Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Winning in the court of public opinion

Winning in the court of public opinion - the 1st step 
     The National Review, a conservative semi-monthly, has joined other prestigious papers and magazines like 

(2) 11/14, Wall Street Journal, " Harvard's Asian Problem ",
(3) 11/14, NY Times, " Is Harvard Unfair to AsAms? ",
(4) 12/14, The  Atlantic,  " Do diversity indirectly discriminate against AsAms?"
in publishing  a powerful article condemning college admissions based on "race preference."  Its title, in an article by John Fund published on Apr. 5, 2015, is
One Indian American says he overcame anti-Asian bias and got into med school by claiming he was black.

     " . . . . .But the group bringing the lawsuit,  Students for Fair Admissions, won a powerful PR ally this week : Vijay Chokal-Ingam, an Indian American who happens to be the brother of Fox comedy star Mindy Kaling, revealed that he won acceptance to medical school  by claiming to be black .  Frustrated at being rejected by medical schools in part because of mediocre test scores and a 3.1 grade point average, Chokal-Ingam shaved off his slick black hair in 2001, began using his middle name, "Jojo," and checked the "black" box on his applications. He soon won interviews at Harvard and Columbia and a spot on waiting lists at the University of Pennsylvania, Washington University, and Mt. Sinai.  . . . . "

 The EMPEROR, that calls itself "race-preference" college admissions, HAS NO CLOTHES!

     Good News? AsAm "Civil Rights" OrgsAwakening?

     OCAAPALCAAJC, & JACL all seem to be backing away from "race-preference" college admissions.  Until recently, they file amicus briefs to support that  policy.  I doubt if they'll do that again, thanks to all of you who stopped supporting them.

     Some of them, however, still speak out of both sides of their mouths -- a comical situation. 80-20 urges them to make a clean break with their past support of  "race preference" college admissions.  IF and when they'll  do so,  80-20 shall thank, salute, and  welcome them .   We'll inform you when it seems "safe" to support them again.

     Effectiveness!   That is 80-20's name. You need 80-20's effectiveness to protect your interests.  80-20 may demise soon.

     To DONATE  to SELFSelf Empowerment  Long-term Fund, 
                                         click  here.

     S.B. Woo, a volunteer for the past 15 years, President, 80-20 Asian Am. National Educational Foundation, Inc.

AALDEF of NY still supports "race conscious" college admissions.  Don't support it.

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80-20's Top 10 Accomplishment , published 3 years ago. 

Monday, April 06, 2015

An Open Letter - Why a 30 Year Old Finance Professional Supports 80-20 (Part II)

That kind of mentality followed me even after graduation.  Having experienced various internships in college, I realized that I enjoyed investments and wanted to eventually pursue that route.  I got a job as a business analyst in Boston for a large custodian bank.  It was a great introduction to finance but I wasn’t sure that was the right niche in the industry for me.  I wasn’t aware of mentors and didn’t have anyone who could advise me on a “path” or advise on how to reach my corporate aspirations being that my dad was a computer engineer and my mom was a real estate agent.  My parents kept telling me to “keep your head down, work hard and you’ll be rewarded eventually.”  And I followed their advice company to company.  It became second nature: always the first one in and the last to leave, volunteer for all the projects and tasks no one else wanted to do. 

I became the proverbial “work horse” in every department at every company I worked at.  But no matter how hard I worked or how much time and effort I put into a project, I kept getting passed up on those lucrative, high visibility projects.  And then, at my hedge fund job, I had my first “ah-ha” moment.  Although I was a quick learner and picked up systems and products and market knowledge much faster than my peers, I still wasn’t getting the type of visibility I wanted.  When the market tanked in 2008, I was laid off.  It felt like rock bottom: I was thousands of miles from home and jobless.

