Hey again, everyone! Fiona here — alongside our Community-focused AAPI Heritage Month blog post, we also wanted to give some of my fellow AAPI teammates and company leaders at Discord a chance to share their own experiences and stories.
Alix Sharp is a bonafide multi-talented rockstar at Discord. On the Customer Experience team, she offers top-notch support and guidance across the community. Within the company, she’s a member of the AAPI’s ERG and one of the leads of the Pride ERG (for the LGBTQ+ community). Both positions see her working hard day in and day out to make sure people’s voices are heard…but for Alix, it’s only the beginning.
Having spent most of her life in Japan and Hawai’i, Alix is fluent in both English and Japanese. That’s a skill she leverages in her very own community: HonYaks Video Game Localization (“honyaku” being the Japanese word for “translation”). HonYaks offers translation and localization support among peers across the entertainment industry and has been expanding to even more industries around the world. As one of the leaders of the Yak Pack, Alix believes that understanding the cultural context is a crucial goal when it comes to localizing content. “Being able to translate is one thing, but to truly research, get the context behind the intent of the translation then executing it is a logic puzzle. If [you] do the puzzle just right, everyone will see a masterpiece.”
It’s incredible that Alix balances these already daunting positions with a college workload. Not only is she a full-time student, she’s involved in the actual student government: a representative of her campus’ STEM community. It’s a lot to have on your plate, but it’s that same drive which pushes her to juggle a full-time job, a translating community, a full course load, and both leadership and membership in multiple activist causes that makes her such an invaluable part of Discord. As she puts it: ”Being the agent of change in the time that the world is hurting by being a proactive advocate for my peers is something that’s fulfilling.”
The challenges Alix sets for herself are daunting. But no matter what she comes up against, she finds the strength to push on. “Don’t ever give up. Move forward, no matter what. Pick people out of the shadow and into the light.”
Kelly Liang leads Discord’s Business Development efforts and her team’s mission is to invest in strategic partnerships that further Discord’s vision to create space for communities and for everyone to find belonging. Growing up in the US however, that sense of belonging didn’t always come easily to her.
Kelly admits that she wrestled with her Asian American identity and bi-cultural upbringing. While she loved being multilingual, foods like dumplings and sesame rice balls, and celebrating cultural holidays, she was also aware of not quite being able to fit in — whether it was because of her physical appearance or feeling self conscious when her parents met her friends and spoke in broken English.
Just recently, my daughter shared with me the song called ‘Stand Out Fit In’ by One OK Rock,” Kelly reflects. “Listening to the song lyrics reminded me of the inner conflict that I too often felt in my youth, the desire to ‘stand out’ and achieve from my humble beginnings but also wanting to not draw attention to myself to avoid exclusion or ridicule.
Nowadays, Kelly actively embraces and takes pride in her AAPI heritage. In both professional and social settings, rather than forcing herself to be a “culture fit” in each situation, she finds herself asking how she can be a “culture add”. It’s still not always the easiest path but she chooses to push forward and lead by example.
One of my favorite quotes that I embrace deeply is: ‘Staying in your comfort zone doesn’t make your world safe, it makes your world small.’ This is advice that I wish I could have shared with my younger self whenever I came upon a crossroad between a “safe” choice and one that seemed daunting and uncomfortable. The good news is that I now have two young daughters with whom I’ve been able to relay this piece of advice!
Kelly wants the world to understand just how much the AAPI community has contributed to and shaped the history of the United States. She asks that allies take the time to listen to and amplify underserved voices. When you see something that is hateful or hurtful, say something and do something. It’s never too little…and never too late.
“I want to be remembered not for what I said or what I did, but how I made people feel,” Kelly explains. “I’m proud (and extremely grateful) for my deep friendships, my strong network of supportive and talented colleagues and my loving and patient family. It’s these friendships and relationships that I most cherish. They have given me the strength to be able to lead, the humility to find ways to give back as well as the privilege to pay it forward.”
When he was growing up, Operations Support analyst Michael Lee explored what it meant to be a first-generation Vietnamese immigrant in the United States. Fitting in meant learning when it was socially acceptable to present as “Asian” and when to present as “American”, identities that were rarely allowed to coexist. In between those two realities, the American upbringing and Vietnamese heritage, was Michael.
