This guest post was written by attendees of the 2018 Ascend National Convention in San Francisco. This post originally appeared on our Protiviti Careers blog.
In late August, we had the opportunity to attend the Ascend conference in San Francisco. Ascend, the largest non-profit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals, executives and students in North America, aims to provide development opportunities and career enhancement to Pan-Asian Talent.
This year’s convention theme was “Innovate and Evolve” and the Protiviti team certainly embraced the theme as we learned from each other and evolved in thought. It was truly a fulfilling and mind-opening experience to hear notable speakers discuss their career path and experiences to overcome the “bamboo ceiling,” attend breakout sessions featuring the newest industry hot topics and promote Protiviti to top talent at the Ascend Career Fair. Our time at the conference was not only informative and inspiring, but we had plenty of fun as well, including a team night out at an Asian Fusion restaurant, autographed art prints from the Pixar production team, private discussions with the President of Ascend and even a nighttime yoga class! Although it was a short convention, our team created a strong bond. We look forward to continuing to fuel awareness of Protiviti’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and share our experiences.
At the conference, there were numerous inspiring speakers from the Asian community who came from diverse career backgrounds and industries. “The Ascend National Convention opened our eyes to a supportive network,” says Kevin, Protiviti Data & Analytics Manager. “We had access to innovators, industry leaders and inspirational role models. We bonded with other Ascend members over experiences and stories, and shared different ways or promoting diversity and inclusion.”
Many of the speakers, were entrepreneurs, executives, partners and senior management across within their companies, which ranged from large consulting firms to companies such as Disney, HSBC, AT&T and The Clorox Company. Topics ranged from career advancement, mentorship and leadership to community and innovation.
The conference also offered several breakout sessions where industry experts provided insight on new and top-of-mind technology trends like blockchain, bitcoin and cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. The Diversity & Inclusion breakout sessions promoted strong conversation and a ton of networking opportunities. Jeffrey, Protiviti Internal Audit Senior Consultant, describes the Ascend conference as an opportunity for “folks, Pan Asian or not, to understand how our network can break through the bamboo ceiling to bring more value to our respective organizations and communities.”
Know your story and be comfortable telling others. Be authentic. Throughout your career, craft the story that you want to share. Embrace your heritage, know your value, know what your “superpowers” are and what makes you unique.
“It’s not your y-intercept that matters, it’s your slope”. When it comes to career growth, it does not matter where you started, it is more important to focus on the progress that you have made/ can make. When you’re thinking about your career path, optimize that path for learning. Have an iterative growth mindset.
“Find your team’s complementary superpowers”. The goal of a good leader is to find or develop people who are or become better than you are in certain skills. Optimize your team so that they can grow their skills/ superpowers, then trust in their expertise.
“Become fearless – jump off the cliff and learn to grow wings as you’re falling”. Be fearless. Do enough to earn respect and the right to ask. Always ask for opportunities. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get.
“Get out there, help each other and be part of the rising tide”. Diversity needs to be an active, conscious effort where everyone has an equal shot. Find the right allies who think about the world differently and who are actively trying to remove unconscious bias and leverage them to advance in your career. Individual actions can pull an entire community forward.
“Pan-Asians value community, and Ascend over delivered with a tight-knit, nationwide community for Asian business professionals to support each other and foster an environment for convenient idea/experience sharing. This community helped fund my education with scholarships and mentored me as I transitioned to the working life. Four years into my membership and second year having the honor of attending the National Convention, I continue to be inspired by my Ascend family. I was very happy to be reunited with my Ascend family again in San Francisco to witness each other’s evolvement since the last gathering, continue learning successful Diversity and Inclusion practices at other firms, and connect with new industry thought leaders. In addition, I was ecstatic to further integrate my Protiviti family with my Ascend family as Protiviti representatives across solutions and geographical locations joined me at this year’s convention. The memories from my convention experience with Kevin, Cora, Ashley, Jeff and Elaine shall stay with me forever, and we hope to represent and bring pride to the firm again next year in D.C..”
– Jennifer, Protiviti Internal Audit Senior Consultant, Houston
“Seven years ago, I attended the Ascend convention in New York as a student representative from the UT Dallas (UTD) chapter. Last month, I attended the convention again in San Francisco as a representative from the Protiviti team. A simple switch from the trying to land a job side of the table to trying to attract talent side of the table made me reflect back on my journey. Coming to the states alone from China when I was 21, I have been very grateful for having so many wonderful mentors in my life, especially those met through Ascend and Protiviti. While in school, one mentor told me to branch out and learn English, so I joined a services sorority without knowing what the word ‘sorority’ meant. Another mentor recommended for me to do a 2 weeks ‘Starbucks Challenge’ where we go to Starbucks, strike up a conversation with a stranger, and maintain it for at least 30 min. I chickened out for the first time but then enjoyed the stepping-out-of-my-comfort-zone experience so much that I continued it for 6 months. After starting work, numerous mentors from Protiviti guided me throughout my career and built up my leadership skills while enjoying work life balance, but Ascend remains dear to me. I am where I am today all because of these great mentors in my life. Now, what can each of us do to continue building up our community and our people? I got the opportunity to ask a question to a successful Asian female Big 4 Partner on stage at the recent convention: ‘There are 20 plus UTD students and students from around the country. I wanted to ask a question on behalf of them. Given your experience and interaction with first generation of immigrants into US, what can a student learn and be successful in professional world?’ The answer was simple, but powerful – make yourself seen. I achieved my goal to give back to my community when I took the courage to ask the question. This is when I realized that I have transitioned from one being mentored by Ascend to someone who can be the voice for others and mentor the next generation of leaders.”
– Elaine, Protiviti Internal Audit Manager, Dallas
“It was my first time attending the Ascend conference and it would be an understatement to say that it has changed the way I view my career and my perspective as an Asian professional. Hearing from speakers who had a similar upbringing and cultural experience as me felt fresh and uplifting. However, if I had to pick one theme that I took away from the conference, it would be the power of supportive mentors and networks. At Ascend, I had the opportunity to meet a leader from The Clorox Company, who created his own unique title/position within his company and taught me the power of crafting your own career path by focusing on your strengths and interests. But perhaps the most impactful of all were our own Protiviti colleagues who attended the conference with me and who I now consider to be my dear friends; their ambition, drive, intelligence and support inspire me to aim further and push the boundaries of my career advancement.”
–Cora, Business Performance Improvement Manager, New York
“As someone who is not of Asian descent, but has a profound interest in promoting Diversity and Inclusion initiatives and has grown up with an immense passion for studying Asian cultures and languages, this conference was particularly eye-opening for me. I was not only able to learn more about Asian-American perspectives on the workplace and the path to executive leadership, but was able to exchange ideas with my fellow participants on how to foster a more inclusive environment at work and celebrate Asian diversity and uniqueness. I feel so honored to have had the opportunity not only to attend the Ascend Pan Asian Leaders Conference, but to attend it with my incredible Protiviti colleagues – expect big things to come from this #dreamteam in the future!”
– Ashley, Protiviti Learning & Development Coordinator, Charlotte