Luckily, I had built a great repertoire with former colleagues and through that network found a role with an asset manager.  Eventually, I moved on to the capital markets arm of a large reinsurance company where I worked my way from operations to a junior banker –like role on the alternative investments desk.  It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t a sexy job- there were long hours, late nights, weekends, and I was responsible for doing ALL the thankless work and getting none of the credit.  I worked hard to learn the lingo, the modeling, and the presentation skills and eventually I was researching and pitching my own deal ideas.  My third year there, markets were changing: rates were compressing which led to stiffer competition and eventually, our pipeline just wasn’t filling up fast enough.  I got tired of waiting for the visibility I wanted and after three years of late nights, weekends, and being everyone’s work horse, left the company for another financial services firm.

In retrospect, the experiences I’ve had are invaluable.  The skills I learned and the market, industry, and product knowledge I absorbed are easily transferable to so many different companies. But more importantly, I learned that being an “anomaly” in these companies—as an Asian American and female, I had to work twice as hard as my peers to get management’s attention but that once I got it, I had to continue to work twice as hard to prove myself continuously.   My “ah-ha” moment was that the trading desk is very much run like a frat house—there’s un-PC language, banter, activity that abounds and in order to be successful, I had to learn how to navigate it.  One major drawback for me was that I never had exposure to Americana pop culture growing up and as such didn’t get the references being made on the desk.  So, in my down time, I did my research: I binge watched as many 80’s movies so that the next time a Gordon Gecko reference was made, I could counter back with a witty response.

I’ll admit, at times, it is a blessing to be Asian American and having had the kind of upbringing I had. The work ethic my parents instilled in me at an early age has molded my higher-than-average tolerance of b.s. work and doing more work than my peers without much complaint.  On the other hand, it’s a curse as some of the stereotypical Asian characteristics have haunted me from time to time (especially in this industry) where being quiet, non-confrontational, risk averse are all negative traits! Although I’m none of these, people have their own prejudgments which makes for one more hurdle I need to invalidate with my track record and performance.  But what continues to surprise me is that even in the diverse Tri-state area, I still encounter people who are shocked to find out that I’m a born and raised Texan and accent-less!

 I first learned about 80-20 in a small 2x5 column in the Economist regarding its success in the overturning of a proposition in California. Prior to that article, I had no idea that such an organization even existed!  Who knew that there was an all-inclusive Asian American organization fighting for our rights and equality!  I did more research and reached out to Dr. S.B. Woo to see if he needed volunteers.  After much persistence, he agreed and voila! Here I am today, volunteering for an organization I am very proud of!

So why 80-20?

I have worked nearly 10 years in the financial industry in Boston, NYC, Greenwich and Stamford, CT – for companies of all sizes- multi-national corporations and small hedge funds.  Yet, in every environment I have worked in, I have noticed the same trend: very few Asian Americans.

On the one hand, I understand that many Asian Americans choose to go the medical or law route but it is a concern when a disproportionate percentage of CFA test takers at the Javits Center are of Asian heritage.

Based on my experiences, I have learned that it isn’t just about what you know (technical skillset) but people skills that matter.  This is where our parents did a slight disservice to us.  They conditioned us to keep quiet and focus on working hard—but while we are stuck at the office running multiple scenarios on a deal, the rest of the deal team is out socializing with other bankers and cultivating relationships.  

To me, 80-20 is a solid nonprofit that has been reaching out to all backgrounds aiming to unify all Asian Americans with the intent of fighting for and getting equal treatment in academia, the workplace, and beyond.  Check 80-20’s track record and you’ll find that it is a nonpartisan organization that isn’t afraid to take a stand and take action to right the wrong.

At the end of the day, what matters to me and what I am most passionate about is obtaining equal opportunity and equal treatment.  We need to educate ourselves and our children so that they are armed with the knowledge not just from a technical standpoint, but from a social standpoint as well.  We need to have an organization like 80-20 actively monitoring and alerting us about events and issues around the country that could have a negative impact on how Asian Americans are treated or perceived.  And lastly, we need to stop segregating ourselves by our ethnic backgrounds because we are viewed collectively as Asian Americans by non-Asians.  I hope that by uniting together, we can make an impact so that future generations will have equal access and equal opportunity to universities and careers of their choosing based on their own individual efforts and achievements and not on stereotypes.

