May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. This commemorative month, first established as a week by Congress in the late 1970s and expanded to a month in the early 90s, honors the contributions and significance of AAPI individuals in the US and celebrates the rich heritage and cultures of Americans from or with ancestors from the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.
To celebrate and honor AAPI Heritage Month, we invited CJ employees who identify as AAPI to tell us more about their roots, how they celebrate their culture, and the important organizations we should know about right now. #StopAAPIhate
Sabrina JiEon Hwang, Global Account Manager, Publisher Development, New York, NY
How did you get your start at CJ? I was recruited by our amazing talent acquisition manager, Dawn Tice, on LinkedIn! I was looking for a transition after my first job out of college and CJ was a perfect fit for me!
Please share more about your cultural background and your roots. I'm from the Republic of Korea and I grew up in Korea until I was 16. I came to the US as a sophomore in high school, went to college in Atlanta, and decided to stay in the US for my career. All of my family is in Korea and I miss them so much, but I'm grateful for the sacrifice my family has made for me to come to the US for higher education and for my career.
How do you celebrate your culture? I celebrate Korean culture through Korean food and Korean TV shows/movies! Once in a while, I spend the day watching Korean shows or movies, eating Korean food, and catching up over long calls with my family in Korea.
Koreans are also known for their love of spicy food! My favorite spicy Korean food is Tteokbokki (tuk·bow·kee), which is a spicy rice cake dish. Tteokbokki is a common snack food in Korea. I love making it super spicy at home and sweating through eating it.
What's something you'd like others to know about your culture? Despite numerous hardships in the 1900s, such as Japanese colonization, the Korean War, and IMF (Financial Crisis), Korea achieved "The Miracle of Han River" and transformed itself from a developing country to a developed country in a mere four decades. Korea is now one of the top 15 countries in total GDP in the world and I'm very proud to say that Korea is the only country that previously received aid from the UN that’s now giving back to the UN to help other countries in the world.
This explosive economic growth would not have been possible without the resilience and hard work of the Korean people— it's one of our core values. We always take care of one another, do our best in any circumstances, and strive for the better as a community.
What's your favorite thing from your culture? I love our holidays, especially Lunar New Year and ChuSeok (Korean Thanksgiving) where families all come together to celebrate with delicious food and traditions. For both holidays, we cook a lot of food, such as various types of savory pancakes, called Jeon, rice cakes, braised meat, and so much more! I certainly miss these yearly gatherings, which is why I've hosted my own Lunar New Year and ChuSeok dinner ever since I moved to NYC.
How does your cultural background shape your "everyday self" at work? Koreans are all about hard work, achieving excellence, and community. I bring these same values to work every day! I love collaborating with CJ colleagues from different teams, such as Client Dev, US Pub Dev, and Network Quality, and I'm always looking for ways to provide excellent account management service and help drive the most revenue for my clients. As I mainly manage Korean and Japanese markets, I oftentimes have late evening calls, but it makes me really happy to hear great feedback from my clients and to see their platforms grow!
Who or what inspires you? My mom inspires me every day. As a single mom, she sacrificed everything for me and my success. She has shown me what hard work looks like and taught me the value of self-improvement and the importance of learning. She worked tirelessly at her business and I'm so proud that she has grown her business without having prior industry knowledge or experience. She always likes to challenge herself and learn new things. In the last couple of years, she has tried aerial yoga, swimming, and photography, and now she is learning horticulture and landscaping. She inspires me to be a better version of myself every day and she shows me by example.
Are there any organizations or causes you want to highlight? I would like to highlight Stop AAPI Hate. There’s been a significant increase in hate crimes against the AAPI people since the pandemic. I was actually verbally accosted by a stranger on the NYC subway couple of years ago. This was a very scary experience for me, and I would like everyone to know that these hate crimes can happen to any one of us. Please consider reaching out to your friends and family who identify as AAPI to show your support and also consider donating to Stop AAPI Hate, so this organization can continue to spread awareness and build a supportive platform for the community.
"I would like everyone to know that these hate crimes can happen to any one of us. Please consider reaching out to your friends and family who identify as AAPI to show your support and also consider donating to Stop AAPI Hate."
- Sabrina JiEon Hwang
Irene Li, Client Development Manager, Los Angeles, CA
How did you get your start at CJ? I first heard about CJ in my previous role as we were working with a competitor. My role was in live entertainment ticketing and I was part of the first round of pandemic layoffs. After some time off, I found the role through LinkedIn and I'm very glad I did!
Please share more about your cultural background and your roots. I am Cantonese/Chinese American. My parents came to Los Angeles in the late 80s from a village in Southern China.
What's something you'd like others to know about your culture? Humility is celebrated in my culture, but it can sometimes come off as a weakness (and something to be taken advantage of) in Western culture. That is something that I took for granted for a long time, and I see the value in it now.
How does your cultural background shape your "everyday self" at work? I talked about humility earlier and I think that has helped me build empathy professionally for my colleagues and for clients. I can never assume that I know everything, and vice versa, never assume that my clients know nothing.
Who or what inspires you? Ali Wong, Chloé Zhao, Lisa Ling, and many others for breaking glass ceilings in industries dominated by people who do not look like us. Growing up, the only person that I saw on tv who looked like me was ice skater Michelle Kwan. We’ve come so far, but there’s still a long way for us to go.
Who is your role model and why? My parents. They taught me the importance of hard work without sacrificing empathy for others. They built so much of their lives with so little and are still somehow the most generous people I know.