Fortunately, it’s a choice he has to make less often nowadays. “I’m learning that it’s safe to celebrate my Vietnamese roots. I spark new friendships over shared experiences we had growing up, like spilling fish sauce where it doesn’t belong or tasting our first moon cake.” Things that were barriers to fitting in have become the foundations of brand-new friendships.
It’s meant that Michael’s been able to truly celebrate one of his favorite holidays: Tết, or Lunar New Year. One of the biggest holidays in Vietnam, the New Year is always accompanied by big family get-togethers and celebrations. One tradition during Tết is gifting children (or anyone not married) lì xì, also known as red envelopes, meant to welcome good fortune into their lives. Michael loved using his lì xì money to buy the latest Pokemon game, which in itself is worth celebrating. These red envelopes evoke memories of Michael’s smiling family, all gathered in one place, putting away mountains of food, and growing up faster than any of them could realize.
One of their family’s biggest wishes is to see them both with college degrees. With Michael’s brother Bryan getting his degree this upcoming year, they’re about to make that dream a reality. It represents the beginning of a new chapter for his family and their traditions.
Be kinder to yourself, you are worthy. Give yourself the kindness you need to grow and extend that kindness to those around you. The ones who send it back are worth sticking to. You’re going to be just fine.
With Michael’s newfound confidence to celebrate his heritage and culture, he implores the rest of the AAPI community to do the same. “Speak up with us. Talk to us. Many of your friends are still trying to find our voices after decades of silence. Hear us out and validate our experience, our grief, and pain. Defend our elders, our families, when they are attacked anywhere. Challenge toxic generalizations about the AAPI community and stand beside us when we stand up against harm.”
As Vice President of Operations, Steve Lin manages our Customer Experience, Operations Support, and Workplace teams, and is also the executive sponsor of the AAPI ERG. Whether you need a hand from our incredible support team or you’re an employee developing Discord itself, Steve’s leadership is behind every interaction.
Steve’s proud of his AAPI heritage, but it wasn’t always a large part of his life. He grew up in an area of Ohio where there were few Asian families to connect with. People would ask Steve superficial questions when trying to learn about his family, with the most frequent being along the lines of: “Are you good at math?” and “Do you know karate?”
It wasn’t the most respectful way to learn about another person’s culture, but Steve acknowledged there was a lot he didn’t know either. That’s what motivated him to be more curious about the people around him, learning more about their beliefs and practices. “As a child, I always found it fascinating to talk to students from all over the world, learn about their culture, and try new foods.” It’s why one of his favorite family traditions is celebrating Thanksgiving. With a lot of Steve’s extended family living far away, his father, a professor, would invite a handful of his expat graduate students to the family Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, stuffing, his mom’s Chinese home cooking, and homemade dishes from guests flooded the tables as everyone happily ate and learned a little bit more about each other in the process.
It’s this upbringing — the openness and kindness to those around him, the interest in the stories of others — that leaves the biggest impression on people. Steve recalls how someone recently shared with him that he was “an inspiration to them because it was their experience that nice people get eaten alive in the tech and games industry but the fact that I’m a good person and a successful executive gives them hope.”
That’s just the feeling Steve hopes to share with the AAPI community.
If you are in a position to do so, open up doors for those that are underrepresented. Work to help remove the unconscious bias that surrounds the AAPI community, particularly around ideas like the model minority. Join us in calling out acts of violence against those in the community and racist dog whistles by those who look to separate rather than unite. That thing that scares you or you don’t think you’re ready to do? Give it a try. You’re going to mess up, badly in some cases, but none of it is going to be the end of the world and you’ll look back on it as a valuable learning experience.
Even More Stories & Opportunities
If this feels like a workspace and company culture you’d love to be a part of, check out our Jobs & Careers page — we’re always working to make Discord better for everyone, so come build belonging with us. We also released a blog last year specifically for those who are preparing for an interview at Discord, which you can read right here.
As a reminder, these are only half of our interviews celebrating AAPI Heritage Month. We’ve also interviewed community leaders, business owners, and musical artists who celebrate their heritage and traditions in their own unique ways, so be sure to check out that blog post as well.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for reading. Behind the doors of Discord and throughout our communities, we will continue to support each other by celebrating our differences and relating through our similarities. We hope you take the time to celebrate AAPI identities this month and throughout the year.
—Fiona Tran, Graphic Designer at Discord