During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month we wanted to learn more about our Jam Citizens with Asian ancestry. Here are some of their unique stories, special moments, and advice that we’d like to share and celebrate with you:
Linda spent four and half years working in higher education before deciding to follow her passion – a career in talent recruiting. Linda drew on her own experiences of making a career change and funneled her lessons learned into helping others find their career path and following their dreams. Sharing wisdom from the communities she’s a part of, Linda encourages people to find safe spaces where they can voice their thoughts, learn, and share with others.
As for her upbringing, Linda did not always celebrate her culture. ”Growing up Chinese-Vietnamese American to immigrant parents, I wasn’t proud of who I was,“ Linda shared. ”I shunned everything that wasn’t westernized because it was hard living in a world that was so different from my own. Now that I’m a mom, I want my daughter to have a different experience. I want her to grow up surrounded by media, books, and toys with characters who look and live like her. I want her to love herself and have confidence in who she is and all the wonderful things that come with being her.“
The best piece of advice Walter received throughout his career is to not be afraid to ask questions or say that you don’t understand something. He likes to remind himself that by asking questions, you save time, instead of trying to figure it out on your own. Also, by not asking, you may misinterpret or misunderstand what’s being asked of you to begin with.
Walter celebrates the unique parts of each individual culture, and sees it as a significant part of community building. He says, “It’s a part of what makes you unique! ‘Melting Pot’ is a term that gets thrown around a bit, and while it’s absolutely important that we mix and match and get along, it’s also important to celebrate and acknowledge these individual cultures as well. I think in chasing this metaphorical melt, we’ve sometimes shed parts of our heritage and culture whether it’s language or food or whatever else, in order to conform a bit better… to fit in and not stick out.”
He also recognizes that freely expressing one’s culture in a diverse community is important. He goes on to share, “I think we’ve arrived now at a place where we recognize that being able to speak another language is a strength and not something to hide or be embarrassed about, that having a name in another language and a super cool zodiac animal according to your birth year is something that can be shared. There’s a legacy to it, a history that has made its way from generation to generation, and while you absolutely don’t need to partake in every aspect of your heritage, it would be beneficial to remember how special it is. For me, that means a lot of backpedaling and newfound appreciation, but it’s better late than never.”
Norma realized that pre-med wasn’t the right path for her and changed her major to game development after trying an elective that made her creative side thrive and rejoice. Her proudest moment at Jam City was the first time she saw a level she created go live in Cookie Jam (level 4336). “It was wonderful to see my creation in action for everyone to encounter and enjoy.”
While Norma proudly celebrates her heritage today, she was initially hesitant to embrace her Chinese and Vietnamese roots. She said, ”I want to be loud and proud of my heritage because when I was younger, I was timidly resentful of it. I even explicitly asked my mom to pack me PB&J sandwiches instead of rice bowls to school, because it got in the way of trying to fit in. It took me a long time to realize fitting in was never worth compromising who I was. I don’t care if anyone looks at my lunch funny anymore. It’s my lunch and life to enjoy not theirs! It’s part of living unapologetically and authentically to celebrate one’s heritage, which is directly tied to my personal growth values.“
Like many people around the world, food is often a heartwarming way to celebrate one’s culture, especially around major holidays. Norma shared, ”What I like most about Chinese & Vietnamese culture is the food – hands down. There are special lunar new year foods that I always look forward to eating with my family when I reunite with them! Meals are sacred in Asian families. Especially Lunar New Year meals. No matter what happens in life, we always try to come together for an epic dinner feast for Lunar New Year and do as much as we can to maximize our luck for the year. There is a dish called ‘fat choy’ (black moss) which looks like black hair, but you eat it for good luck on New Year’s Day because in Cantonese-Chinese, ‘Gong Hei Fat Choi’ is what you say to wish each other a happy new year imbued with lots of luck.“