What it's like growing up Asian American | Business Casual

What it's like growing up Asian American | Business Casual

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We often don't have context and what our parents grew up with under what situation and what their world looked like, which informs the way that they give us advice. Right. Academics was really the only and the most reliable way to move past, you know, economic class and social class. So there is a specific reason and well, intent between that and them coming here and wanting us to do our best academically to be doctors, lawyers and engineers. That's for Morning Brew. This is business casual.

The podcast reveals the unexpected business story behind everything. I'm Nora Ali for a special BC episode in celebration of Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Now let's get down to business. Despite being gas lit by my classmates, growing up, who claimed to many a time that I wasn't Asian, I can confirm that my parents arrived in the U.S. from Bangladesh in the seventies and the country of Bangladesh is in fact in Asia.

But to be honest, I didn't feel like I was in touch with the broader Asian-American community until recently. As we've seen a push for better representation in entertainment and media, politics and business. Asian-Americans have also had to grapple with a few weighty issues over the last few years. Including a reckoning over internalized racism and colorism within our own communities, following renewed conversations about racial injustices against black Americans.

Sparked in the summer of 2020, there's also been a rise in hate crimes against Asian Asian-American people due in parts to pandemic fueled xenophobia. On top of it all, the community in recent history has in some ways felt a little disconnected and disjointed. According to Pew Research from 2021 quote a record 22 million Asian-Americans trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, each with unique histories cultures, languages and other characteristics, end quote. All the more reason to celebrate the voices of our guests today who are both championing stories about Asian-American ties and building businesses around them in their own unique way. Simi Shah is the founder and host of South Asian Trailblazers and also happens to be the chief of staff to the former CEO and chairperson of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi.

Coincidentally, the subject of one of my favorite business casual interviews today, Jerry one is a keynote speaker on the Asian-American Experien is the creator economy and personal branding, and the founder and CEO of Just Like Media, an Asian-American storytelling company which includes the award winning podcast Dear Asian-Americans. We'll get to our conversation with Jerry and Sammy after this quick break. This episode of Business Casual is sponsored by Grayscale, the world's largest crypto asset manager and provider of crypto investment funds.

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That's gray YMCA Telecom Forward Slash Business Casual. It's never too late to diversify your portfolio into crypto. I think the three of us are individually just very excited to be together because we yes, we know each other from different things.

But we are together fam for the first time on a screen. So this is very exciting for me. Now I know each of you from from different things so Jerry, I don't know if you recall, but I called DMD on LinkedIn because you wrote this post about the American Dream and it was around the Winter Olympics and Asian-Americans were crushing it, as we remember in the medal count. And I was just moved by your post, decided to reach out. We became fast friends.

Sammy, you and I met for coffee leading up to me interviewing Indra Nooyi, for whom you are chief of staff, which is amazing. We became fast friends, but now we're here together. So, Sammy, I will start with you. I read that you were questioned by some people when you first started the South Asian Trailblazers podcast. If there were even enough South Asian trailblazers to fill more than one season.

So when you heard skepticism like that, what gave you the confidence to start the podcast? And how wrong were those doubters? Yeah, well, first, I just want to say thanks, Norah, for having us here. This is so, so exciting. And it's even more exciting to be doing what Jerry, who I've followed and become friends with over the past several months and I think potentially years now. But yeah, you're absolutely right.

I did hear a lot of that when I first started, and I think there were a lot of skeptics, as there often tend to be, when people feel like they're tackling the issues. And Jerry has spoken about this extensively as well, but I think there there were a lot of skeptics just with regard to understanding how many South Asians are out there actually blazing trails in leadership roles. Like are there even going to be enough for you to do a bunch of seasons? And I think it's been very interesting to see, even just in the last two years, over the course of the pandemic, the tide of that conversation change. You know, someone recently said this and I'm forgetting who, but they said, you know, it's not even right to say that our community is experiencing a moment where gaining momentum. And I thought that captured it so beautifully that, yeah, we are gaining momentum. And this now feels like an obvious thing to be doing.

You know, it feels like, duh, we should be telling these stories. And I think for, you know, three of us who often occupy these spaces, there are moments, at least for me, where I felt like maybe there is a lot of saturation in this space. And then I take a step back and I talk to people and it's like, no, we are just getting started. So I think that was the mindset I tried to lead with, even in the face of skeptics.

And then the other half of it was just having a passion and excitement for it. But it's been really exciting just to see how the, you know, the response that we've started to gain and the momentum that I've seen come out of trailblazers over the past several months. That's amazing. And the momentum means there's more space being created for brands and podcasts like like both of yours. And Jerry, I understand that you launched Dear Asian-Americans on your daughter's birthday a couple of years ago, and you wanted to leave these authentic Asian-American stories for her generation.

That's very sweet. How personal was the creation of this podcast to you? 100% personal, because I you know, I like to say that I created for her, but I created it for me. I created it for you and it created for all of us. Right.

