Being Asian in Advertising

May 23, 2023
3 min read

I am a first generation Asian American in the United States. Born and bred in New York City. My parents are immigrants from China. Like the typical Asian parent, they wanted me to get a desk job in an office, so I didn’t have to become a blue-collar worker like them. My father wanted me to be an accountant and when I announced I wanted to be in advertising, he scoffed and said, “There is no place in advertising for a Chinese person.” He wasn’t wrong, at the time. Lucky for me, I landed my first job in a big glamourous agency as a low-level Account Coordinator and eventually found my way to Media Planning. For most of my career, I was the only Asian person in the room. Most of the challenges came from bias, our culture and imposter syndrome. As we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, I wanted to share a few things that helped me overcome those challenges as I found my career path in the advertising business.

Speak Up
I was taught to suppress everything, my feelings, and emotions. It was ingrained in me to keep my head down and stay silent. Just do my job, respect the elders and do what I was told. I was taught not to brag, stay humble, but in corporate America, you have talk about your accomplishments to be recognized. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask for that raise or project, even if you don’t think you’re the perfect candidate. It’s OK to hear “no”, what matters is how you turn that into a “yes”. Confidence is not something AAPI parents teach their kids, but it should be.  

Know Your Worth
Growing up, I was told that I was lucky to have all the things I have because my parents immigrated to the US with nothing. I took whatever I was offered because I thought that was what I deserved. Finding your worth is like learning what kind of relationship you want after a bad breakup. You realize the kind of partner you deserve after a bad breakup. It applies to professional relationships as well. Interviews were like going on first dates, I wanted to make sure the company was a right fit for me too. When I did not get answers to questions, I realized it’s ok to push back and dig deeper. It’s alright to walk away.

Find Your People
I have been very fortunate in my career to find people who supported me and mentored me. Finding your cheerleaders and navigating towards people who are uplifting can elevate you. The energy you are around helps to change your mindset. It’s important to gravitate towards the positive. People who are leadership allies can speak for you and advocate for you. This helps create visibility because your work is important. You are important.

It was not easy breaking through in this industry as an Asian American. It took years for me to embrace who I am and not be afraid to advocate for myself. I hope we can continue to break stereotypes, speak up and lean in. I am so grateful to be a part of this group in the advertising community and so proud to have a seat at the table.

© 2024 Soubriet Byrne & Associates, Inc.