Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month

May 8, 2023
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Coalfire employees share what Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month means to them.

May marks the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, which honors two momentous events in American history. On May 7, 1843, the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States, and May 10, 1869, marked the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Notably, the railroad was constructed with the help of Chinese immigrants, who played a crucial role in connecting the country.

To note, “Asian/Pacific” encompasses all the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island).

In recognition of this special occasion, four talented Coalfire employees are sharing their inspiring stories and revealing how they entered this industry, what AAPI month means to them, and their personal experiences with diversity and inclusion.

James Maddox, Consultant, Cloud Engineer

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month provides me with a great amount of pride for two reasons. The first one is a general pride in being a Filipino-American at Coalfire and sharing the experience of Filipino food and culture with others. The second is being able to have the opportunity to learn about the beautiful lives and culture of other Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I really enjoy having a place within the workplace where that acknowledgment is shared and celebrated. Furthermore, outside of work, it’s an opportunity for my family to get together, enjoy a delicious Filipino meal together, and feel proud of our heritage and identity.

How did you get into the cybersecurity field?

I’ve always taken the self-taught route when it comes to working in the tech industry. I initially started as a software engineer working on full-stack applications. I quickly learned and understood the importance of cloud computing and security. I completed a Udacity Nanodegree program focused on cloud DevOps and immersed myself in learning about cloud security. I joined Coalfire in January 2022 and have been fortunate to continue expanding my knowledge of cloud security, compliance, and networking.

Adrienne P., Sr. Consultant, Vulnerability Engineer

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?​

I’m grateful for the history that goes into being Asian American, while also acknowledging the progress we still have to make ahead of us. When I’m asked what AAPI month means to me, I think about the two things I love most in life - food and mindfulness.

I reflect on the ways in which I’ve gotten so creative ever since moving away from the comforts of easy access to Asian food while living in Dallas, and I’m grateful to have had the chance to step up and into my Asian identity. I feel more in touch with my Asian identity since I’ve been challenged to create my own dishes that I crave when I miss home. My cooking skills have sharpened, and I’ve surprised myself with the types of dishes I’ve been able to make. I think of the egg roll - a well-loved, fast Chinese take-out item consisting of cabbage, carrots, and celery, which to me is a wonderful representation of Asian Americans - ingredients that are economically sensible - a strong value held by many Asian Americans, and a resulting food well-loved by almost all Americans today.

Mindfulness - the art of breathing in and out, slowing down, and practicing calmness and breathing exercises with apps like Headspace and Calm are all popular thanks to the fact that Paramahansa Yogananda brought his vision of meditation to America. I struggled to balance the values of my hardworking nature and values instilled in me growing up with the value I place on meditation. Mental health is what it means to be Asian American to me. The fiery parts of myself who works until there’s no tomorrow, balanced with the light and airy aspects of myself who stops to feel the sun’s rays hit my skin and the grass between my toes, is also what it means to be Asian American.

When I was a child, people often used colorful terms and mispronounced Mandarin words when speaking to me. However, I kindly corrected them and turned the conversation into a Mandarin lesson, teaching them the proper way to say "hello" and "how are you." Through this, I made new friends. That is what it means to be Asian American. Had I not been born and raised in America, I wouldn't have gone through the challenges that make my life as beautiful as it is today.

When I think of difficult situations and how to make them beautiful, I think of the conditions in which a lotus flower thrives. A lotus flower is well regarded and well respected as one of the few flowers that do well in the environment of muddy waters. A lotus flower to me is a wonderful representation of the tenacity and beauty of being an Asian growing up in America.

How did you get into the cybersecurity field?

I got into cybersecurity thanks to former colleagues who were looking for a new coworker to help out in the cybersecurity department. I was originally a software developer, and I am grateful for all the folks who poured into me and led me to where I'm at today. Thanks to them, I've been able to be invested in the vulnerability management world.

Phuong Truong, Consultant, FedRAMP Advisory

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a time to highlight and celebrate Asian history and culture, and to recognize Asian contributions to society. It is also an opportunity for us to learn more about the values that we, Asian people, believe in, and have passed onto many generations. We, Asian people are intelligent, kindhearted, compassionate, empathetic, hardworking, open-minded, and have high integrity. We are proud of our origin, heritage, and cultural traditions. We have never stopped contributing to create a better society for us all. Special shout-outs to all Asian Americans out there who keep doing great things every single day.

How did you get into the cybersecurity field?

Throughout my career, I have successfully managed IT projects involving software development and business transformation, with a strong focus on data collection and processing. As I carried out my day-to-day responsibilities, I became increasingly aware of the critical importance of safeguarding sensitive data from unauthorized access. Being naturally inclined toward technical subjects, I delved deeper into the field of data security and developed a profound interest in it.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside some incredibly talented and supportive individuals who have helped me grow both personally and professionally. I am especially grateful to my former manager who gave me my first break in the field, as well as to my current leadership team and coworkers who constantly inspire and motivate me in my role at Coalfire. Their unwavering support has helped my become the best version of myself, and I am deeply appreciative of their guidance and mentorship.

Divya Tam, Senior Account Director, IBM

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?

To me, AAPI Heritage Month is a reminder to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of the AAPI community. As a proud South Asian woman, it has given me a chance to reflect on all the cultural barriers and stereotypes our community had to overcome and what it took to be heard and valued. I see this as an opportunity not just for the AAPI community but also for our allies to understand and appreciate the vast diversities and values we bring in and honor the cultures and experiences of our community. I love that it brings us all together with a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and empowerment.

How did you get into the cybersecurity field?

There was definitely a lot of social influence that got me into Cybersecurity. I have always seen technology as a space that has endless possibilities to solve some of the toughest challenges.

It encouraged me to pursue a degree in Information Technology and in Computer Science and Engineering with focus on Cybersecurity. The more I learned about Security, I realized that it gives me a ton of opportunities to work directly with entities from different industries such as financial services, healthcare, technology, cloud where their common goal is to protect and secure data.

I started as a Technical Support Engineer and then moved on to System Administration, Server Security and Network Security before I pivoted to Compliance and IT Audits. Having worked in Cybersecurity for 14 years donning different hats, I can say that it is ever evolving and there is always something new to learn, but that is the best part and the opportunities to build a strong career are countless.

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