As we move forward on our journey to becoming a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive company, we continue our efforts to learn about, celebrate, and amplify the voices and accomplishments of people from diverse backgrounds. With the alarming rise in anti-Asian violence in Canada and the United States over the past year, it’s all the more important that we have conversations that enable us to take meaningful steps to drive change.
On May 27th, in honor of Asian Heritage Month, we hosted Showing Up: An Asian Heritage Month Event, a panel discussion that delved into the experiences of four Asian leaders in the tech industry. We asked our panelists to talk about what drew them to the industry, the successes they’ve achieved, and the challenges they’ve faced along the way. Their unique perspectives provided insights into the different experiences that Asians have had working in the Canadian tech industry.
We recognize that people within the Asian community have a multitude of different experiences, each shaped by personal circumstances, intersections of identity, and the broader society in which we live. One panel, one conversation, or one month cannot even begin to cover the many stories and experiences within this community. Our panelists generously offered to share their personal stories and experiences and we are grateful for the opportunity to listen and learn from them.
Hosted by our Customer Success Manager, Danielle Cimino, the panel featured these strong leaders from the Asian community:
- Allen Lau, CEO, and co-founder of Wattpad, a global multi-platform entertainment company that connects the world through stories
- Yuko Naka, Regional VP, Customer Success, at Backbase, a FinTech software provider that develops banking software solutions for a better customer experience
- Wen Cheng Chong, CTO, and co-founder of Kepler Communications, a Toronto-based telecommunications company and the largest commercial satellite operator in Canada
- Leen Li, CEO at Wealthsimple Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping all Canadians access post-secondary education, regardless of their circumstances
Allen Lau emphasized the importance of “tell[ing] our story” so that “our generation and the next generation can benefit.” He believes “it’s our collective responsibility to share our stories and experiences, good or bad.” He shared a story of his own about a time when being bicultural was to his advantage because there is value in “understand[ing] the difference between two cultures that other western companies probably would not be able to understand.”
Leen Li expressed her thoughts on the value of education. She explains that, out of her and her four sisters, “only three of us went to post-secondary education after high school,” and it’s “one hundred percent, statistically speaking, that the girls who got a post-secondary education [...] have a better life in general [and] have more opportunities because there are more doors open for them when they’re younger.”
Wen Cheng Chong provided insight into what it’s like to leave a stable, well-paying job to take a risk on starting your own company, and how pressure from family can be an additional challenge. “Once you get a really stable paying job [your parents] just want you to own it and grow in [the] company,” said Wen Cheng. “The biggest challenge is taking that leap of faith and then convincing the family, parents, everyone, that it’s the right thing to do.”
Yuko Naka shared with us how, even with the recent acts of violence against Asians and other racialized groups, she finds inspiration in the amount of global outrage and support against this behavior. “I think recognizing that there are differences between different cultures is really important because we want to celebrate our own cultures, but uniting when we need to, when it really matters, is really what counts,” she reflected. “I felt a huge amount of unity with people of all different cultures, including different Asian communities, which was really inspiring.”
This year's theme for Asian Heritage Month is “recognition, resilience, and resolve.” It is a call to action for us all to come together to combat all forms of anti-Asian racism and discrimination. We closed the discussion by asking the panelists for a takeaway around allyship and driving meaningful change.
“To drive action [...] you have to use your influence, no matter how small. Tell other people, be more vocal about the issues that we’re all facing,” stated Allen. “If you don’t speak up, no one will speak up for you.”
Leen asked us to “recognize there [are] different dynamics within Asian communities,” which have their “own beliefs, values and cultures” and to “embrace those differences and learn from them.”
Wen Cheng implored others to speak up and listen. “You don’t [have] to hide it all inside and feel like, culturally, you have to just put up a strong front. It’s ok to share your weaknesses and stories.” He suggested we “actively listen and try to connect with the other party. Whether they’re from different backgrounds or different cultures there will be things you can learn from the other person.”
Yuko finished by reminding us to have hope. “It is overwhelming sometimes when you turn the news on, my children see it, the things that are going on in the world against Asians, against the Black community, so many different visible minorities, we still need to have hope,” said Yuko. “The fact that we’re having these conversations [...] gives me hope.”
Watch the entire discussion below, and please share your comments!