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
Nancy Kim, Director, Data Science & Analytics, Santa Barbara, CA
How long have you worked at CJ? 6.5 years
How did you get your start at CJ Affiliate? I started as a Sr. Analyst focused on helping clients in the finance industry.
Please share more about your cultural background and your roots: I was born in Los Angeles to Korean immigrants. My dad joined the US Army to learn English and eventually became a small business owner after completing his military service. While my dad encouraged my sisters and me to assimilate to American culture, my grandmother, mother, and aunts were a driving force in keeping the family connected to our Korean heritage through language, stories, and food.
How do you celebrate your culture? My family celebrates our culture through food! I have a strong matriarchal family with lots of aunts and sisters so there’s a lot of bonding in the kitchen. Whether it's sitting as a group making dozens of mandu (Korean dumplings) and dduk (steamed rice cakes) for Lunar New Year, eating miyeokguk (seaweed soup) for birthdays, or kalbi (Korean BBQ) for pretty much any occasion, food plays an integral part of all our celebrations.
How does your cultural background shape your "everyday self" at work? Growing up, my mother would tell my sisters and me to “always have a good carrier.” We took that advice to mean she wanted us to find good partners in life, which is pretty common in many Asian cultures—older generations particularly stress making a "good match" when getting married. I used to roll my eyes a lot and tell her I'd do my best.
It wasn't until I was about 12 years old that I realized she was actually saying, "always have a good career", which my sisters and I had misunderstood due to her accent! As part of a strong matriarchal family, she felt it was important to be independent and to shape our own way in life. I took that to heart and have worked hard to grow my career over the years. I'm privileged now to be part of a growing percentage of women who are the breadwinners for their families, and I credit that work ethic and drive to succeed to my mom's advice over the years.
Who or what inspires you? The women in my family inspire me every day—my grandmother, mother, sisters, and aunts. They all work so hard at their respective jobs while also being caregivers for their families. I'm not always as graceful, patient, and kind as they are, but they inspire and challenge me to take a pause and focus on what's important in life.
Are there any organizations or causes you want to highlight?Artists at Play produces theatrical programming that explores the Asian American experience in the Los Angeles community. #StopAsianHate
Sabrina JiEon Hwang, Global Account Manager, Publisher Development, New York, NY
How long have you worked at CJ? Two years in July!
How did you get your start at CJ Affiliate? 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 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 in our core values to 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 decided to host 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 to help drive the most revenue for my clients. As I mainly manage Korea and Japan 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, 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 in March this year. 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 Partnerships Manager, Los Angeles, CA
How long have you worked at CJ? 3 months!
How did you get your start at CJ Affiliate? 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.