My experience as an Asian-American
working in financial services
October 27, 2021
By John Dang, Director, First Line Risk Management Office & Leadership Mentee
A few years ago, I was with some Asian-American friends who commented about how I’ve made it in financial services – how I had broken through the bamboo ceiling, and how my communication and mannerisms have changed.
My friends probably intended this as a passing comment, but it has stayed with me until this day. What did they mean? Had I changed purposely to fit in? Was that the only path to success?
I have often contemplated how I have progressed in my career and become a leader, and what guidance I can give other employees of color who are interested in doing the same.
The truth is, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have my previous and current leaders at Schwab be active champions of diversity and inclusion (D&I), which involved intentional discussions and workshops about D&I and career development in regular team forums.
They are part of a strong network of influencers and champions who have played a big role in my career path, recognizing my potential and advocating for me. That network was built, in part, through mentorships.
"When I heard about Schwab’s new mentorship program focused on career development for employees of color, I thought it was great that the company was making investments in underrepresented employees. I knew immediately that I wanted to get as much out of the program as I could and pass along my learnings to others. This is one way that I can champion D&I."
I was paired with René Kim, managing director of Digital Banking Solutions, as my mentor. She has more than 20 years tenure at Schwab and an amazing track record with the firm.
I felt comfortable talking with her about the challenges I face as an Asian-American in the industry, and the questions I wrestle with about how I landed in a leadership role while some of my Asian-American friends struggle to do the same.
Typical first-time mentorship meetings begin with a discussion of level-setting expectations and areas for growth.
However, my first meeting wasn’t typical. I couldn’t help but share my questions about whether I was bringing my authentic self to the organization every day, based on my friends’ comments.
Fortunately, my mentor was understanding, and her thoughtful, clarifying questions really helped me think introspectively. Was I changing? Have I remained my true, authentic self along the way? Or have I conformed to fit a certain image in order to get a seat at the table?
The short answer is, “No.” I’m still myself, but I’ve become a stronger leader, a better communicator, and someone who can build rapport that’s more sincere.
I have been fortunate to work at a company that encourages me to show up as my authentic self, to maintain my Asian-American heritage, while also giving me experiences that help me grow in my career.
I couldn’t be more excited about having René as a mentor, to hear her leadership insights, and talk with her about my career aspirations and how I can continually improve as a leader.
By participating in the mentorship program and advocating that other diverse employees do the same, I hope to advance D&I at Schwab.
It’s okay to change and grow, as long as you’re clear on the outcomes you want to achieve and remain true to your values. No matter who you are, you have to make it known what you want in your career and find people in positions of influence who will support you along the way.
This program is designed specifically to help employees of color do just that. It’s a huge opportunity.
About the author:
John Dang is both a people leader responsible for the data analytics and reporting function in Schwab’s First Line Risk Management Office and a member of the Asian Professional Inclusion Network at Schwab. He’s located in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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