This week, Jeff, district manager, and Engagement Lead of the Canada Pan Asian Partner Network (PPN) reflects back on his move to Canada and how he makes a difference for other new Canadians.
I grew up in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. I have an older brother who lives with my mom in Taiwan. I consider myself lucky as the second born son in Chinese culture. Being second, means less pressure carrying the family name, and it came with much more freedom.
When I was young, my dream was to become a computer engineer. As all coding is done in English, I begged my parents to let me move somewhere to learn the language. Growing up, I remember my mother loved watching French movies. She found the language romantic. My parents decided that I would move to Montreal, Quebec, where I could learn both English and French. On the plane, I chose my English name, Jeff, because I wanted to be accepted by my new community. When I arrived in Quebec, I was lucky and blessed that my home-stay family had an open mindset and embraced diversity.
I started attending language school where I met the love of my life. We didn’t speak the same language, but we knew we were perfect for each other, and we got married young. In my language classes, everyone was an immigrant, so I didn’t feel like an outsider, until I tried to find an apartment for me and my wife. When I inquired for places, landlords would ask, “What nationality are you? …We have nothing available." Eventually my sister-in-law, who spoke with no accent, called on our behalf and the same people told her they had plenty available! She helped negotiate for our first place. Even with her help we had to pay 6 months of rent in advance. While this doesn’t happen to me today, I still often get asked if I speak English and French.
After a few years in Canada, I joined Starbucks. As a customer, I thought Starbucks was a company that valued diversity, so I joined as a district manager in Montreal. It was easy to see how the team lived up to the company’s Mission and values. I didn’t feel like a minority or a co-worker – it felt more like friends with the same goals. Indeed, this was the best decision I could have made.
My experience as a new Canadian gives me a unique perspective. I understand the importance of opportunities. I know how difficult it can be for new immigrants to find jobs in our province when they have difficulties speaking French. This is what inspires me to create opportunities for everyone and encourage others to do the same. I am proud of the store managers in our district because they always keep an open mindset when it comes to hiring new partners who are still learning the language. It’s important that we provide people with the opportunity to work and learn the language. We’ve brought on many partners who were able to learn French with the help of their partners at work. And in time, those new partners have the opportunity to leverage our educational benefits to study the language. I think that is how we are making a difference.
Last year, I joined the Canada Pan Asian Partner Network at Starbucks as the Engagement Lead. The network has been a positive force in my life amidst a global pandemic as it introduced me to my virtual family.
In a time where outbursts of racism are built out of anger and confusion, I want to create a new movement of connection and positivity to celebrate all the things that make us amazing.
Hopefully by sharing my story I can inspire others to do the same, and the world will learn that the base of Asian culture is community and caring for others.