Because we don't know what we don't know and what we didn't know when we are younger for all of us. And I'll speak for myself, but I didn't know that I needed stories from us. Right. And I think it's really rooted in the fact that we have adopted and we have internalized this universal definition of success, universal definition of leadership what that sounds like, what that looks like in this country, or just even our experiences of what an Asian-American narrative is supposed to be. And we have to wonder who put those ideas into our heads and who keeps perpetuating them, and more importantly, who benefits? Will we continue that status quo? And for us to be able to now own that narrative, just as Smith said, there are infinite numbers of stories because each person has a unique story that can resonate with somebody else.

And so, hello, there's 4 billion of us, and so we can't ever get through it all. And so it is 100% personal because while I leave it for our kids, lives have been transformed, starting with mine. And so, you know, and part of what I want us to do also was to show them my kids and even myself that our stories are not only important and that they matter, but they can also be a great business platform on which we can build our family's foundation on. Not only are there infinite stories, but there's infinite ways to tell them and infinite career paths even or jobs surrounding the telling of these stories. And each of you does a lot of different things. You have a portfolio of you so semi starting with you.

How do you decide what fits into your portfolio of your career, especially because you are pretty early on in it. You graduated pretty recently. So so what drives you to inform what you're going to do next? Yeah, it's a super interesting conversation because, you know, people always have told me since I was, you know, especially about to graduate that success is non-linear and even life generally is not linear, not even just success. And so when I graduated, I started by working in finance I did that for about a year.

I went to work at a media startup, which people, you know, I remember when I was leaving my job, you know, normally people you might be met with some skepticism or pushback. I mean, people in my job were like, that sounds great. I don't even know what that means. And then obviously now I'm working as a chief of staff for Indra. And so I think I really tried to embrace opportunities as they come.

You know, I didn't expect to leave the startup. I was in the opportunity with Indra just honestly came out of nowhere. It was very serendipitous and so I've as I build the portfolio of me, as you said, I really trying to take it on. It's like embracing new opportunities and challenges as they come my way embracing the fact that I love being a multi-hyphenate. I think I genetically don't know how to do one thing at a time. And I think that's true for most of our community.

I mean, just look at the three of us right here. And, you know, I truly believe that there will come a point where the confluence of all these many things will settle me into something specific over the long term. But I love all the things I'm doing right now, you know? And so I have no reason to worry about what's next. And Jerry, it's it's interesting because there's so many parallels with our stories, but there is a little bit of a difference in the time where Jerry, you started your career to to now and semi still early in her career. What has helped inform your decisions when maybe it hasn't been as common or wasn't as common to take a circuitous career path or pivot or try new things when both you and I, Jerry, were starting our careers? I think it was trying everything that I was supposed to try and trying to blame myself and to always think about how I could fit better into systems.

I was a sales and marketing guy for ten years before graduate school. And then when that didn't work well, it certainly must be graduate school and a fancier job with a different company or a different industry. And I did that too. And it wasn't going to fit.

And so I think I had checked enough boxes or I guess I had tried to tweak this mythical formula that we've been taught which is based on the idea of employment and the idea of us asking for permission to exist and to be asking for a paycheck to tie that to our value of worth. One day I said, What if I am trying to figure out the wrong formula to begin with? And we've never been taught that right. And I think for many of us, entrepreneurship from our parents generation was a necessity, and therefore it wasn't something that was encouraged because they know how hard it was. But I think what they lacked in understanding was that entrepreneurship in our generation and our opportunity can and does look so different than opening up a small business or, you know, hustling with physical labor more than not. And so for me, it wasn't a matter of unfortunately seeing these other ideas that worked and following people. It was having tried so many things almost out of necessity.

I have to try this. And if this doesn't work, I, you know, maybe not gladly would have probably taken my butt back to some job but at least I would have, you know, scratched that itch and have decided for myself or that didn't work. But it took me 15 years after graduating from college with a combination of, you know, work and graduate school and post-graduate work for me to actually decide that this was something that was worth doing. And I did it at a time. We were probably wasn't the most logical decision. We had two kids.

We live in L.A. You know, I just graduated from business school two years ago. And so in hindsight, it worked. But in the moment, it wasn't the most sound decision.

And, you know, a lot of folks in our family and in my close circles often too wondered what the heck is he doing? Why isn't he doing the thing that he should be doing? With an MBA? We'll get back to the what the heck is he doing? Sentiment because we know we experience that in our communities. But jerry speaking of your nba, of course, the notion of what a normal career looks like is changing. And with that, perhaps the view of what value a higher education brings is changing as well. And Jerry, you posted recently on LinkedIn, reflecting on when you had started your MBA seven years ago and you wrote, quote, the public speaking podcast and coaching technically doesn't require an MBA.

Everything I've been through, both the good and the forgettable all, have been instrumental in my own growth as a person and entrepreneur. So Jerry, among younger generations, there may be more of an inclination to say learn on the job, take a circuitous career path, even defer college in favor of starting something new and semi. I believe you told me over coffee that you had even considered getting an MBA or continued education as had I, but I decided not to pursue it ultimately. Jerry, for our younger listeners out there who are fresh out of college or might be considering a career pivot what are your thoughts on the value of an MBA and pursuing higher education? And for me. And first to me, yes. You know, I think at earlier at an earlier point in my career, perhaps because I was a salesperson and that's something wasn't, as, you know, respectable by traditional Korean immigrant standards. My dad told me one time, you should do something that your degree allows you to do.

