Jian Ping's column
ASCEND National Convention
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quite a few people from Ascend, including Arthur Chin,
Larry Chang, Wade Loo, Rosy Yeh, Sandeep Gupta,
and Hee Lee. They all exhibited the same passion
and dedication to the cause. I also met many young
people who came for inspiration and guidance.
Among them, many were from the top four accounting
firms (Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PWC) that
served as corporate sponsors for Ascend. These
firms have hired teams of Asian Americans and have
been implementing inclusive programs to help them
grow in their companies. I was excited to see these
important initiatives and feel positive that many more
Asian Americans will attain senior management
positions in corporate America down the road.
by Jian Ping
I was delighted to attend the 5th National Convention of Ascend, an organization dedicated to
help Pan-Asians to realize their leadership potential in global corporations. Nearly 1,500
professionals and students gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Chicago from
Saturday, July 28th to 30th for a forum of learning, empowerment, and inspiration. I was invited
as a speaker on one of the panels and took advantage of the opportunity to attend several talks
and meet with quite a few high achievers and inspired starters.
The panel I participated in was Asian Consumer B2B. Two other speakers on the panel were
Erby Foster from Clorox and Bill Imada from IW Group, a marketing, advertising and public
relation agency, and Avijit Ghosh, professor at UI Urbana-Champaign, was the capable
moderator. I talked about my experience reaching the Asian market in the U.S. when I worked as
National Director for Tsingtao Beer at the importer, and addressed the challenges and
opportunities in the market segment. However, considering that many in the audience were
young professionals and students, I also used my personal experience to encourage them to fully utilize their own cultural
background to contribute to their company and push themselves out of their comfort zone. After all, I enjoyed a different level of
satisfaction when I left corporate America to take up writing, filmmaking, publishing, and public speaking. I was very touched
that so many people in the audience, both men and women, were interested in the mother/daughter story that the feature-
length documentary film Mulberry Child, which was based on my book, focused on. Yingyue, a student from Dallas, even went
out of her way to get a copy of my book at a Barnes & Nobel Bookstore near her hotel the same day and tracked me down to
|ASCEND's captive audience at lunch
I also learned a lot from my fellow panelists about the trends and developments of the
Asian Americans—in addition to our fast growth in population, our purchasing power is
among the highest, so are our levels of education and leading role in utilizing high tech
Yet we all realized that despite all these developments, few Asian Americans had made
their way to top management levels in corporate America. Ascend was formed because
of that. I must admit I knew nothing about Ascend before, and I was very much
impressed by the convention it put together—the high quality panels, the high-profile
speakers, and the efficiency with which the organizers ran all the activities.
I had a chance to chat with Jeff Chin, National President of Ascend, who is also a
founding member of the organization.
"The market needed an organization like Ascend," Chin said, giving credit to other like-
minded people who worked together to launch Ascend.
"We were lucky enough to have made it to senior management levels. But so many Asian Americans haven't. We felt it was
our responsibility to give back to the community and help Asian Americans succeed in global corporations."
I was amazed to learn that in a short span of seven years, Ascend has already enrolled more than 5,000 members, with 26
student chapters and 13 professional chapters in the U.S. and Canada.
"I want to measure our success by helping people reach top-
level leadership positions, not by the number of membership,"
Chin said in response to my comment. He wanted the few
Asians who had made it to the top to serve as role models and
mentors to the young.
Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing minorities in the
U.S., with 17.3 million people, equal to 5.6% of the total U.S.
population. In the decade from 2000 to 2010, the population
growth rate for Asian Americans is 46%. Despite such growth
and the affluent purchasing power they command, however,
Asians are often perceived as model citizens, highly educated,
hardworking, but not creative and lack leadership skills, among
other stereotyped perceptions.
The three-day convention provided a forum to break away from
these stereotypes. There were a variety of panels and
workshops that focused on harnessing skills and mindset to
seek career advancement in global corporations. A large job fair
was conducted on site at the hotel as well, and at every
breakfast, luncheon or dinner, a keynote speaker delivered very
inspiring remarks, though none hesitated to point out the
challenges Asian Americans faced and the importance of taking
our careers and future in our own hands.
I talked with a few attendees and members of Ascend who
worked on organizing the convention. Everyone was enthusiastic
"It's such a powerful conference," Keri Clark from PNC Financial
Services Group said. "By shattering so many myths, it gives you
the armour to defend against the stereotypes. I'll definitely come back next year."
"I found Chris Simmon's speech very helpful," Jing Zhou, 28, from Ernst & Young said. "It's great to hear from another culture
how we Asians are being perceived, what we are doing wrong, and how to make changes."
Jian Ping (second from left) with two attendees
Lily Yang, a member of the Midwest/Chicago Convention
Committee of Ascend, stated why she got involved with
Ascend. "I'm passionate about the topics the organization
addresses," she said. "I want to see we all embrace our
culture, excel, and make a difference."
I could see the passion in her eyes, which helped me
understand why Ascend was developing so fast.
"I don't believe in stereotypes," Judy Hu, EG, Global Executive
Director, told the entire convention at the closing dinner. "I think
Asians are creative, and can be top leaders." She encouraged
everyone to have mentors and corporate sponsors, to learn to
speak up at meetings and make sure his/her voices are heard
and recognized in the company.
Throughout the convention, I had the opportunity of meeting