At SevenRooms, we believe that everyone has a voice and seat at our table. As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we amplify the voices and stories of three extraordinary Roomies who share their captivating stories, embrace their heritage and more.
We spoke with Phil Chang (Director, Key Account Management), Sumeet Shah (Senior Software Engineer), and Colleen Worthington (Manager, Client Onboarding).
What does your Asian heritage and AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
Phil Chang: My heritage is an integral part of the framework that guides my interactions with the world. It simultaneously nurtures a sense of individuality and community. It serves as a pathway for fostering connections, empowering creativity, and facilitating cultural exchange. AAPI Heritage Month is an invaluable opportunity to learn from and share our collective experiences.
Sumeet Shah: Growing up as an Indian-American, I often found myself caught between two worlds. On one hand, my Indian heritage played a significant role in shaping my values, traditions, and worldview. On the other hand, my American upbringing exposed me to a different set of experiences, perspectives, and cultural norms. With time, I came to realize that I didn’t have to choose between being Indian or American. Being Indian-American is a distinct identity that embraces the unique fusion of cultures and perspectives that I, along with many others like me, embody.
Asian culture is incredibly rich and diverse. For me, AAPI Heritage Month is an occasion to celebrate this identity and share all that it represents with those around us. From our shared experiences to the profound impact on American society and, of course, the food, there’s no shortage of reasons to celebrate!
Colleen Worthington: AAPI Heritage Month is a time of celebration, honoring the diverse and vibrant Asian cultures that exist worldwide. It provides an opportunity to connect with individuals who have shared similar traditions and experiences. By appreciating and embracing these cultures, we foster a sense of unity and belonging. It’s a chance to revel in the beauty of our diverse Asian heritage and forge meaningful connections within the AAPI community.
What is your favorite culturally significant dish and why?
Phil: Soup dumplings or xiao long bao are my absolute favorite and the one dish I enjoy eating the most when I visit Taiwan. At first glance, they may seem unassuming with their simple appearance. The magic lies in the incredible attention to detail put into each bite. When they’re done right, they provide a burst of flavors that’ll leave you craving for more.
Sumeet: Oh, let me tell you about Indian thali! “Thali” is just the Hindi word for “plate,” but trust me, it’s so much more. In the middle of the dish, you’ll find roti or rice, surrounded by a variety of smaller bowls brimming with different dahl, veggies, chutneys, and more. Each region of India has its own unique thali which makes it special. The dish is usually reserved for special occasions and I associate it with holidays and celebrations with family and friends.
Colleen: Thit Kho holds a special place in my heart. It’s a dish my ba ngoai (that’s Vietnamese for grandmother) used to cook during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. It was a favorite among me and my cousins and the dish that we looked forward to the most. The dish reminds me of family, laughter, love, and the start of a fresh new year.
What does being a member of the SevenRooms RoomForCelebrASIAN ERG mean to you? Could you describe one of your favorite moments from your time in the ERG?
Phil: Our ERG facilitates and fosters broader cultural exchange within the AAPI community. It’s important that we explore what makes us unique as well as recognizing the commonalities that bind us together.
Sumeet: Every SevenRooms RoomForCelebrASIAN meeting is like its own mini AAPI Month. It serves as a platform where I can maintain a connection with my heritage while also gaining insights into others’. We have a lot of fun as a group! One of my favorite experiences was when we all received Asian snack packs and sampled them together. It was such a great experience trying treats from a variety of cultures!
Colleen: My favorite moment in the ERG was when we shared our respective family traditions during Tet, and I realized that they were not so dissimilar from mine. Growing up in a small suburban town in California in the early 80’s as someone of mixed Vietnamese and Caucasian heritage, there were few individuals who looked like me or my Vietnamese family. They couldn’t understand the foods I brought to school or the traditions we honored. Participating in the ERG has been a great way to connect with others who share similarities. It also provides me with an opportunity to expand my knowledge about cultures and traditions with which I am less familiar. with.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
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