May 27, 20220 mins read
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we sat down with Sarah Gibb and Dipti Salopek to learn about their cultures and family roots, and how their heritage impacts them on both a professional and personal level.
Sarah Gibb, Sales Development Representative, Denver, CO
My background is mixed, with my dad coming from a western heritage and my mom being Taiwanese. When I think of my experience as an Asian-American, I think a lot of my own personal identity centers around coming from a mixed background.
When my mom was a child, she and her family immigrated from Taiwan to the US. Like many others who immigrated, my mom was brought up in the US under the idea of blending in or assimilating – don’t stand out, learn how to speak English well, and make a life for yourself. These were the steps her parents envisioned for her and her siblings to succeed here. Few spaces besides home and the Asian grocery store her family owned and operated tethered her to her heritage, and the idea of blending in came at the expense of nurturing pieces of her Asian identity.
My mom and I have often had conversations about how she wished she had more pieces of our culture to pass along to me and my brother. The main way we celebrated our heritage growing up was through food, as my amah (grandma) was an incredible cook. Food is one of the elements of my Asian background that I feel most fluent in. A cornerstone was the traditional Chinese breakfast my family ate every Sunday. When we lived in St. Louis, we had an amazing dim sum place we would go to, but after moving to Montana, we took it upon ourselves to make a diy congee bowl with an assortment of fixings. Food is one of my favorite ways to share what I know with others around me.
Other elements of my heritage are much foggier. Aside from some basic phrases, I am unable to speak Mandarin or any Taiwanese dialect. I wasn’t brought up celebrating many of the traditions aside from Lunar New Year, and much of the rich history of Taiwan is not committed to memory. Growing up, this left me feeling like I only had a foot in the door of both of my backgrounds and that I was presenting as whichever background was the minority of the location I was in. I was mainly raised in Billings, MT, where my Asian background felt much more prominent due to the lack of others like me. When I studied abroad in Taiwan, the reverse was felt, as Asians were the majority.
As I get older, I feel less ashamed that many aspects of my Taiwanese heritage have to be learned vs. inherited. My culture is rich and on behalf of my mom and myself, I proactively seek out opportunities to learn more. I only recently started at Snyk and joined the SRG (Snyk employee resource group), Asian@Snyk. Asia is vast and I’ve been exposed to so many new stories and perspectives through the group. As someone who felt a disconnect with my culture for a time, SRGs are a great way to learn more about yourself and other cultures.
My personal advice for reconnecting with your AAPI heritage, would be to consume film or media with Asian representation. I remember this being a game-changer for me. Representation of different ethnicities, sexualities, and genders is so crucial, and to this day, I still find it uplifting and satisfying to see others portray experiences and feelings I couldn’t place words to myself. I’ll throw out a shameless plug for ‘Everything, Everywhere, All the Time’ and ‘PEN15’, which have admittedly left me bawling after watching.
Dipti Salopek, VP Learning & Growth, NYC
I grew up in Mumbai, India in a matriarchal family where the women of our family were the leading earners and career drivers, which is rare today, but was virtually unheard of back then. My grandmom, who graduated from med school in 1942, was one of India’s first female doctors – which was an _incredible_achievementin a country where most people didn’t have access to education. My father, also a doctor, went through med school during the Indo-Pakistani War of the 60s, and studied for his exams under a street lamp on a nearby beach due to wartime blackout restrictions. I feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up in an environment where my predominant frame of reference was that there were no barriers. As a young girl, I grew up in a world believing everything was possible.
I spent my formative years in an international and multicultural boarding school, an experience that has deeply shaped the culture of internationalism I feel rooted in today. At 18, filled with a combination of trepidation and adventure, I took a leap and moved to the UK for college. At times terrifying and exhilarating, my years in London were some of the best in my life, and I always look back at that time with fond memories of my first adventure with cultural immersion.
After several years in the UK, I immigrated to the US to embark on yet another adventure. As challenging as moving to different countries was, what I’ve always loved about my moves is discovering the kindness and openness of strangers as they welcomed me into their lives.
Through it all, my roots and heritage remain central to me. My Indian heritage has deeply influenced the values I live by, and the lens through which I build relationships. Indian culture is naturally warm and extends friendship generously and easily. I’m always grateful for this part of my personality that my Indian roots have bestowed upon me.
My international exposure living in 3 continents has made me deeply appreciate the beauty and strength in diversity. When it comes to my career, I deliberately look for companies that reflect and celebrate this diversity of culture. Snyk is truly special in this regard and I’m eternally grateful to be a part of this incredible company, and proud of being a part of our Asian@Snyk SRG (Snyk employee resource group). Asian@Snyk celebrates Asian culture and heritage, and creates a sense of belonging for members across the company. Asia itself is such an incredibly diverse region, with so many histories, cultures and languages to recognize, and Asian@Snyk helps to demystify and celebrate each one.
I applaud AAPI Heritage Month, and feel so fortunate to have an Indian heritage. But mostly what I’ve learned is that the juxtaposition of different cultures brings out the best in all of us — an openness in mind and spirit, a curiosity and willingness to learn, and a generosity in extending a hand of friendship.