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What is life like for the Asian American man in 2015?

I didn’t really think much about how my own race/ethnicity affected my life until 2011, when I read the ludicriously long piece in New York Magazine. It was called Paper Tigers, with the subtitle: “What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?” and it covered issues I had discussed occasionally with friends but rarely saw elsewhere.

Questions like how come Asians are rarely in leadership positions despite being “so smart”? Or is it possible to maintain traditional Asian values like being humble in a loud, show-off-to-get-ahead world? Or why the hell was dating so damn hard?

I thought Wesley Yang’s article was going to lead to a national conversation about these issues, given that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua had been all over the media for months. But it didn’t happen. It’s understandable in some respects because he admits that he is “in most respects devoid of Asian characteristics”. While born to Korean parents, he does not: speak Korean, believe in Asian values, date Korean women or have any Korean friends. Maybe this was all he wanted to say about being an Asian man.

And yet, there’s more to our story.

Asians are the fastest growing minority group in America, while in sheer number are far fewer than blacks or latinos. a far smaller minority group compared with blacks and latinos, but are also growing faster than either. We often get lumped into the same category as whites in tech diversity reports, but when it comes it executive leadership, Asians are 2.5x less likely to be in an executive role compared to whites.

I was having some conversations with an old friend of mine, who’s Chinese, and who has been grappling with these issues both at work (he’s a resident at a hospital in NYC) and in his dating life (where he’s single again after a 3 year relationship). He encouraged me to write more about this topic, and I decided that if I were to do that, I’d need a lot more than a few stories from my own life and from my friends.

So I’m collecting some data via a side project called The Asian American Man Survey.


Already, over 100 East, South, and Southeast Asian men living in the United States have taken the study, sharing their perspectives on how they’re treated compared to whites, and non-Asian minorities, how they feel their race affects their opportunities at work, and how it plays a role in who they date and who they settle down with.

If you’re are an Asian man living in America or you know some who might be interested in this, I’d love if you could share this study with them.

I’ll be closing results on November 30th and sharing results sometime in December.

Photo Credit: See-Ming Lee


The 10x Job Application: What You Do When You Really Want the Gig

We talk a lot about the war for talent: the idea that organizations need to fight to recruit, retain, and grow great people. Harvard Business Review recently put it this way:

“Finding and nurturing ambitious, hard-driving, and international-minded managers and technical staff are major challenges for multinationals and will become ever more crucial. HR operations at many companies have traditionally been seen in terms of compliance, record keeping, and support. But as talent shortages grow more acute in idea-intensive industries, human capital management should become a much higher strategic priority.”

The Future and How to Survive It (HBR October 2015)

But one of the biggest challenges in the war for talent is identifying who those top performers are. Continue reading…


The Rise and Fall of Product Lines

I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to the growth of certain popular products — both physical and media [1]. The pattern looks like this:

Company develops a breakthrough product

A unique product hits the market. It looks or operates in a way that feels distinct in an important way. It’s aggressively different from other things on the market.

  • iPod: bigger, heavier and more expensive than the tiny mp3 players on the market, but has a solid battery life and a massive amount of storage
  • Vibrams: shoes that look like gorilla feet, but some people swear it gets rid of their knee pain / plantar fasciitis
  • Marvel’s X-Men: a fictional team of superheros who are ordinary people with mutant abilities – depicted in comic books, tv shows, video games and movies

Continue reading…


First Impressions at Etsy

It’s been about two months since I started at Etsy as a product manager on the Seller Experience team. I strongly believe that first impressions fade quickly so it’s important to try to capture them in the moment. I won’t be talking about product management at Etsy but more broadly how the company culture has felt for a new employee like me.

Staff = Admin. We often use the term admin to refer to the people who work at Etsy. This terminology comes from the fact that Etsy started as a community website for crafters which had (and still has) a strong forum presence. Continue reading…

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MIT Grads Make More than Harvard Grads & Other Things I Learned From the College Scorecard

College is on my mind these days. It’s been over a decade since I was a college freshman but I mentor a young woman through Minds Matter who is a high school senior in Brooklyn, and preparing her college lists. My little sister is a junior and college is on her mind too.

There are a lot of fairly bogus rankings out there which are based on largely reputation factors, algorithms that change year to year, and mostly consider inputs rather than outputs of the college education. Atlantic’s wonderful (and wonderfully titled) article Your Annual Reminder to Ignore the US World News & Report College Rankings has more on this.

However, all is not lost. Continue reading…