And what he was basically saying was, don't do what you're doing now. You know, do strive for something higher. And I agreed with him at a certain degree because, you know, I was privileged enough to go to USC and to earn my degree there. And looking at around the things that I was doing and pursuing, especially in a sales field, doesn't necessarily require that. And so, you know, I thought about that a lot and just sort of, you know, that wasn't my guiding light, but that was on my mind.

And, you know, having gone through graduate school and, you know, the tradition of post MBA path into knowing what I do, I have amended that a little bit, which is to do what you want to do, what makes you happy, but do it in the way that you and only you are uniquely capable of doing because of the experiences that you've had, including academic experiences, professional and personal experiences. And so you know, people often wonder, you have a podcast, you speak for a living. Does that require an MBA? Of course, the simple answer is no. But the kinds of companies that I get to engage with, the business schools that I now get to speak up because they know that I come from a place of residence and experience. And to be frank to be able to charge the rates that they want to charge or a result of the life experiences that I've had.

And so I think we often live in a world of falsehood, of hacks and shortcuts and things to get somewhere, only to realize it's a whole lot of hurry up and wait. And so you know, but I think that's just the way that our lives have been designed, right? In high school, you just want to get to college, and in college you just want to get to the next thing. And at some point, folks have to realize that life is a long, long marathon. And there comes a point where you just have to look out into the horizon and saying, Where do I want to go with no next finishing line or a checkpoint to think about? And so for me, I did go into graduate school with a very specific mission of getting into strategy consulting, participating in student government as president and speaking at graduation, I successfully completed all those three goals and still what I value most about my experience. There are none of those three things, but the experiences that I've gained, the friendships that I've gained, and the fact that I have this peculiar and unique perspective in the world, having gone through the MBA process, but having stepped outside of that bubble and a very early place or time than, you know, many people who go to the MBA and exit.

And so as far as value, you know, I think most listeners listening or at least the three of us understand the value of the brands of the schools that we went to, the respect that it carries. And we can say, like, who cares about that logo? But it does because we, all of us and many of you listening physically get to be president in rooms because of where we went to school. And we are invited and talked about in a certain way particularly by our amazing friends who hype us up based on where we went.

Does that make us smart? Not necessarily. But does that help us get opportunities that our friends who did not go to such schools went to? And so I don't think, you know, I'm never ashamed of experiences that I've had. And, you know, it's just a matter of what you want to do with that. And so to sum it up, there are things that people can take away from you through the course of your life. People can take away money, your possessions, even your health. One of the things that people can not take away or your degrees those stick with you forever.

Even when the paper has gone, even though the memories are faint, you are forever affiliated with that education and that institution. And so pick and choose wisely you know, it does matter where you go and it doesn't matter who you engage with. And so and I know that on the topic of business school, the idea of fit, cultural fit is so important and we obsess us, obsess over how we fit into a school's culture to be successful.

I want to challenge everybody to define your own set of cultural rules for yourself and then to test the schools to see if they fit you. Because the last thing you want to do is to go to a school where, again, brands matter. I get it. But then you force yourself to fit into a culture that you think you belong to, and then you don't really have a good experience during or after school. And so get it, you know, go make your money.

I hope the tuition increases aren't that bad by the time you all decide to go. But, you know, it is it has been a valuable experience for me. And something that I encourage everybody to explore, at least at some point in their lives. It's such an important perspective because whether we want to admit it or not, your brand of school does open up certain doors and it gets you in certain in certain rooms.

But Jerry, the most important thing that you said is make sure it's is a fit and you like the people that you surround yourself with. So one of the reasons I had even considered business school was because of the brands that my parents had wanted for me. My mom told me I should go to business school. And so much of my career until recently has been based on what would make my parents proud. So going back to that point, semi starting with you, does it matter to you what your parents, your family members or community thinks of your job or if they even understand your job yeah.

You know, it's interesting. I feel like over the course of the pandemic, just having moved home and spent more time with my family, I think I developed a greater appreciation for what they did. You know, like moving here, not knowing anyone, putting food on the table, basically from nothing coming to this foreign place, like dealing with racism and all these different challenges and obstacles in their way and building this life where they still choose to be happy on the hardest days. And so in that respect, I think one of my biggest motivators in life has always been doing them proud. And I'm very lucky that from my parents, I think from an early age I knew that for me, doing them proud and what success would look like would not fit maybe necessarily the traditional mold.

And I think they actually understand that because, you know, my dad came here who was a nuclear engineer. The industry tanked, he got fired, and then he decided to be an entrepreneur and took this risky path. So when I left my job a week before the pandemic, this like great cushy job in finance, you know, my sister and mom were kind of freaking out about it. And my dad was super cool and I asked him one day, I was like, why are you so calm about this? Like, you're more calm about this than I am. And I'm glad you're calm, but it's freaking me out that you're so calm. And he's like, you're crazy.

