[S1][E20][P3/3] Cheat Guide for Asian Professionals with Jerry Lee, Strategy and Operations Manager at Google

George Wu

In this episode, Jerry Lee gave us some top tips on how to overcome some of the perceived limitations of being Asians. Also, we addressed some of the cultural nuances that affected Asians in the workplace in the United States.

Jerry Lee is an admin from the Subtle Asian Networking Group in the US, and he takes his experience in the group as a guide on how to overcome these potentially harmful perceived traits.

Be aware of the Asian upbringings on, and values growing and try to understand them as strengths instead of weaknesses

Asians tend to be hard workers and put their heads down. That is great; however, the lack of challenging the status quo causes issues as that puts Asians in a bind is not being perceived super high value. As the chain of command or leadership roles continues to go up, the execution of the project is less important than the strategy part of the project. For example, highly paid leaderships are not paid to work in producing deliverables, but driving the overall direction on where things need to go. That one sentence or one word can literally change the entire course of the company. Think of the top positions like the CEO as controlling the wheel of the ship. That one motion or one turn alters all the subsequent execution of the boat. As such, for Asians, it would be great also to challenge the status quo. That way, they can start to develop those underutilized thinking muscles as those will become increasingly important one’s career progresses.

Speak Up

As the Asian culture was told to be quiet and be what we were told. One area to overcome is that every voice matters. It is not about hierarchy or positions within the company. Instead of the mere fact, there is another voice in the room means the person brings value. Without a difference of opinions, there can be a danger in narrow-mindedness and homogeneity. As such, that is why many companies tout diversities as those are increasingly essential to make sure different perspectives are being heard.

Speak up for yourself

It is vital to be one’s own advocate; otherwise, other people will fill in the story for you. That will result in having negative backdrops on yourself when others start to either sabotage your brand or your work. One approach is to be humble and unconfrontational. But, the effectiveness of that approach is only significant in a collaborative culture and indirect communication. In the United States, where the country’s culture is more focused on individuality over collaboration, no one will speak up for you if you don’t. That can allow others to sabotage you without retaliation. An instructor who teaches students all over the world mentioned that in the US, there are more confident students wanted to be in the spotlight over other international students. However, he said there is a drawback. The students here in the US do not become as close as the other international students as the students here are more self-centered. Looking from that lens, you can tell by maintaining the non-US approach to professional development can be quite detrimental

Learn from mentors who are also Asian

It is crucial to not just learn about what works but also what doesn’t work. That results in getting a full 360-degree approach in understanding the situation. Also ideally, you get the result and mentorship from someone who has a close of a profile as you. Because if they are close to your background, your thought process, life experiences, and even down to the DNA level, the closer their advice is actionable. Also, people know that with every success, there are probably 10 failures. Many times, people try to be creative only to realize that they had been tried and failed. After all, the mentor probably has already tried those approaches and failed at them.

Be an advocate for another

Jerry mentioned it is essential not to let cultural misperceptions that disqualify others. In other words, bias. That can happen actually on a subconscious level. For example, with the advent of machine learning, many of the algorithms fail because of unconscious bias. For example, the application filtering system based on jobs actually screens out more women than men as well as individual races than others. The reason being is that the algorithm finds that in the data sample, men and caucasian ethnicity has a higher correlation in securing roles and result in higher pay. The result of history is due to the existing bias. By using a biased data set, it created a biased result. Similarly, when advocating for others, we need to help one another to make sure that those biases need to be adequately addressed. That way, the person making the decision not to pass over Asians’ perceived negative qualities that were ingrained in the decision maker’s subconscious.

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