Written By: Raymond Delacruz
Being raised as a first-generation Pilipino-American, the idea of success was cultivated from my parents’ reverence of the medical field. My mom lovingly reminds me that I can quit my job at anytime to become a nurse.
The stories of hard work, sacrifice, and the unquestionable respect for our elders are values Pilipino-Americans can resonate with. However, I am cognizant of the ramifications of these experiences. With a hope for the next generation to have more resources and stories to learn from, I interviewed 10 Pilipino-American professionals. Here are our shared experiences:
“I continuously shrugged off microaggressions at work and was unsure of how to bring it up. My manager said “boba tastes like playdough” and my entire team laughed. I always felt drained at work and unable to express myself.” – Current Marketing Manager
This experience was when this current Marketing Manager had taken a job in sales and expressed frautration with her team;s ack of emotional intelligence and awarenss of others’ feelings in various social situations.
“Being raised with a strong family culture, my upbringing created a calming sense of confidence and laid back attitude. I bring this out with my patients and it helps them trust me.” – Current Physician Assistant
As people of color, diversity in the workplace will continue to be a theme in our lives. Whether it creates positive or negative experiences, we should be proud of our culture and vocal champions for more inclusive environments.
“I was raised by a single mother and she gave me the mentality to always work hard. I learned the hard way that working hard should not amount to the number of hours worked, but to focus on progress and impact” – Current Financial Analyst
A common theme for Asian-Americans is that we work hard. The first lesson above is about reframing what “hard work” looks like in the workplace. He goes into detail about working smart and not expecting working hard to translate to success. It’s easy to get lost in the input of number of hours worked and less about the output of impact.
“My dad used to share stories of working three different jobs and maintaining a specific GPA to keep his academic scholarships growing up in the Philippines. These stories of sacrifice have always motivated me to try my best.” – Current Business Operations Manager
“During my upbringing I was taught at a young age to work hard. In the workplace it has been difficult for me to say no to different team members at work. I always say yes because I want to work hard, which has made it difficult to balance everything. I need to learn to better set expectations.” – Current Lawyer
When we are young, we are taught to never talk back or question authority. In corporate america, collaboration and disagreements are encouraged. This gives people the opportunity to showcase their creativity and critical thinking abilities. From always saying yes our entire lives, saying no is a complete shift from what our parents embedded into us. This proves that prioritization, not burnout, is a more ideal approach in work settings. Especially in a first job, people are eager to learn and make an impact. Saying no or working with your manager on what is most important or will provide the most impact is an on-going conversation that should be had.
“Growing up a Pilipino-American, I held back feelings and emotions since my parents were not expressive. In the workplace, I am not able to express how I feel to my team members and manager.” – Current Recruiter
Managing up is also a complete shift from the construct of respecting our elders or authority figures.
“I’m okay with the status quo, I work hard and do the work. My parents instilled and guided my hard work ethic. Prefer this over managing others.” – Current Web Developer
“I like the idea of product management, but am worried my personality is better suited for technical work.” – Current Systems Analyst
These two are examples of individuals who have been instilled the value of hard work. There is an inherent nuance of the model asian who keep his/her head down, but does the hard work. Society perpetuates this belief that we Pilipinos are the doers and not the planners or managers.
“I did not grow up rich. Raised by immigrant parents, I was constantly reminded and felt that it would be disrespectful if you don’t work hard.” – Current Nurse
“Remembering memories of my family’s hardwork. Hearing about my aunts and uncles who would travel and work in remote countries like Saudi Arabia to send money back to their families. It’s ultimately up to me to give back to my family for the sacrifices that they made. – Current Documentary Filmmaker
As Pilipino-Americans continue to enter the business and technology professional workplace, which are non-traditional paths, my hope is that we can share and learn more about each other’s stories Since my family is not emotionally expressive, there has not been a reason to reflect or share these experiences. Hearing these stories from fellow kababayan proves that we are not alone. We are all going through similar struggles, triumphs, and shared-experiences.
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