Are you an intern?
I was 29 years old, working in New York City in a well-known media company. While in the break area, making coffee to get me through the afternoon, a male colleague walked into the room and introduced himself. He asked me if I were an intern.
Like many Asian women, I’ve always looked ten years younger than my actual age. While there are upsides to this, the downside was that in corporate settings, I’ve had to work harder to be credible. In meetings, while my U.S.-born coworkers effortlessly spoke up and offered insightful comments, I often hesitated about what I was going to say. By the time I figured out what to say, the moment had passed, making my thoughts irrelevant. The environment around me contributed to my professional identity. And for much of my life, I felt like an outsider.
It was not until decades later that the “true me” began to emerge. My identity is an integration of my Korean culture, my American upbringing, educational background, and professional accomplishments.
My identity evolved over several decades and I wonder now if I had the resources and support early in my life, would I have found my true self sooner? And as a result, would I have minimized the challenges?
I hope that by me sharing the lessons learned throughout my 20 years in corporate America and my research on Asian women in leadership, you will find this information helpful in your development.