But he was like, look, he was like, I was your age when I came to this country. Like, you are going to be fine, you know? And I think that motivation has always you know. I know. And for that reason and that support and the choices that they've allowed me to make, I do always want to do them proud.

I definitely think like, we've gone to battle on certain fronts. You know, they you know, they want me to be a lawyer. They want me to do certain things and check certain boxes. But they're always open to letting me figure that out.

And I think so something that we, you know, I think we've all spoken about to some degree before is there are validators, you know, when trailblazers you know, gets noted on Apple or, you know, there's just certain demarcations of success. They do get excited, you know, and they're like, oh, like that's pretty cool. And so I think it's them understanding these like really nontraditional paths and and things that I've done. But but, you know, there still is going to hold on to stuff like that, partially because it makes them proud and partially makes them feel like, oh, this is a legit thing. So I do think deeply about that. But I've never let it be the binding force when it comes to my choices.

I do what my parents guide me. I do believe they have wisdom beyond their years. But I also understand to what Jerry was saying about, you know, entrepreneurship being encouraged and things like that, it looks different than it might have when they first immigrated here. And I think they understand that they grapple with it at times but it's been sort of this joint decision of like me working my ways, gathering input from mentors and external forces, and then also taking on what my parents want for me. For our listeners. South Asian Trailblazers was noted by Apple as new and noteworthy, and Apple podcast was Jerry pointed out to me.

I didn't realize that. So congratulations on that. And Jerry, similarly for you, does it does it drive you what what other people think? What do they think as you make your career decisions? I think every human being that says that it doesn't is lying because we are human and we are impacted, whether it is consciously or subconsciously by such things. Right. And so,

you know, I think it's really interesting talking about parents and sort of the acceptance and, you know, what do we make of their sacrifice and all that? I think somethings that we as a collective, you know, I was born in Korea, so I consider myself 1.5 generation. But by and large, like children of immigrants, we often forget because it is not taught to us, because sometimes our parents want to shield us from what they consider difficult conversations. We often don't have context and what our parents grew up with, and they're what situation and what their world look like, which informs the way that they give us advice. Right. And so,

you know, for Korean-Americans listening, our grandparents were born under Japanese occupation. Our parents were born after the war in really, you know, desperate financial conditions as a country. Academics was really the only and the most reliable way to move past, you know, economic class and social class. So there's a specific reason and well, intent between that and them coming here and wanting us to do our best academically to be doctors, lawyers and engineers. And while we sort of scoff at that stereotype as a joke among us now for three folks who don't do that, it's really fundamental to understand that that's where it comes from and that our parents have had to deal with not just an intergenerational change in expectations of academics and career, but an intercontinental shift in culture.

And so we have to give our parents and grandparents so much more grace and love than we sometimes give them for, not, quote unquote, understanding what we want to do. The jobs that we have now did not exist when I was in college. And so having to explain to anybody else, even to myself, what I want to do, why I do it, our titanic tasks. I think my parents have also evolved with me in understanding that there is should be a varying levels of connection or causation between the sacrifices that they made and what I do with that sacrifice. So I think a lot of parents expect us to do X, Y or Z because they sacrificed. However, I think many of us are realizing that we want to deviate from that from time to time.

And our parents have also have to also have to learn what that means for them. And so, you know, I when I stepped away or decided not to return to the corporate world to pursue this path of doesn't even exist. Right. What is what is it, the professional Asian-American storyteller, how do you make money on a podcast? What is who hires you to speak you know, all these questions that you know, again, I like to think they come from a place of care and wanting to look out for me, but they don't know what I know.

And they don't know the world that I operate in. And it's even beyond what the typical metrics of success are, which has worked out in my case. But I need to do this and so, you know, maybe this is a good time to talk about it.

But, you know, again, we don't do the things that we do for the validation but when things happen externally, they really help us feel like we've made the right decision. And so precisely a year ago or a week ago, I was sitting in the Rose Garden of the White House, having been invited to participate in the official White House, Asian-American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration. I shared that with my dad, and there was over text or family text, and he said, I am so happy that you do something that makes you happy and that I'm very proud of you. I'm pretty sure he was crying because I was crying reading it. But I screencap it because I didn't know when the next time that was going to happen was and then, you know, I heard from other family and even from my wife who saw him without me a couple of days later that he was just gleaming and that he was having a very hard time keeping his composure when he was talking about that. And so I think to that extent, it also means that our parents given the conditions and the circumstances in which they grew up, have an extremely different ability and capacity or even desire to express themselves emotionally.

