Categories: belonging interviews

Celebrating Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Moz API

Each May, Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States. It is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate these cultures and how they influence people’s daily lives.

For API Heritage Month, the Moz API MRG — one of Mozilla’s employee resource groups — organized activities under the theme: “No longer invisible.” During group meetups and chats, Moz API members shared that they saw an increase in Asian and Pacific Islander representation in movies, TV, products, food and politics, and that having representation in those areas made them feel more “seen”. Throughout the month, Moz API organized events like a virtual tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, co-sponsored a cooking class with the Latinzilla MRG, with Chef and owner of A Taste of Philippines, Kathy Vega Hardy, trivia night, and panel discussion with employees and a guest speaker, Jingna Zhang, an art photographer and art director.

We caught up with a couple Moz API members to hear their thoughts about API Heritage Month:

How has your experience as an Asian/Pacific Islander-identifying person shaped your present-day identity?

Rosanna: As a Cambodian American, my identity is deeply rooted in resilience, harmony, and financial independence. My parents’ survival from the Khmer Rouge instilled in me a profound appreciation for life’s blessings and the importance of managing resources wisely. Their journey inspires me to embrace challenges with strength and determination, while fostering a sense of unity and balance in all aspects of my life. I make the most of every opportunity and contribute positively where I can.

Roland:  I was born in the Philippines and moved to Canada when I was 14 months old. I was raised in a small town in Ontario, Canada. The population was about 9,000 and my family were the only people of Asian heritage. Thanks to a stint in Germany and French in high school I can speak German and some French but not my Filipino heritage languages, Kapampangan or Tagalog. Culture of abundance is a Filipino trait I have taken beyond food to all aspects of my life. There was always food for friends and even strangers growing up. I try to be that inclusive and share as much as I can in all aspects of my life.

Stephen: As a second-generation Taiwanese-American, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have access to two worlds: my heritage and my geography. It’s been a rewarding–albeit sometimes painful–journey finding my own ways of reconciliation, and it’s given me a much deeper sense of perspective and empathy for everyone around me, especially for marginalized or less fortunate communities. Because of this, I try to use whatever success I have in life to make space so everyone rightly feels that they belong.

Elbert: As a child of Filipino immigrants who was born and raised in Los Angeles, I am incredibly grateful to be given a better opportunity than my parents’ and previous generations of my family ever had. At the same time, I want to establish appropriate boundaries between my own ambitions and aspirations with the expectations that come from an immigrant family who have sacrificed a lot to help put me in the position I am in now.

Karen: Community means everything to me, and I can absolutely attribute that to my 2nd generation Korean-American upbringing. In Korean terms, I want to build a sense of jeong (정)  with my partners, cross-functional stakeholders, and my team when I’m at work. I strongly believe that we can achieve great things together, aligned over shared values.

What does it mean to you to have API representation in your workplace?

Rosanna: It makes me feel seen, understood, and valued. It’s about breaking barriers and fostering a sense of belonging. I am able to relate to others who have similar experiences. It creates an environment where everyone feels respected and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives.

Roland: I look forward to someday 🙂 witnessing folks of Filipino heritage not being novelties in the C suite in the North American software industry. I am inspired by the increasing numbers of people who look like me (most of whom aren’t of Filipino heritage) in leadership but it is not yet enough.

Stephen: For me, it comes down to a matter of comfort through mutual understanding and shared lived experiences. My own background has taught me that every person draws on an immense lineage (whether that be professional, cultural, spiritual, academic, or otherwise), and we’re only able to see a little sliver of it at any point in time. We should strive to make everyone comfortable enough to bring their whole selves rather than forcing them to leave their identities at the door–why not extend this to the workplace?

Elbert: It feels validating to see others with similar backgrounds and shared experiences. It allows a diverse group to find commonalities and build deeper relationships with each other rather than only having surface level ones.

Karen: It makes me feel more at ease in the space I’m present in. To know that someone in the room or at the table can understand how I may be feeling due to having shared lived experiences or cultural expectations is a great motivator to engage, improve, and succeed. I would love to see more API leadership at the higher levels—we’ll get there!

Is there an API leader that you look up to?

Roland: All Filipino healthcare workers and caregivers worldwide are leaders by example. Maria Ressa for documenting what is really happening in the Philippines and Elaine Castillo for documenting (truth is stranger than her amazing fiction) the oppression of the Marcos years.

Stephen: I really admire Thich Nhat Hanh for making Buddhist teachings so approachable, not only on a personal level through engaged Buddhism but also on an international level through the Plum Village Tradition.

Elbert: API leaders who are in highly visible leadership roles in their respective industries. Seeing friends, acquaintances, and former classmates and colleagues rise through the ranks in their respective careers are inspiring examples of what is possible.

Karen: On my list of API inspirational leaders, I’d say Jingna Zhang comes to mind first these days. Through the odds, she stood up against racist and sexist vitriol online and fought–not only for her intellectual property, but also for the rights of many artists as parameters around creativity and ownership shift with new technologies. And she won.