balancing priorities. Some days I will have my son and on those days I have to leave right on time. If I'm not on time, they can kick us out of preschool, which is not an option! I feel like Yelp makes it easier for me. My manager is very understanding when I have to leave early, and other days I work longer. The nice thing is I have a very happy, fulfilling life with many different aspects to it.

Ellen Heirbaut, Technical Recruiter

Make sure to ask the see the book in person whenever you come by our HQ in SF!

For more information about roles at Yelp check out our PowerToFly page.

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