USCET Founding President Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch participated as a panelist in the Chinese American Museum’s first webinar event of their Pauline L. Tsui “Women in Leadership” series on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. The series is named in honor of the late Pauline Woo Tsui, founder of the Organization of Chinese American Women (OCAW), of which Ambassador Bloch was also a founding member. In an effort to continue to promote the experiences and voices of inspiring Chinese American women, USCET will launch our “Conversations with Chinese American Women Trailblazers” programming series in Pauline L. Tsui’s memory in early 2021.
Speaking alongside fellow Chinese American female leaders Syaru Shirley Lin and Ting Xu on a panel moderated by journalist Dottie Li, Ambassador Bloch shared her experiences and thoughts on unexpected turns in her career and life, offering inspiration for the audience as to what it means to progress along and change paths throughout their professional lives. Despite working in vastly different fields in different generations and in different parts of the world, these women all shared one common experience: their professional and personal lives have experienced significant pivots. Through this inspirational panel, each woman shared her story and advice for others who will need to make changes in their careers.
Dottie Li, a journalist formerly with Voice of America and the Founder and President of Transpacific Communications, moderated the discussion. A Chinese American woman herself, she related with the panelists and spoke of her experiences learning new skills as a journalist, regularly being asked to research and report on topics she was unfamiliar with. She prompted fruitful discussion among the panelists, asking them to explain their professional transitions and drawing connections between their various career paths.
Ambassador Bloch shared her experience of pivoting from a 25-year career in public service through the Peace Corps, USAID, and U.S. Senate to working in the corporate sector at the Bank of America and then eventually the philanthropic sector. While the switch from government service to the corporate sphere was significant, she noted that these different positions all required similar skills with the goal of resolving international issues. Ambassador Bloch emphasized that she continued to pursue these new opportunities to learn more and develop her passions, stating “Life stops if you stop learning.” When asked about the issue of discrimination and harassment of Chinese American women in the professional sphere, Ambassador Bloch acknowledged the discrimination she has encountered and that still exists, but offered the advice of “Don’t take it personally, just overcome.” She detailed examples of how she encountered such challenges, and overcame them by searching for new opportunities and advocating for herself and her unique skillset.
Syaru Shirley Lin, PhD was formerly the youngest female managing director of Goldman Sachs, and then transitioned to a vibrant career in academia, currently serving as the Compton Visiting Professor in World Politics at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. She discussed her major shift from the finance sector to academia, stressing that while it seemed radical, in reality she used the same skills of interdisciplinary research and understanding. Dr. Lin spoke extensively of her journey pursuing her passion of public service, and encouraged audience members to know what they are passionate about and keep that at the core of their decisions for personal and professional transitions.
Ting Xu, the Founder and Chairman of Evergreen Enterprises, one of the nation’s largest flag wholesalers, and CEO & Co-Owner of Plow & Hearth, transitioned to her current position after serving as a computer programmer at the Virginia State Health Department. Ms. Xu framed her pivot from the perspective of family and community, as she came to her current leadership roles through helping her Chinese American immigrant parents find new careers in the United States. Above all, she advised the importance of forming and preserving genuine, authentic connections and allowing that support network to help one through difficult times.
Above all, each panelist stressed the importance of knowing one’s passions and skills, and using those in life changes while continuing to learn. Each woman concluded by acknowledging that they still have pivots to come in the future, and are excited to continue to learn from each of those experiences.