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Diversity and Inclusion Series: A First-Generation Colleague’s Viewpoint

Published: March 6, 2019

Author: Ngoc Hoang

Creating a more diverse, inclusive culture has been one of 3Q Digital’s biggest initiatives since 2017, and it’s not just about becoming a better business; it’s about being better people. As part of this initiative, we present our second week-long blog series dedicated to issues we’re trying to address, how we’re trying to address them, and the challenges we’re encountering as we go.

Life as a first-generation American comes with some unique dynamics — especially for those who spent their childhood in different countries (I grew up in Vietnam). If you’ve got a first-generation colleague (or several colleagues), here are some things that might be helpful to keep in mind.

We’ve had to adapt — a lot

My high school senior year, college, grad school, and work have all been in various states, each with its own weather, people, and culture. For me, learning to adapt to these differences has been difficult but fun. The biggest shift came when I first moved to Chicago after two years living in South Florida. It wasn’t just the weather that was different; I was also transitioning from school to professional life. Although…let’s talk about the weather here in Chicago. As I write this on January 30, it’s the coldest day in the city in the last 53 years, but it’s actually not that ba…jk it’s actually really cold; schools are cancelled and people have to stay inside to not get frostbite. Adapting to Chicago weather sometimes can be challenging, but my manager says, “Having cold days like this makes you appreciate the warm days,” and it’s very true.
Adapting to life at 3Q is a different story; my colleagues are friendly, welcome, and smart. The atmosphere in the office is vibrant with energized young people. The best part about 3Q is that people are always willing to help each other. When I first started, if I didn’t know how to pull a report or run a process, my teammates were always willing to spend their time and hop on Zoom to show me.
In the past 3 years working here, I have been fortunate to receive tremendous support from 3Qers in a ton of offices, not just Chicago. I have learned so much that I am proud to say, I couldn’t have started my career in a better place than 3Q. The culture here is amazing; our executives go to great lengths to take care of people, and I can’t imagine seeing that anywhere else.
One of the main differences when comparing school life vs. work life is that at school, the best ideas win, and I got rewarded with good grades for being able to finish projects/tests individually. At work, being able to finish projects individually is a good thing, but I also need to be able to help my colleagues understand the effects of the work I am doing, build repeatable processes that others can follow, and help everyone share knowledge. Working on that level and having teammates who do the same mean there’s always a chance to grow and improve. At 3Q, collaboration is the key to success.

We rarely get to go home

I have been in the States for almost 9 years to study and work, andI do not often get time to go back home. People sometimes ask if I miss my family, and I would say that I feel pretty normal because I talk to them everyday (thanks to technology). My family also makes time to come here every year to visit me. To be honest, I do get jealous when people say that they are going home for the holidays, but well, I have work to do here and my priority now is focusing on my career.
Sometimes people in the office travel to Vietnam and come back talking about the great experiences that they have. When this happens, I talk to them about the experiences they didn’t get to have and offer to plan to have a trip together in the future. I would be happy to show my colleagues around in my hometown. 3Q offers unlimited PTO, which is one of the best benefits out there. I hope that everyone will utilize it and we can travel to Vietnam together one day.

Communication can be complicated

Growing up in a different culture, I first found it hard to communicate and connect with other people around me. In my country, people are hesitant to speak their mind and often go the long way around before getting to the main problem. This was one of my main weaknesses when entering the workforce. During brainstorming sessions, I often found myself having lots of ideas but wasn’t able to focus on the specific question that the team was trying to answer, resulting in answers that didn’t help.
In my opinion, this issue was related to culture differences that a lot of foreign workers have. When presented with a challenge, my mind translates the challenge into my native language, and then I use experience as well as personal judgment to come up with ideas to solve it. Because this process has an extra step, it was easy to be hesitant to talk through all of the ideas for fear that others wouldn’t be able to follow my logic.
Thanks to the great supportive environment at 3Q, I am no longer reluctant to show people my thoughts and my ideas. 3Q offers training sessions on how to present confidently in front of groups and how to communicate ideas with teammates and clients (kudos to Oliver Eldredge and the training team). In addition, my team has been working on modularizing technical processes and documenting them so non-technical colleagues can understand our processes and junior team members can catch up quickly.
If you’re wondering what you can do to help ease the transition for non-native speakers, I can pass along advice. Carl Paradiso, our VP of IT, who lived in Japan for several years, does an excellent job of connecting people from different backgrounds. From his experience as a non-native speaker, he encourages others to speak less but more, meaning to choose wise words that can explain problems and ideas in 1 or 2 sentences. My manager, Eric Swanson, who I have talked to almost every day for the past three and a half years and is one of the best communicators that I have worked with, suggests that native speakers talk slowly and clearly and don’t use cultural references or cliches. I’m still trying to improve every day on my communication, which starts with being a good listener (this goes for native and non-native speakers alike).
These tips are important to follow in any industry (or social situation) but perhaps especially so in digital marketing — a rapidly changing industry that requires a variety of ideas and different perspectives to develop the best products. Here’s hoping that your company is as supportive as 3Q has been with me.

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