And so that we are so privileged to be able to talk about things like mental health and things like our parents didn't get to talk about because they were all in survival mode. And therefore it is on us to leverage that privilege to understand and have a little bit more grace and empathy towards them. And as as a parent of two children, you get humbled very quickly when you're a parent and I am trying to raise kids, as we all will, or for those who are listening again, I think we're very humbled that, you know, in the last ten years the world has changed and so how do you raise kids for a world ten, 20 years from now that we don't know what that's going to look like? And so and thinking about the tectonic changes that change from the days we were born until now, how do we expect our parents to keep up with that? It's very difficult. And when you think about it from how are you going to raise your kids perspective, you just end up with a lot more humility and kindness and patience for what your parents went through. So with both of your platforms, there's a lot of this sense of giving back to the community, providing this platform, paying it forward and semi. Not only do you highlight overlooked voices with South Asian trailblazers, but also through shop South Asian, which is a platform that connects consumers to South Asian owned businesses, which you launched.

What was the impetus behind that? Yeah, absolutely. So when I started working on South Asian Trailblazers in the pandemic, just as a part of being in the online community and meeting all these people, I kept on meeting South Asian entrepreneurs. And as I spoke to more and more of them, I realized that a ton of them were building these profitable high growth businesses, but didn't always have access to commensurate opportunities to continue growing them. You know, whether it's access to venture capital funding or even the knowhow of like, how do I even get started with something like that to, you know, I want to put my product on retail shelves in Target and Walmart, where do I get started? And I realized that communities like this existed for a lot of other affinity groups for women, for example, and things like that. But there was nothing specific for the South Asian community.

And so it really started as just amplifying these businesses, connecting South Asian and other consumers to South Asian owned and operated businesses and has since grown into an idea to actually build a resource network for them, connecting them to each other. Last year we did a series where we did three fireside chats with people that worked in growth marketing, people that were investors, people who were founders who had received funding and made that tough decision to just have these individuals talk interface and learn from each other. And that's been a really exciting experience. I think building something like trailblazers and then getting inspired to build something else, it's just a good feeling to continue to do work in the community and understand that it's, you know, the best feeling is when someone messages you and said This helped me so much or this is something that I've never had access to or just, you know, doing some of those preliminary conversations where I'm like, Hey, I'm building this platform.

It's very early stages and people being like, Please build this. And, you know, they ended up having a 30 minute conversation with you. That's the best feeling in the world. That's, you know, as they like to say, of the tech world product market fit so yeah, it's been a really, really exciting time. And I hope to get the opportunity to do more with trailblazers and shop South Asian on the line.

That's great. I think it's just so rewarding to make intros and connections, and I think the three of us are inherently connectors. And Jerry, you do such a great job of inviting people like me and sue me to panels and other events that you're organizing through some of your clients. But what I appreciate the most about this, well, there's two things is you're very transparent about pay, first and foremost, because compensation, when you're being invited to speak at things, is not always that transparent, especially when you're a marginalized or historically excluded voice. But you also try to make sure that panels for, say, Asian-American Heritage Month are not just East Asian men which is maybe more common than South Asian women like myself and Simmi.

Why is it so important to you to project this for this variety, essentially of the demographic? And what are you what are you doing about it? Because I look like the guilty party I represent I I'm sure you and many folks listening have sat in on, watched, watched, you know, seen posters of things that are supposedly very inclusive of Asian America. And it's literally three guys that look like me and that does not represent Asian America. And, you know, even here we are celebrating May what was historically called by the federal government as Asian-Pacific Heritage Month, now in an effort to be inclusive, is now Asian American comma, Native Comma, Pacific Islander Heritage Month. And I wonder if we are, you know, adding words and letters to these names to be genuinely inclusive with our intent or if it's something else. And so what I mean by that is, you know, just think what you're going to do and do it well. And so most of my work and content is within the Asian-American space.

And and so it does sometimes provide a little conflict of showing up to a space that they marketed as an HPI Heritage Month. And I always say I'm not going to talk a whole lot about an HPI because it's not my community it's not my experience. So I encourage you to go seek that out on your own. And so that's one part, I think just being intentional about the work that we do to Asian America is beautiful. And rich and therefore super complex. Right.

And so, you know, data nerds, get ready. This is your part of the conversation. There are I mean, according to the United Nations are 48 Asian countries. And it depends now on how many of those people actually self-identify as Asian because there's this whole other region called West Asia. And many folks there don't look like us and don't identify as Asian.

However, let's just take, you know, the very broad regions that we call East, Southeast and South Asians as what we would consider Asian American six of our ethnic groups Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean make up 85% of all Asians in America. And so the other 25 or so countries make up 15%. And so we then we we are sort of this, you know, at this crossroads of how do we become representative enough knowing that we can't be exhaustively representative. Right. And so we can't have every country represented or we can't even do it by share.

And so so the trick or the task is not the trick, but the task is how do we have a diverse enough voice of people sitting on a panel, people who make up a podcast guest list or people who are headlining a conference so that everybody feels that they can see themselves through some lens of their voices. And there's no way that three straight, three straight East Asian dudes are going to do that. Right. And so part of it is just my frustration over this narrative that we are Asian-American and others.

And it's so complex. There are people among our own communities that, for example, that this the differences between East and South Asian, the inclusion of South Asians in Asian American activities. I've seen some really unfortunate instances of making them feel othered and it's why. And so it's super complicated.

