Advocating for Her Culture, Her Team and Herself
Meet Kathy Chou
By Thando Kunene
May was Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. We sat down with Kathy Chou, Senior Vice President of SaaS Engineering, to learn more about how her cultural heritage has shaped her and her approach to empathetic, inclusive leadership at Nutanix.
Tell us about your role as the Senior Vice President of SaaS Engineering.
In my role, I’m responsible for digital experiences for our customers, partners, and colleagues across the company.
What does your AAPI heritage mean to you?
My family and I are of Chinese descent and my parents immigrated from China and met while they were both attending UC Berkeley. I spent most of my childhood moving around and by the time I was 14, I had lived in seven different places. So, when people ask me where I’m from, it’s always a difficult question to answer. Because of this experience, I really understand what it feels like to be an outsider and the importance of inclusion.
Who are the figures within the AAPI community that have been most influential to you?
In no particular order…
- Norman Mineta, for whom the San Jose airport is named, was the Secretary of Transportation under two U.S. presidents and was the first Asian-American mayor of a major U.S. city. He truly lived his values and, through his advocacy for the 1988 Civil Liberties Act, won reparations for Japanese-Americans who were held in U.S. internment camps during WWII.
- Tammy Duckworth, a U.S. Senator and Iraq war veteran. After losing both legs in combat, she became a disability advocate. During the recent wave of anti-Asian violence, she engaged in advocacy to ensure that the President’s cabinet had representation of AAPI perspectives.
- Vincent Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese-American autoworker in Detroit, MI, who was the victim of anti-Asian violence during a time of backlash against Japanese auto workers in the city. This June was the 40th anniversary of his death. His is a little-known story but it's an important historical injustice to remember.
How can we best uplift and celebrate the diverse and unique perspectives of the AAPI community during this month, and beyond?
It’s critical that we recognize the diversity of this community and understand that there are a variety of cultural groups and perspectives who fit under this umbrella. Every group within the AAPI community has its own unique strengths, challenges, and values and the best we can do is make an effort to get to know each other and listen, rather than making assumptions or perpetuating stereotypes.
What is one organization, resource, or creator within the AAPI community that you recommend our community engage with to broaden their knowledge of AAPI communities?
For nearly 10 years, I’ve been on the board of the Asian Pacific Fund which provides funding to nonprofits that are strengthening the AAPI community in the Bay Area. One of their recent surveys found that nearly 1 in 4 AAPI workers lives in poverty or is struggling financially. This organization sheds much-needed light on the challenges the community faces and dispels the model minority myth which may result in communities suffering in silence.
How have your cultural experiences informed who you are, your values, and your work?
I recall this feeling of being an outsider as far back as preschool when we lived in Philadelphia and were one of the only Asian-American families. At school, there was a bully who made fun of my nose and, somehow, I always ended up in the back row of school performances. Luckily, my father advocated for me and taught me the importance of always speaking up and using your voice - especially when it isn’t expected of you.
In my community, we sometimes feel that if we keep quiet and work hard we will be rewarded but we also need to advocate for ourselves. That communication skill is something I bring to my leadership style. I call on everyone in my team to share their voice, especially the quiet ones, which is a key part of inclusion and belonging at Nutanix.
And is that one of the aspects that drew you to Nutanix?
Yes. I was drawn to Nutanix because of my belief in the company, the product, and our fantastic culture. Since our days at VMware, I have always admired Rajiv as a leader and jumped at the opportunity to work with him. Additionally, I really enjoy my manager, David Sangster, with whom I share many values and who has been a wonderful sponsor and advocate for me and my team.
Thank you Kathy for sharing her story and highlighting the importance of AAPI Heritage Month. To learn more about our team, culture, and career opportunities at Nutanix, visit our careers page.
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