May is Asian Heritage Month, which provides us with an opportunity to learn more about the diverse culture and rich history of Asian communities in Canada. At NPower Canada, it is an observance near and dear to our hearts, as 44% of our 6,000+ alumni are Asian-identifying.
To celebrate Asian Heritage Month, on May 25th, NPower Canada hosted an event called Continuing Legacies with Google Canada’s Justin Pang, where he shared his journey into tech and the lessons about his Asian identity and legacy that he learned along the way. Justin Pang has over 15 years of experience driving business transformation and technology enablement for large companies across the private and public sectors. Currently, he works as a Sales Leader at Google Cloud in Canada, and outside of work, hosts the Asian Tech Leaders podcast, where he has interviewed over 30 technology CEOs, Entrepreneurs and Executives. Over 100 staff, alumni, participants, and partners tuned in to the virtual event.
Our CEO, Julia Blackburn, opened the event noting it as an opportunity for all of us to learn from the experiences of Asian-identifying community members. Our host, Jenet Dhutti-Bhopal, NPower Canada Program Manager, then shared keywords offered by NPower Canada staff when asked what “Continuing Legacies” meant to them. The most popular answers were “honouring” and “visibility”, recognizing a need not just for representation, but celebration of Asian heritage and the contributions of folks of Asian heritage. With Asia being made up of 48 countries, Jenet reminded attendees of the diverse meaning behind “Asian”, and that everyone’s experiences, histories, and values are unique.
Justin began his presentation by explaining his own heritage. He started with his parents, who immigrated from Singapore to Canada in 1974. He then shone light onto his upbringing, where Justin experienced a duality between his Asian culture and Canadian environment as a second-generation immigrant. It was difficult for Justin to figure out his own identity, being told when he visited Asia that he wasn’t “Asian enough”, but aware that he looked different to his Canadian peers. “Who am I, and Who Do I Want to Become?” were questions that Justin began ruminating on from a young age, and continues to today – especially as a father to two young children.
Justin asked attendees to view an iceberg as a metaphor for culture; the tip being the visible behaviour that is a product of culture, and what is underneath the waterline are the unseen values. Justin then shared three Asian values that he has identified as shaping the way Asian professionals show up in the workplace: an introverted ideal, respect for elders and authority, and harmony and community.
These embedded ideals can cause individuals to shy away from speaking up in a group, drawing attention to their accomplishments and disagreeing with peers. This behaviour can contribute to the “Bamboo Ceiling”. A term coined by Jane Hyun, the Bamboo Ceiling is a mix of individual, cultural, and organizational factors that hinder the growth and success of Asian professionals in workplaces, especially when it comes to obtaining leadership positions.
To end his presentation, Justin shared three pieces of advice to fight against the Bamboo Ceiling:
- See It to Be It
Find reference points of role models and people that you aspire to be like that you can identify with. By seeing that someone has done it lets you know that it is possible for you too.
2. Building Your Powerbase
Rethink what “power” can look like, which does not have to be the traditional Western conception, and getting more comfortable with having power in ways that are authentic to you.
3. Educate and Learn from Others
Seek out resources, do your research, and build your own narrative. Find your own reference points to empower yourself and push yourself to try something uncomfortable.
Justin left us with these words: “Think about your legacy. What will be left behind to the people and communities you care about? It is very personal, this is my story, and this is what I am hoping I can leave behind as my legacy. Everyone has to go on their own journey.”
We want to thank Justin for his participation in this event, and for all of those who attended to celebrate Asian Heritage Month.