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Celebrating Asian American, Asian Canadian and Pacific Islander Heritage: Joann's Story of Authenticity and Empowerment

Joann C. | Consultant, Product Marketing | Texas, United States 


Originally Published: May 1st, 2024

Joann poses with two other women at a Dell Lunar New Year activity.

Growing up in Miami, Florida, Joann felt she always stood out. Outside of her immediate family, she was often the only Chinese or Asian person among her peers. Answering questions about where she was from or what food she ate at home became increasingly painful over time because it seemed to paint her as different. She felt such a growing sense of embarrassment that eventually she was compelled to conceal that part of herself.  


Since then, Joann has been on a journey of embracing her cultural identity and being her most authentic self. The Asians in Action Employee Resource Group (AiA ERG) at Dell Technologies has helped her along that journey. AiA has provided Joann opportunities to contribute to her company's diversity and inclusion initiatives, help grow an inclusive community and support others on their own journey of cultural identity.  


“Working here and being a part of AiA has been amazing because you get to find a community of peers with shared experiences,” Joann said. “You also find out that you share the same passions, specifically around elevating Asian cultural stories.” 


For Joann, the fun has been in more than connecting with people who share her Chinese roots but also meeting peers from other parts of Asia. “It helps me learn more, not just about my own identity, but about the very rich tapestry that makes up all of Asia,” Joann said. “People often have the misconception that Asian culture is a monolith, and it is not. While there are some commonalities, there are also many differences and nuances among all the various cultures. Dell has been the most Asian-diverse place I’ve ever worked.”  

Proudly Celebrating Chinese Culture 

From celebrating Lunar New Year and the Chinese tea ceremony to dragon dances and red envelopes, Joann now loves sharing cultural traditions and customs with her colleagues. The tea ceremony that occurs during Chinese weddings is deeply symbolic and holds a special place in her heart. “I’m actually getting emotional remembering my own tea ceremony,” Joann said. 


As part of the Chinese wedding, the couple will kneel or bow while offering cups of tea to their parents, siblings and family elders. This offering is a gesture of appreciation and reverence the bride and groom show to their family. In return, the parents and elders will bestow upon the couple gifts, red envelopes, and most importantly, a marriage blessing. 


“For the bride, it’s a very significant ceremony. You are acknowledging that the two families are now coming together, but you are also symbolically bidding goodbye to your own family. It is such a meaningful and beautiful way to honor and show appreciation. You are saying ‘Thank you for all the love, care and support. I couldn’t have done it without you.’ This particular tea ceremony is one of the deepest gestures of gratitude, love and respect I’ve experienced,” Joann shared. “Many of the other traditions I experienced are kind of mainstream — fun and really cute — but the tea ceremony was so special. When I got to do it with my mom, she cried, I cried — everybody cried.” 


Struggling with Microaggressions 

Owning her culture hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows, however. Members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities often face stereotypes and microaggressions because of their heritage and the way they look.  


“Dell is a great place to work, and it is very diverse, but sometimes microaggressions can still occur in unconsciously during interactions,” Joann said. “I know it isn’t coming from a bad place, but if it makes you feel uncomfortable you should address it professionally.” 


Her advice? 


“First, I let my manager know,” Joann said. “I say, ‘I had this interaction with this person. I know that it didn’t come from a malicious place, but it still made me feel a certain way. I want to minimize that kind of interaction moving forward.’ You offer it as a teachable moment and get your manager’s buy in and support.” 


Your manager and network are great allies when approaching difficult conversations. 


Joann also stressed the importance of recognizing that most microaggressions do not come with ill intent. When approaching the conversation, she recommends being transparent about your feelings and identifying if there is a specific outcome or action you want for the future.


“I’m very thankful that the few times I’ve confronted someone, they were always very respectful, apologetic, receptive to my feelings and open to change,” Joann said. “If you never say anything, nothing will be different.” 

A dragon dance during the Lunar New Year Celebration at Dell Technologies.

Achieving with Asians in Action 

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Joann is part of the leadership team that helps to plan the corporate observance and celebration. Last year they brought in big name speakers including Netflix’s Bling Empire star Kevin Kreider and Jason Lee of Jubilee Media. 


"The feedback we received indicated that people really connected with the theme, 'Through your lens: Being your authentic self.' We aimed to foster real conversations, embracing vulnerability and discussing topics typically avoided within Asian culture." Joann said.


Speaker sessions centered around mental health, vulnerability, and how to bring your full self to work every day, while acknowledging struggles with your work life, personal life or mental health. "Initially uncertain about how our theme and discussions would resonate with audiences due to the 'heaviness' of the topics, we were pleasantly surprised by the openness, engagement and willingness of Dell team members to connect and share their own experiences. Providing such an enriching experience for our team members left us feeling immensely proud,” Joann said. 


This year’s events are bound to be just as exciting with the theme 'Unbound: Breaking Boundaries, Inspiring Change, Building Bridges.' Once again, there is month-long programming, including a kickoff event, an expanded Asian in Austin Professional Tech Summit at the Asian American Resource Center. 


To learn more about life at Dell, visit Our Stories.

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