In the United States, May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This year, we wanted to celebrate this occasion in a more inclusive and comprehensive way, which is why we called our celebration APAC Heritage Month. This initiative was a collaboration between Desiflare and Asianflare, Cloudflare’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for employees of Asian descent. We are proud to have run a diverse slate of events and content that we had planned throughout this month of celebration.
Our priority for APAC Heritage Month has been to share the stories and experiences of those in our community: we hosted several different segments to highlight the strong culture and heritage with moderated panels. We also took this opportunity to highlight some of the leaders in the industry of APAC descent around the world, to talk about their journey and struggles, so we can learn from each other and grow to be inspired. Although there has been progress in the past several years regarding representation of APAC stories being told, this small handful of narratives have a hard time representing two thirds of the world. By telling a more diverse set of APAC stories — our own, from immigrants, stories about food, culture and our careers — we hope to bring visibility to our experiences and our existence.
Lending the Microphone to APAC Voices
To keep everyone safe during the pandemic, all of our external events this year have been virtual and televised on Cloudflare TV:
- The Asian American Experience: a CFTV series on the collective experience of Asian Americans.
- The Youth of Today: a moderated panel discussion of young Cloudflarians on the experience of both first and second generation young Asian Americans.
- Culinary Experiences: an exploration of cuisine and it’s bidirectional influence with Asian American culture.
- The Asian-American Experience: Past, Present, Future: Christine Hung, VP, Data and Engineering, Flatiron Health, will share the story of her career, and the path she took to be where she is today.
- Coming of Age: a guided exploration through large cultural concepts and concerns that folks of Asian heritage stay cognizant of as they go through life.
- Founder Focus: a spotlight on the human stories behind startup founders.
- Quinn Wang – Quinn Wang is the founder of Quadrant Eye, a convenient way to renew your eye prescription online and get your glasses or contact lens prescription emailed to you.
- Angus Luk – Angus Luk is the founder of EventX, Asia’s leading virtual events platform. We’ll be discussing everything from pivoting during the pandemic, to the trade-off of in-person, virtual, or hybrid events in different places around the world.
- Beyang Liu – Beyang Liu co-founded Sourcegraph, a web-based code search and navigation tool for dev teams.
- Kathy Zhou – Kathy Zhou is founder and CTO of Queenly, the largest marketplace for formalwear, from prom, pageant, to all evening gowns.
- Jeremy Lam – Jeremy Lam is founder and CEO of Venu, a YC startup focused on virtual trade shows, expo halls, and hybrid events. We’ll be discussing everything from the economics of trade shows, the impact of the pandemic, and predictions for the future.
- Fireside Chats: a chat set to explore the different careers of Asians in influential positions and what their experiences are of getting there.
- Christine Hung, VP, Data and Engineering, Flatiron Health.
- Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, hardware hacker, author, researcher, mentor to hardware startups.
- Oli Yu, Engineering Director at Cloudflare.
- Mohit Bijlani, EMEA Sales Manager at Cloudflare.
- Roy Lo, EMEA Sales Manager at Cloudflare.
- Christine Starkman, researcher and curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, Cleveland Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
- Andy Nallappan, CTO and Head of Software Business Operations at Broadcom.
- Andrew Li, Engineering Manager at Cloudflare.
- We Are Cloudflare: Interviews with the people behind the scenes that make Cloudflare what it is. Join Chaat as he interviews people from across all teams and offices. Get to know what they do and the kind of people we are.
- Cooking with Cloudflare: a live segment from our kitchens where we learn to make a dish or two from a Cloudflarian somewhere around the world.
- A Mile in Your Shoes: A story about their family’s migration, their childhood pets, education and unique experiences, to better understand the lives of our colleagues.
Check out our APAC Heritage month landing page for the recordings of the events that occurred this month. We wanted to celebrate this month and truly embrace the culture and diversity, so please watch the recordings back on Cloudflare TV and beyond. Cloudflare embraces diversity and values diverse teams. We have also taken the recommendations of our teammates and put together a Playlist for you to be inspired by and deep dive into the deep rooted culture and practices we have celebrated this month.
In the spirit of highlighting APAC voices, we also wanted to take this opportunity to share a little about how our Asianflare and Desiflare Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) got started.
How Asianflare started
In March 2020, I (Jade) was having lunch with my colleague Stanley. We were venting to each other about the family of four who had been attacked in a grocery store parking lot in Texas. A few other co-workers joined the conversation, and we got to talk about how it echoed experiences of growing up as a minority in the US with Asian heritage.
That day turned out to be one of the last times we would physically be together in an office.
Stanley and I created Asianflare, the employee resource group for Asian heritage at Cloudflare, when we realized that we needed a space to serve as a support group. Surely, we weren’t the only ones who needed an emotional outlet about current events that impact our demographic. And we had a feeling that things were going to get worse before they got better. In the beginning, we just needed a safe space to just share our experiences with each other. And as lockdowns began across all the offices across the world, the Asianflare community became a real social hub as casual office chatter vanished into the ether.
The community blossomed with every food photo, every music or movie recommendation, every article discussion. We celebrated festivals together, held Zoom Lo Hei (“Prosperity Toss”) in multiple time zones, and held fireside chats on everything from career advice to public policy. Remember when WeChat and TikTok looked like they might be banned in the U.S.? We organized an internal fireside chat with Alissa Starzak, our public policy expert, to answer our questions on what to expect, especially those of us who feared getting cut off from our friends and family. On the average day, though, about 80% of our conversations are about food.
In March 2021, amidst the background radiation of escalating anti-Asian hate, a shooter killed eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian women. What changed this time was the social support structures we had in place. We have a community that can grieve together, just as much as we celebrate together. Our People Team connected us with group therapy sessions offered by one of our benefits providers. At the BEER meeting our CEO, Matthew Prince, not only brought awareness to the issues and what our community was experiencing, but also offered our physical security team’s help. Even when I went outside, the flags were flying at half-mast. Colleagues I hadn’t heard from in ages reached out to make sure we were OK.
I know now that a kid like me growing up today would not see their families’ experiences swept under the rug, because our experiences are a part of the conversation now.
How Desiflare started
At the San Francisco office in 2019, we started to notice a sizable number of both folks of South Asian origin and folks with a deep interest in South Asian culture. So during Diwali (a festival of lights), we decided to have a small lunch get-together. The precursor to Desiflare was thus born in a room with 25 people congregating together for a commemorative vegetarian meal. The success of this small event led to monthly lunch meetings and eventually the formalization of the Desiflare ERG. Given the sizable Desi presence across all of our offices and the expansive interest we’ve seen in Desi culture across Cloudflare, today we see our ERG heavily represented around the world, especially in San Francisco, Austin, NYC, London, and Singapore!
Our Mission is to “Foster a sense of belonging and community amongst Cloudflare employees with an interest in the rich South Asian Culture as a platform to bring people together.”
We welcome everyone who identifies with or is otherwise interested in South Asian culture and look forward to welcoming all into our Desi community! While we are bound by the common fabric of South Asian, we realize that South Asia is vast and varied. Our shared body of culture embraces a breadth of diverse traditions, cuisines, habits, and beliefs, which is only magnified by the variation across the Desi diaspora across the world.
We therefore aspire to embrace and learn about each other to make the Desiflare ERG a place where all feel welcome!
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Author Of this post: Arwa Ginwala