HomeAsian AmericansBreaking Bamboo: Bringing value & countering stereotypes

Breaking Bamboo: Bringing value & countering stereotypes

  • How do I know if I’m bringing value to my employer?

To determine the key to bringing value to your employer, I start with the lowest common denominator and then build from there. We are all resources for an employer to hire (and fire) and are being evaluated and re-evaluated to determine if we are worth their money and time.

With this in mind, how many times have you heard this? “You’re a real asset to this company.” Translation? You’re an expensive, souped-up laptop, programmed to make money. So as your career progresses, always be mindful of your return on investment (ROI) to your employer. Make sure it is positive. You better be delivering more value than what you are paid.

You may start off as a negative ROI project early in your career when you barely know how to spell your name, but if you don’t generate positive ROI soon, guess what happens to you? That’s right—you’re headed to the same resting place as those Tickle Me Elmo dolls—the local trash dump.

The bottom line: to bring the most value to your employer, always be mindful of your ROI.

  • Asian Americans are stereotyped as quiet and non-assertive. How do I counter that stereotype while still minding my P’s & Q’s?

As an Asian American, I certainly used what I believed others already thought were my attributes, but also surprised them with other qualities. They already thought I was good at math, but maybe not aggressive enough. I fit the Model Minority Myth: obedient, hard-working, and darn good at figuring how much to tip the waiter. 

So I focused on areas where I knew they’d think I was deficient. I tried to be boisterous and affable. I brought creative ideas and not just STEM ones. I even showed that I could be the life of the party. 

Early in my career, I wore thick glasses and was just missing the pocket protector from my ensemble. But once I showed that I was an unofficial beer-chugging champion in college, I suddenly busted the stereotypes. 

You can do this too. Maybe not with the same tactics but certainly by picking and choosing venues where you can showcase your other attributes. Perhaps at social settings or low stakes corporate settings. For instance, at training sessions you could showcase your public speaking and organizational skills. Just try any situations where you can demonstrate you are more than just an order taker.

I advise you to start small. Don’t try to bust stereotypes that have been around for almost half a century. You need to start with low-stakes situations then work your way up from there.

  • I am valued for my expertise in important areas of my company. However, I notice that some perceive me as a know it all? How do I play to my strengths while not appearing arrogant?

When you are at work and sense others consider you arrogant, it’s good to remember the curse of knowledge. It occurs when a person assumes that other people they’re communicating with have the same knowledge (and background) as they do. 

Another way to put it is that people who are smart or well-informed might not understand that other regular people might not think like they do. Take the TV show The Big Bang Theory, where scientist Sheldon Cooper has no clue what his waitress-neighbor, Penny, is thinking. He’s a pedantic know-it-all with genius-level IQ and nonexistent EQ. She’s normal. The result is often a complete miscommunication that leads to a hilarious outcome—usually at the expense of one of them. Understanding the curse of knowledge can help you better communicate with, and educate, others.

Next time let others speak first. Let them voice their views and switch to listening mode. Once they’ve said their peace, you can weigh in. But never presume that they know everything you know. Listening is the most underrated skill in developing meaningful relationships with others.


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About the Author

Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.

As one of the only managing directors of color at Jefferies, he successfully broke through the bamboo ceiling. He not only worked hard but also played the corporate game.

Hundreds of bankers have worked for Dave during his career. He has mentored many of them who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America. He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans and other disadvantaged groups seeking to maximize their potential and achieve their career goals.

If you want some great career tips and insights check out Dave’s book, The Way of the Wall Street Warrior, at TheWallStreetWarrior.com.

You can follow Dave at [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]

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