 The author and her husband in New York City2014

An Open Letter- Why a 30 Year Old Finance Professional Supports 80-20 (Part I)

The author and her siblings in Dallas, TX 1991

I am a Taiwanese/Chinese-American and was born and raised in Texas; currently living in NYC.  My husband who is also a first generation ABC was born and raised in Queens. We are both in our early 30’s and both work in finance.  He’s a trader at a Swiss bank and I am an analyst in financial services.  Between juggling 60-70 hours a week at work to climb that corporate ladder and managing a family, I spend 20 hours a week volunteering for 80-20.

Why would I spread myself so thin? Why am I passionate about 80-20?

To understand why, I need to first divulge a little about my past!  Growing up in an area with few Asian Americans – there were three Asians in my elementary school: a family friend, my brother, and… me.  I grew up facing ignorance – name calling, racial slurs, and different treatment simply because I did not have the “right” hair, eye, or skin color.  My parents worked hard to make sure my siblings and I had a roof over our heads and food on the table.  They left their comfort zone – learned a foreign language, new skillsets, and tried hard to assimilate in this foreign environment.  School mates used to make fun of me because I brought leftover rice and dried pork for lunch while they ate their PB&J sandwiches.  But my parents instilled in us honest to God values and taught us to “turn the other cheek” when we encountered racial slurs or dirty looks and even went so far as to teach us to be color blind and to treat people as people and not based on their hair, eye, or skin color.  But as hard as my parents tried, it was hard for me, conscious of my differences, to take the proverbial “moral high ground”.  For example, when I was in 2nd grade, I wanted to join the Girl Scouts like all the other girls in my class.  When mom finally enrolled me, I was so uncomfortable in my troop that I stopped going to meetings after a few months. 

We were taught to “keep our head down, work hard, study hard, and excel” – and that’s how it was: we worked hard to have the highest grades in our classes, we learned piano and violin and practiced for hours every day, and then went to Chinese school on Saturdays.  If we got a 90 on a quiz, mom would ask us what happened to the other 10 points.  When we weren’t practicing an instrument or catching up on Chinese school homework, we were memorizing words from the dictionary! 

I didn’t fit the Asian stereotype: I wasn’t very good at math and science.  Well, not “Asian” good anyway. I was great at algebra but mediocre at calculus.  I even struggled with chemistry. On the other hand, I was a genius at the humanities, English, and history.  I ran on the track team and got tan, took all honors and AP classes, started a community outreach program, and worked part time at the mall.

In college, my first history midterm paper was selected to be catalogued at the main library as a reference for other freshmen.  Subconsciously, I knew my parents were hoping for a doctor in the family and so I obliged, declaring a biology and criminal justice double major.  Eventually, after not exceling in a few core classes, I decided to focus on my strengths and switched to history and pre-law double major.  After taking a few law classes, I lost interest in law and didn’t think I would enjoy teaching history so left my liberal arts school and transferred to a business focused college where I majored in management and marketing.  During undergrad, I worked part time as a cashier at CVS, interned part time at a stock brokerage, an outdoor advertising company, and a Chinese fast food restaurant.  I even worked for a professor one summer and managed to graduate summa cum laude!

I thought times had changed but even while attending college in New England, I still faced ignorance.  It wasn’t as pronounced as what I had endured growing up in Texas, but people would ask me where I was from and when I replied “Texas”, they would continue to question—to which I responded, “Are you inquiring my ethnicity?”  I even had professors who were “so amazed” at my perfect English even AFTER I said I was born and raised in Texas!  It was a double edged sword though: on the one hand, being Asian, everyone assumed I was great at math and a hard worker; but on the other hand, many assumed I wouldn’t mind doing all the work in group projects and sharing credit as a “team” effort!


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