Honoring AAPI Heritage Month at Amyris

May 26, 2022

The month of May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month in the U.S. – a time when we honor and celebrate the history and many contributions of the AAPI community on a local, national, and global scale.

This year’s theme for AAPI Heritage Month is Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration, which highlights the importance of diversity and intersectional collaboration for driving innovation. With two of our core values being collaboration and continuous innovation, we couldn’t have chosen a better theme to discuss among #TeamAmyris.

This month, we had the opportunity to hear from several of our AAPI team members to learn more about their cultural upbringing, their families, the challenges they’ve faced, and how they view collaboration as an integral part of their work at Amyris. In order to bring these insights to the entire company, our VP of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Solomon Wilkins, moderated a panel on May 25 with AAPI leaders from across Amyris’ business. The panel was held at Amyris headquarters in Emeryville, California, with a livestream made available to all employees.

Each panelist generously shed light on their individual ethnic background and cultural heritage and how their experiences have played a role in shaping the way they collaborate, both in professional and personal life settings. From family dynamics to developing unique leadership styles to supporting team members’ cultural traditions, these Amyrisians lead with empathy and integrity in our mission to transition the world to sustainable consumption.

See what each of our talented panelists had to say throughout the discussion:

  • Victoria Ruter, Vice President, Brand on how a family-first culture has influenced her leadership style: “Family dinner was a cornerstone of my upbringing. Every single night, we would sit down as a family to eat dinner – this is when we would share the highs and lows of our day and reconnect with one another, separate from everything else going on. I cherish those nightly family dinners and this ritual has greatly influenced how I approach management. I make it a priority to get to know the people on my team beyond their professional capabilities. I want to know them on a personal level to understand their background, what’s important to them, and what inspires them. When they understand that I care about them as individuals, on a personal level, that sets the foundation for collaboration and allows me to better support them on their professional journeys.”
  • Sunil Chandran, Chief Science Officer and Head of R&D on heritage and upbringing: “I grew up in India in the ‘70s and ‘80s when skin color was often used as a proxy for an individual’s ability, with people of fair skin having a distinct advantage over people with darker skin. My parents made it clear early on that our family did not subscribe to this mentality and that we don’t judge people based on these types of proxies. I’m grateful that my family instilled these values in us, but growing up in a place so deeply rooted in this mindset sticks with you – so when I came to the U.S. in the ‘90s, I had to actively combat my own inferiority complex and remind myself that things like my skin color and my accent were not limits to potential, but actually what make each person unique and beautiful.”
  • Doris Choi, Vice President, Senior Corporate Counsel on why AAPI representation matters: “I want my two Korean American girls to grow up in this country feeling a sense of belonging and acceptance. That’s why it’s important that they see positive portrayals of Asians in media, inclusion in our history books, and Asian representation in government and business. I believe this will also go a long way in combatting stereotypes that end up contributing to distrust and animosity toward the AAPI community.”
  • Annie Tsong, Chief Strategy Officer, Products and Ingredients on the generational learnings that shaped her: “My family is from Taiwan which has a fascinating history – one set of great grandparents and grandparents grew up speaking Japanese when Taiwan was a colony of Japan, then later transitioned to speaking Taiwanese predominantly, then later to Mandarin Chinese, and when we moved to the U.S., my generation primarily spoke English. Over the course of multiple generations, each generation had a different primary language. You can see how the nature of Taiwan’s history had a huge impact on my family’s ability to communicate and connect with each other from generation to generation. This experience has really shaped my own communication approach and as a leader, it has helped me see how each person perceives language, their unique style, and the nuances to what they need to be successful.”  

And because we couldn’t stop with just five people from the Amyris AAPI community, we also took the month of May to spotlight other team members at Amyris on our LinkedIn channel. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to learn more about some of our other AAPI teammates’ journeys: Aditi Khankhoje, Associate Scientist; Shyhara Chandrasena, Senior Associate Scientist; Benedict Tanjoco, Lab Services Manager; Rosalyn Lau, Automation Engineer; and Spencer Wong, Social Media and Content Marketing Manager of Aprinnova.

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