Balancing traditional Chinese values in the workforce
Shyvee Shi, a 2016 MMM graduate currently works as a Product Manager at LinkedIn. In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, she shares her perspective on how her background helped shape her personally and professionally.
I grew up in a very traditional Chinese family. Both of my parents grew up in China, and I spent the majority of my childhood there. My parents strongly believed in putting family first and I continue to cherish that. When I was 18 I came to the United States as an exchange student. College was a proud moment for me because I was the first generation in my family to have that opportunity. I stayed in the United States for one year before returning to Hong Kong to complete my studies and begin my career. Hong Kong was very competitive, there were a lot of successful women—which was great for me to witness.
I gained a lot of opportunities by working incredibly hard. I watched my parents and witnessed their strong work ethic. They always encouraged me to be modest anytime I accomplished something. My parents kept me grounded. They taught me good traits that I continue to value, but as I entered the workforce some of my cultural upbringings limited me in a professional setting.
Life at Kellogg and Launching My Career
In 2014 I returned to the United States to attend Kellogg. Kellogg was a great experience, and I made lifelong friends. But coming to Kellogg was also eye-opening. I took part in a women's leadership seminar led by Professor Medvec. During this program, I realized how social narratives and certain cultural values that were so cherished growing up, such as modesty and a desire for harmony and to please others, may limit me from advancing my career and reaching my fullest potential. I learned that I should rewrite the narrative in my head to separate these cultural values from the new behaviors I can learn and adapt to have a more purposeful and powerful career. I will always be grateful for her teaching and advice.
Medvec helped me realize that we live in a biased world where Asian women, especially, face certain roadblocks as we advance in a male-dominated workplace. I often apologized too much, had a strong desire to please others to avoid any conflicts, kept my head down and assumed my hard work would get recognized. I was not comfortable bringing enough attention and visibility to my success. Even when others recognized my achievement, I was not comfortable owning it and would immediately spread the credit around, “Oh, I was lucky.” “It wasn’t that hard.” “This was all kudos to the team.” I adopted this attitude because of how I was raised. Genuine modesty was heavily cherished in the Confucius culture, and yet, in the workplace, failure to effectively communicate my achievements may show a lack of commitment and send the opposite signal that I’m not ready to rise. I must learn to speak for myself, own my success and lobby for my vision. AAPI Heritage Month is the perfect opportunity to celebrate our roots and recognize how traits from a traditional Chinese upbringing might present differently in the workplace. Yes, cultural values are a part of who I am. But I've also learned it's important to develop new behaviors that allow me to play bigger in the workforce.
Armed with this heightened level of awareness and knowledge, I feel empowered and confident to take on bigger and bolder challenges. I consider myself a career pivoter. I started in consulting, went into an operations role at LinkedIn and decided to pivot to Product Management to build products that can impact millions of people. Changing my career direction allowed me to deepen my learning of leadership traits, and along the way I discovered that I have a passion for sharing knowledge and helping others.
Helping Others Find Their Way, Playing Bigger
Since graduating from Kellogg, I have led hundreds of community events as well as a coaching circle for nine Northwestern AAPI alumni. I am also the President of the Kellogg Alumni Club of the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve spent the better part of the last decade helping hundreds of individuals make progress in their careers and one of my goals is to elevate the voices of the AAPI community.
I started sharing my growth journey on LinkedIn in September 2021, and in 9 months, I’ve learned to develop my voice and build an engaged community of 38K followers. My content had over 8M views. People look to me for career advice. I wasn’t always comfortable putting myself out there. Modesty is a good thing, but I had to adopt a growth mindset. There is always room to get better. That has been one of the biggest lessons along my journey.
I’m proud of my traditions, I just have to keep playing bigger!