It is also, you know, the result of a lot of narrative over the decades of who's what and who is not what. And so if we but here's the thing. Ultimately, at the end of the day, we are very complex and we are very wonderful as a result of that.

But if we double click and disaggregate a lot of our data points, for example, Indian Americans are on average. 75% of Indian Americans have a college degree or higher in this country, which is also a byproduct of how many people came here. Right. Sammy, you mentioned your father came here to get his graduate degree. Many them did. And so the self-selection process, which is a by, you know, a byproduct of the American foreign policy and immigration policy, resulted in that happening.

And then we cannot also then say in the same sentence that refugees from Cambodia Laos in Vietnam were afforded the same opportunity to be equally successful academically or financially here. And so who's taking care of that voice? Right. There are about 2 million Koreans in America.

100,000 of them, 5%. Pretty significant are transracially and trans nationally adopted Korean-Americans. When you see Korean-American, anything, do we see their voices represented? And so thinking about all the different intersectionality that go beyond being a straight born East Asian dude, like our voice is actually in this very, very small minority. And we've, you know, benefited from an overseer of our voice. And so what I try to do and I know I'm not perfect at it and I encourage other people to do so is to not speak for the community, but speak up for the community.

And sometimes that means inviting other people. Sometimes that means sharing your act. Sometimes that means forgoing your own check and your opportunities so that somebody else can get their first chance to share.

And ultimately, and here's a secret my slice of my pie will grow if the whole pie grows I don't need to worry about this scarcity mindset that we've adopted that people have told us to believe that we need to fight for scraps. There are 4 billion of us in this world on this planet Earth, and a good billion of them speak English. And so I don't have any worries about my target audience.

Right. We talk about Tam in talking about, you know, startup talk. My Tam is good. My Tam is three times the size of America itself. And so that's what we need to think about. And it it's so much opportunity.

There because why do we do what we do? We did not see ourselves in books, on TV, on bookshelves, in podcasts and all the things that had the word leadership in it. And so we wanted to find it all. And we also have to be very mindful that my definition of Asian American leadership varies greatly from everybody else's. All right. I want to talk about pitching, because pitching is so important for career pivots for people who are trying to change their brand or get noticed and network.

It's it's just becoming increasingly important. And you've both had incredible guests on your podcasts. Jerry, I can't even believe you had Dustin Daniel Cretin on your podcast. He's the director and rival writer for Chunky. Sammy, you've had actor and director Sujata sorry, you've had an actor and director, a Sujata Dae Aparna from Indian Matchmaking.

In this world where pitching is so important, give our listeners some advice. Sammy, starting with you what's your pitch? How do you get your role models and high profile folks to pay attention? Yeah, I'll I'll start beyond the podcast and just say a shocking number of opportunities I've received have been like the cold pitch. I did not have the world's greatest GPA in college, but, you know, one like opportunity that sticks out is, you know, even, even just the startup that I worked out prior to this role it came about because I called someone on LinkedIn and was like, I saw this role. I know it's for an MBA position, but I still want to talk to you I am not an MBA. And she took my call and she was like, I don't have this role open, but here's this cool startup that we're working with that you could work with. And it goes without saying where, you know, a lot of women won't apply to a role unless they check at least ten of the ten boxes and men will.

I think it's something if they check like five of the ten boxes, I mean, somebody apply to the job, like do you do it? You know, like the more chances you take, the more likely you are to strike gold. There are many times where I have had unanswered emails, unanswered dreams, and then, you know, that person will be at an event I'm going to and I will make that effort to go and say hello and a few weeks later they agree to be on the podcast. So I think it's taking advantage of those tiny opportunities that maybe you see seem really high offer or feel like they won't yield anything.

But again, like the more times you shoot, like the more likely you are to score. And not one time is like all it takes, right? I think in terms of the actual presentation, I think it's knowing your why, you know, one of my favorite quotes of all time, it's a Mark Twain quote is the two most important days you're born of the day or the two most important days in your life are the day you're born and the day you find out why. I think why is so important, like why am I here? Why am I doing this? And I feel like a lot of people in the South Asian community when I pitched the podcast to them, it resonates with them.

You know, I told them there are young people who want to learn from leaders who look like them, and you are one of those people. And I think that's a really compelling story and a compelling reason and I will say, like, tailor your message. You can't send out the same generic email. I know it seems easy sometimes. There's days where we all get a little bit lazy but you know, going that extra mile, doing the research, I mean, even today, more like you're telling us, you know, you've clearly done your research here and know things about us that a lot about our platforms, but very few people do.

It makes a big difference. So that's those are those are kind of my $0.02 on how these things can really go a long way in the small things you can do. Shoot your shot. I can attest just when someone makes a pitch and it's personalized and they include just just one detail about, say, an episode of Business Casual that they listen to.

Then then I pay attention because they took that one tiny extra step. So I think that's great advice. Jimi. Jerry, what about you? What's your your number one piece of advice for making that pitch, whatever it might be.

