Kat, a Director within Protiviti’s Risk & Compliance practice, is a champion of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She serves as the Mentoring Pillar co-lead for the Multicultural Employee Network Group at Protiviti and is also an inaugural member of the Racial Equity Advisory Council (REAC).
Kat was born and raised in Southern California, and eventually moved east to attend the George Washington University in Washington, DC. She spent the majority of the last two decades as an East Coaster and returned to Los Angeles a couple of years ago. The times she lived on both East and West coasts gives her a unique perspective and appreciation for the AAPI experience in the US.
In honor of AAPI Heritage month, we asked Kat a series of questions to shed light on how being a member of the AAPI community shaped her into the person that she is now.
What is your cultural identity?
I’m a proud Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) (she/her). I am Filipina, Chinese, and Spanish. I am third-generation American and a proud granddaughter of a retired United States Navy Veteran of World War I. My grandfather was recalled to serve the United States in his 50’s and subsequently spent two and a half years as a Prisoner of War (POW) in World War II.
How do you celebrate your culture?
I celebrate my culture through food, language, and traveling “home”.
I cook many Filipino dishes, but I firmly believe my mother’s versions are superior to any others. I thank her for passing on the love of Filipino food to me and I do my best to make sure I pass this onto my kids. My favorite dinner is sinigang – a tamarind-based beef stew with dark greens, like spinach or bok choy. For every birthday, I continue the tradition of eating long noodles to signify good luck and a long lifetime.
Through language – I am fluent in “Tagalog”, the national language of the Philippines. My father’s side of the family also speaks “Bicol”, another dialect. I originally learned Tagalog eavesdropping on my parents as a child. I knew they were talking about something they didn’t want us kids to know about when they spoke Tagalog, so eventually I learned the language!
I lived in the Philippines twice as a child and returned for vacation every 2-5 years. As an adult, I celebrate my culture by traveling “home”. I visited the Philippines when I was pregnant with my first daughter and returned with both of my children in January 2020 (right before the pandemic!). To visit my ancestral home with my very own family was surreal and priceless.
How do you think your culture has influenced you in your professional life?
My culture embedded core values of grit, perseverance, and resilience. These values helped me face the challenges and endure the inequities that people often face being a part of the minority. My culture was instrumental in developing my unwavering work ethic and essential to cultivating my passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
How was your experience leading the Courageous Conversations sessions at Protiviti?
Although the material and subject matter was difficult to get through, I very much enjoyed leading the recent AAPI Courageous Conversations at Protiviti. To prepare, I tried to limit my doom scrolling of all the horrendous headlines, but instead, focus on the statistics and historical facts to bring the AAPI experience forward. I was, naturally, nervous before each session, but as I saw the number of attendees tick up, over 100+ per session, I was emboldened. The sheer volume of colleagues that were coming forward to share, listen, and learn encourages me to continue speaking up, speaking out, and working towards a more equitable world for everyone.
What is one piece of advice you would give to young Asian American professionals?
Speak up. Our cultures teach us to keep our head down and keep quiet, but times have changed. Your diverse perspectives and experiences need to be heard. It is long overdue.
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