Week 5: Breaking into Positions of Leadership

Pranett Chhunpen, 2018 CAUSE Leadership Academy

For our workshop this week, we had an assortment of guests in the CAUSE office including Asian-American women serving in the military to those in corporate positions. It was nice being in the office and seeing familiar faces after a small break.

Audrey Oh speaking to the 2018 CAUSE Leadership Academy

Our first set of guests included Evette Kim and Audrey Oh. Audrey is a member of the LGBTQ community who previously served as a sexual harassment resource and Evette works as a District Representative for Senator Anthony J. Portantino. I really enjoyed the way Audrey spoke about both the lack of and need for Asian Americans in leadership. She spoke on how many Asians are not speaking up about racism and how they are content with not bringing up the issue. There is a prejudice that “Asian people don’t lead and are often not recognized for their leadership” and it needs to change. Audrey believed so strongly in having Asian Americans in leadership positions, stating “If we can stand up for other people, we can stand up for ourselves. We need more voices to speak up for our own behalf.” During the session, Audrey was incredibly real and candid in her answers, even when asked whether her views of the military has changed after serving, to which she honestly replied, “Yes, if anything it got worse.” But she believes that from her position, “you can’t start change on the outside, you should start from the inside.”

Elnie Vannatim speaking to the 2018 CAUSE Leadership Academy

In the next panel on Corporate Government Affairs, we had the opportunity to hear from Elnie Vannatim, Senior Manager of Government Public Affairs at 21st Century Fox and John Tang, Director of Public Affairs & Communications at Reyes Coca Cola Bottling. Both are in the position to impact and contribute to the surrounding communities. Elnie was previously a Leadership Academy intern, so it was nice to see someone who graduated from the program doing good for the community. Her position at 21st Century Fox centered around policy and legislation more than I was expecting. She noted how it was crucial to have strong relationships with legislators and that she must remain bipartisan because the company pays her to represent them. Part of her job involves community investment, which meant doing good for the community she works with. For example, one of her recent projects focused on donating brand new equipment used on a previous television series to local community centers.

John Tang speaking to the 2018 CAUSE Leadership Academy

As for John, he also started in politics believing it to be a vehicle through which to change the community. He came from a hard-working immigrant family and wanted to relieve the burden for those going through what he experienced growing up. Surprisingly, John previously worked for Imprenta (my internship placement) and met his current employer while taking them on as a client there. Both speakers from the Government Affairs panel stressed the importance of creating and maintaining relationships. Being able to form alliances with legislators is a way to inform and educate them.

The range in speakers from our workshop really gave a well-rounded idea of what being involved in the community looks like, and I look forward to the new angles future speakers will have to offer.