Do good work. Do it often because that's I think, you know, there's a lot of podcasts out there. I want there to be more. But there are a lot of podcasts out. There's a lot of pitches being made and you're asking somebody to share with them probably two of their most precious things, which is their time and their story. And so making sure that they understand that their stories are going to be respected, but also on a platform that is going to be professional and longstanding, I think, or some of the things that I've learned. I think.

So we share some great insights, you know, but a lot of my guests have come from referrals of other people saying I had such a great experience, you asked me some stuff that nobody's ever going to ask me because I think a lot of other shows focus on, you know, not what I focus on, which is tell me where you're from. Right. And so I know what many of us immigrant kids dread the question, where are you from? But like, that's what I start with, right? Tell me about how your family became American. Because I think understanding when they came, how they came and where they went to is fundamentally important to understand where they're going.

And when we start there, I think it just matters less about their achievements and their accomplishments. And it threads this needle through their story that other people can see. And to really humanize your stories, to understand that even though we're 23 million really complex in our community, that there's a lot of residents there. And so, you know, I you know, we get pitched a lot.

You know, I think we're all fortunate enough to be in a position where our shows are well established, where we get pitched. And so, you know, there are some times I'm like, holy crap, you want that person on the show, that's cool. You know, again, I don't ever think of it as the goal.

I think often we get asked this podcast podcasters like, Give me your dream list of guests. And to be frank, I don't know if I have one because I don't want to discount like some of our best performing shows in the most, you know, tier jerky shows that people say that they love and it was life changing or from people that are not household names. And I think there's also, you know, some correlation to somebody who's done a lot of media and their, you know, desire ability to go deep into their story vault that they haven't really hit versus somebody who's doing an interview for the first time. And and so, you know, like I've interviewed like my personal cousins on the show and like they're not household names, but like, I want to have a conversation with them that we don't have as as Korean-American, you know, cousins.

And so, you know, so I think, you know, how do we fulfill the mission of the show? And really, for me, it's it's a really long tell me about yourself, right? And we go into different corners and avenues and twists and turns. You know, I do my job as a host to hype up whatever they're trying to promote or that they're proud of. But that's my job. Right. And so it's been yeah, there are some people that I've had on the show I'm just like, how did this happen? It's cool.

You know, there are people that I, you know, would be cool to talk to them about their life. But as you mentioned to me, I think there's, you know, people who have ventured down their own path, have different stories to tell. And sometimes they have better stories because they've done, you know, a little bit more reflection through our failures and through our detours, you know, than some of our other friends.

Jerry, you said you like to hype up what your guests have going on or what you're most proud of. So we'll give you guys an opportunity as well. Say me. Anything you want to promote, highlight, shout out that you're proud of right now.

Yeah. Well, look, if anyone out there listening is interested in South Asian stories, South Asian trailblazers dives deep into the journeys of leading South Asians across industries, across spaces, I mean, we have people like class founder Kanaka to Paul Gray Wall from Coinbase to, as Nora said, Indian matchmaking is a partnership with Romani so we'd love for you to check out. Check us out. We also have a newsletter if you're more of a reader at South Asian Trailblazers dot com and you can find us on any socials. You have your elevator pitch down so well simply want everyone take note.

That was a very good Jerry what about you what I. Well in hyping up ourselves collectively my ask to people who are listening is to keep the Asian-American narrative going after me. Because all of us were recording this at the end of May and we have been busy. We get asked to speak to companies and schools and audiences across the country in May our calendars the rest of the month still good, but not as busy as May. And so, you know, the experiences that we go through sometimes are challenging ones and the good ones we experience every day of the year. And this is not just for the Asian-American community, but those of us who belong to historically excluded communities that have a heritage month.

Sometimes we get slotted into those months and those months only. And so, you know, as far as your selection of guests or brands to promote or people that you're working with, and if you work at a large enough company where you have this discretionary funding for speakers or other events, you know, just keep in mind that, you know, and I say this jokingly like I wake up like this every day and not just in May. And so it is any day is a good day to talk about the Asian-American experience. Any day is a good day. To talk about any of our experiences.

And so, you know, of course, I'd be honored if you listen to our show, of course I'd be honored if we were to work together in any capacity and we and I, for myself, am so blessed to have clients and partners that, you know, keep me busy throughout the year. But there tends to be a focus of our the desire or the demand for our stories. In May. And I want to live in a world where my kids grow up and question, why me was so busy when they were younger? And I want to live in a world where we are just as busy in October for no reason whatsoever. About. Talking about ourselves than we are in May. And so, you know, we love May, but keep us busy throughout the year, too.

We can talk about ourselves during Halloween, too. You know, just don't wear Macy's costumes. Don't do that. Yes, please, please don't do that. OK, see me and Jerry before we let you go, it is time for our special bonus segment with a couple of fun questions. So the first question is, what is your moonshot idea? This could be your wildest ambition, your biggest dream, whatever you want it to be.

Either of you can start whoever is ready. Jerry, take it away. I give you guys time to think about. It, though. I know, I know. I'm trying to think of you know, it may sound silly, but my biggest moonshot dream is for me to be out of a job.

