Community Spotlight: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Your stories have power. They bring ideas to life and can shape how others see the world, and here at Hearts, we use stories to build community. 

This is one of many posts in our Community Spotlight Series, where we feature Hearts who identify with a group and have important conversations about how we can support one another. 

Throughout the series, we will work closely with these individuals to create an experience where they can share their culture with fellow Hearts. We’ll hear directly from them about their lives, the safe spaces they’ve created to live their truth, and how we can be better allies. 

And then we listen. 

Because more than ever, stories that celebrate our differences need to be heard.

Amplifying a scope of cultures

This May, we take the time to celebrate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ crucial role in our shared history. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) encompass over 50 distinct ethnic groups spanning a variety of heritages. 

As we amplify their voices and stories, it’s important to recognize the many individual differences experienced within each unique culture. Beyond Asian American and Pacific Islander Month (AAPIM), educating ourselves on diverse cultures helps to eliminate stereotypes and broaden perspectives so that every person’s unique story can be embraced with an open mind. 

Here’s what we’re doing to recognize AAPIM at Hearts & Science:

Hearts Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Wellness Class: Monday, May 13, 2024, at 3 p.m. EST
The art of mindfulness is deeply integrated into Asian daily life and culture. Practice and learn about the diverse traditions rooted in AAPI culture and experience the benefits of centuries-old healing practices such as meditation. This class will equip us with the tools to reduce stress and increase a sense of peace, calm, and well-being.

The ALN Presents: Get Caked: Tuesday, May 14, 2024, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. PST
To celebrate AAPIM, the Asian Leadership Network (Omnicom Media Group’s Business Resource Group) will host a fireside chat with executive leaders from Reddit and Omnicom, who will discuss the diverse identities within the AAPI community and how to move beyond simplified stereotypes. Attendees will also create pancake art in honor of AAPIM.

Safe spaces to share

How daily walks have transformed Rowena’s perspective

In the early 1970s, Rowena’s parents immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S., where she was born and raised. She describes her upbringing as “typical” for a Filipino family—family-centric with an unspoken pressure to succeed.

During Rowena’s early years, her parents expressed shared dreams of coming to America to create a better life for themselves and their children. Her parents made a lot of sacrifices, which often came with reminders for her to achieve—to study, get good grades, and make money so she could buy a house. 

Moving to the U.S., her parents had to acclimate to their new surroundings. With that, the Filipino language and many other traditions weren’t passed on, while certain traditions became part of her upbringing.

“One tradition that is ingrained in me is Family, which I’ve passed on to my girls. Family is everything. You take care of your elders and be respectful.”

For Rowena, this tradition often meant putting others’ needs before her own. Yet, she’s found guidance and new perspectives among her colleagues at Hearts & Science, where she feels accepted in a diverse group. They’ve encouraged her to set better boundaries, both personal and professional. 

One day, a colleague suggested Rowena take a walk outside to help manage her feelings of stress and isolation (during remote work at home). “I could hear the birds. I could breathe in fresh air. I was away from the computer. It really was a recharge.” 

Walking was eye-opening for her. What started as a caring suggestion from a colleague has become so much more. Today, daily walks are Rowena’s safe haven.

While some of Rowena’s pressures to achieve continue to build through adulthood, daily walks have been an opportunity for her to reflect, find balance, and break free from people-pleasing. She now seeks out time in nature as a way to de-stress.

As an adult, she has a better appreciation for the strictness her parents provided growing up. In some ways, this structure has helped her to hit deadlines at work. But, as Rowena has learned healthy personal boundaries, it’s this balance that she hopes to pass on to her daughters—a strong work ethic paired with healthy boundary setting.  

Nowadays, Rowena’s two daughters have started to show interest in their Filipino heritage. As a result, Rowena has developed a curiosity to learn more about her roots. She’s turned to reading books about traditions and food and asking her mom to share stories of her upbringing. 

Pro tip: When you’re working on setting healthy boundaries, think of what you’d say to your younger self. Know that you don’t need to take everything on your own shoulders. Rowena shares, “It’s ok to speak up and ask for help. Everything will turn out ok.”

How Gaurav learned to thrive in diversity

Gaurav grew up in India and was one of three children in a middle-class family. As a youngster, Gaurav recounts that he was always very active—in academics and also in sports. 

In 2019, he made the courageous decision to come to the U.S. to pursue his master’s degree as an international student in Information Systems at Pace University. He knew he had a special passion for data analytics, solving puzzles, and uncovering helpful insights.

When Gaurav first arrived in the U.S., he acknowledged that he felt a little bit lonely and, for a while, was self-conscious about his communication skills. 

“When I would speak to people, even if I would say something with nice intentions, I was still never sure how they would react.”

In India, he explains that people are quite accepting of others from different regions and religions, but at the end of the day, they’re all Indian. So, being in the United States, which has so much ethnic diversity, was a totally new experience for Gaurav. 

“In university, I had to do project work and teamwork, so that kind of exploded my bubble. It was forced, but it was a good thing.”

When he found himself in New York, in unfamiliar social territory, his drive for growth kicked in. He began putting himself out there through networking events and trying to just talk to people more, even when they had different backgrounds. Gaurav was able to bond with a handful of others who were “in the same boat” as him—in a new culture, far from home. He feels these connections offer him a safe space to be himself, and he still keeps in touch with those friends today. 

To his delight, Gaurav was surprised to find little commonalities between his culture and others. For example, when he first tried Latino food with a friend from South America, he found the flavors and spices reminiscent of Indian food. 

With a previous manager who was from China, he realized they shared a family-oriented attitude, where children often live in the same house as their parents into adulthood. Despite differences, Gaurav learned to connect with diverse groups over these commonalities. 

Gaurav notes that the culture at Hearts & Science has also been very warm and welcoming and that people go out of their way to make him feel comfortable. He explains that in India, at work, you only do tasks that are asked of you. He appreciates the fact that at Hearts, new ideas are welcomed by leadership and voices are heard.

When Gaurav isn’t working as a Data Analyst on the Marketing Sciences team at Hearts, he enjoys playing tennis and exploring new places in nature by hiking and camping. He can also be found sampling the good Indian food from restaurants in his neighborhood.

Pro tip: Gaurav believes that in order to get over the fears of talking to others from different backgrounds, it helps to try to be a safe space for them. “When I was still nervous in the beginning, I would try to offer other people a safe space, and usually you get that back in return.”

Work should be a safe space, too

Hearts & Science is dedicated to building a space where its employees are recognized and feel seen. There are many ways we are supporting inclusion efforts.

Here are some initiatives that we’re supporting:

  1. Participate in a network. Hearts & Science invites employees to access Omnicom Media Group’s Asian Leadership Network and have a voice in how the company supports Asian employees and allies. Don’t have one at your company? Contact your human resources department and be the force for change that starts one. 
  2. Attend upcoming company events. Attend every company event that you can. Learn, enjoy, represent your perspective, and share feedback on how your company can create truly inclusive programming. If you don’t have any events, start some. 
  3. Show your support. Hearts requested custom email signatures celebrating and supporting causes and heritage months throughout the year. They are now available to all employees. It’s one small gesture you can make to colleagues and partners to show your support for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

What individuals can do:

  1. Own up to mistakes. If you do or say something offside and someone calls you on it, your first instinct might be to go on the defensive. Instead, thank the person who provided the correction, learn from it, and move on. 
  2. Share your platform. If you have a social media following and want to make a positive difference, consider sharing content from underrepresented voices. Amplifying the perspectives of others can help create empathy and understanding while also inspiring action. 
  3. Explore Asian/Pacific Art. Consider the diverse cultures of the AAPI community by looking at Asian art. Check out the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.
  4. Learn to stand up against hate. Using resources like Right to Be, we can take free training or read articles and tips about standing up against hate, taking action, and showing support. Knowing how to handle tough situations can make all the difference.

Andriena Coleman, director of DE&I at Hearts & Science, shares, 

“Hearts is a workplace where new ideas can flourish. Together, this community of amazing individuals changes and grows through unique experiences and perspectives. Our differences are celebrated and truly invaluable to our organization.”

There is so much we can learn from the diversity of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Attend an event or show your support as you reach out, listen, and educate yourself this month and throughout the year.