And here's what I mean by that. I want the narrative of our experiences to be so normalized that every kid learns about it that it just becomes of what we learn as Americans across the board. Regardless of where you go to school, regardless of what you look like so that I don't have a job of teaching people about this when they're older. That is actually my job.

That's my goal to normalize this conversation across all generations. The fact that we have to do a lot of what we do to share our experiences in our adulthood. To many people who didn't even know about the history of our community in this country and the things that we face daily is both sad, but also very hopeful that there are so much to be, so much work to be done. And so if you're paying attention, states like Illinois and New Jersey have passed laws to include Asian-American education in their childhood educational system. And I just wish that it becomes normal. You know, I, I joked earlier, I really want my kids to talk to me when they're older and saying what was the big deal why? Why was it a big deal that we celebrated Chloe Kim? Why was it such a big deal that we celebrated these people? Isn't it just normal that Korean girls win gold medals and that's the goal? All right. Jerry wants to be out of a job.

I love semi. What about you? I'm I don't know if I can narrow it down to one thing, but, you know, it's interesting. I attended the Indian-American Impact Summit, which is really a movement to mobilize more South Asians and I think probably Asian-Americans in politics.

And there was a really strong, like, high school Gen Alpha, Gen Z contingent and it was fascinating to see how many of them are, like, so amped up about working on this range of issues like immigration, climate. But you also see a bit of this like existential drug that comes from like these massive issues that we're facing, you know, as a society. I mean, it's it's a tough time right now. And so I'd really love I mean, again, this is like wild moonshot, but building a world in which we can get rid of some of that and mitigate some of that drug that they feel. And it's like really coming together on issues like climate, really coming together on issues like immigration.

I feel like we're living in a time of such disunity. It's almost a bit jarring. And I feel like I grew up on this idea of like this grand American dream and the community really rallying together and like really tough moments. I want us to just get back to basics, like learn how to be human again. That's I don't know, that's that's it's a little amorphous, but that's well, you know, it's.

A lot. Made possible. Sure. Yeah, it's amazing. Amazing. OK, last question for each of you. What is the best thing you saw online this week? It could be a video, an article, a show, a tick tock, a tweet. Jerry, why don't you go first? I don't want this to sound egotistical.

But just go for it. There were a lot of cool things that happened in the last week in Asian America. US being invited to the White House was one. There were other people having attended a variety of both formal and social events in Washington, DC.

Meeting with congressional leaders, meeting with people from the president's office, celebrating us. There was a big event here in Los Angeles celebrating our community and seeing that on the Internet and seeing my news feed. Yes, my news feed is filled with Asian folks.

However, seeing it normalized, I posted about wearing a traditional Korean hanbok to the White House, and that got over half a million views on LinkedIn. And people at the White House walked up to me and said, I saw your post. Thank you for doing that. And you know, it just it being normal that we can talk about that is something that I don't think we even knew could be possible or that would be appreciated because we spent so much of our lives wanting to fit in, changing our names, dressing the same a certain way, not bringing certain foods to school and just almost wanting to be not, you know, us.

And then to have that moment and for it to be celebrated and to, you know, have other people just be happy with each other. That was a really cool moment. Of course, I witnessed it live and I was really blessed to do that. But to see the flood of photos and stories and the exchange of love and encouragement and as you mentioned, it's not a moment. It is a one large chapter of a momentum movement because to say that it's a moment means that you haven't been paying attention. And so if you need to if you needed this conversation to start paying attention, join us in helping normalizing a lot of the things that we've talked about today.

Amazing. Sammy, what about you? I love that. Literally, Jerry took the words out of my mouth. I mean, it's really been this feeling of being inundated with, like, how much content and, like, things. I mean, I was watching all these, like, stories from the Gold House gala and seeing all these personalities that I tend to view in such disparate spaces come together and be in the same place. I think it was the same feeling with, like, the, the White House.

I mean, there were so many like, like friends of mine who were who are staffers of the White House meeting, like people who been on the podcast, you know, I mean, like, what a random collision of worlds that didn't feel possible. One thing that did stick out was I have loved Scooby Doo since I was a kid. I think it was my favorite cartoon of all time.

And Mindy Kaling is launching a spin off where Velma is Brown. She's South Asian, and that was just like a really exciting piece of news to see. And just so unexpected. You know, I love that we're like recreating these childhood moments that were so important to us.

But like with this new form of representation that's going to really shape the next generation young girls like the Barbie dolls and other toys that we're making that we're like, kids are going to grow up with, like, toys and experiences with people who look like them, you know? And that's so different. So that was really, really exciting. And I'm really looking forward to watching that. Oh, my. Gosh. Me too. Well, this is awesome. I love that the three of us are in the thick of it, and I don't think I've smiled so much during a business casual recording before and my mouth kind of hurts. So I'm just happy to be with the two of you.

And thanks for being on the podcast. If you like what you saw and you like what you heard, you can listen to the entire episode of this podcast Business Casual anywhere you get your podcasts. And please go ahead and subscribe to the Morning Brew YouTube channel and go ahead and click on that alarm bell. That thing right there so you can be alerted any time there's a new video.

2022-06-03 00:38

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