Interview with APEX Founder - Stephen Liu!
As we celebrate the 25th year in APEX this year, what better way to honor this milestone than to speak about the person who started it all. We had a chance to talk to the founder of APEX, Stephen Liu, and learn more about his inspiration and process in creating the organization, his favorite memories and involvement, and about his current venture with M8 as the current CEO of MEETM8.com. Read more to see how APEX all started!
Name and years you served as president
Hi, I’m Stephen Liu, and I served as APEX’s first President from 1993 to 1997. Since then I have served as an Ex-Officio Chairman. One of the best things I did for the organization was to step away as President allowing it grow and mature on its own. There were some years that I have been quite involved, and some that I have not. Usually, it’s depending on current leadership and if they feel they need my help. APEX will always be my “baby” but now at 25 years old, it’s grown adult now.
What was APEX like when you were president?
The early days of APEX were filled with a sense of excitement, empowerment, and hope. I don’t want to get all sentimental, but man - those were the good old days.
Aside from myself, the other Founders were Darlet Yee Lin, David Lin, Edwin Gaw, Jenelle Yaplee Chow, Kathy Hom, Kerry Lin Liu, Michael Ni, Peter Koh, Raymond Chang, Santi Smithsuvan, Sharon Yu Lin, Susan Phan Lim, and Victor Chen.
Most of us were in our early 20s, and we were still learning about leadership and trying to figure out our place within the APA landscape. That said, we had plenty of great ideas, and we were raring to go. Here are some of the things we achieved during the first several years of organization:
- Our membership grew from just 14 founding members in 1993 to over 600 dues-paying members in 1997
- We raised about $25,000 for several Asian American-focused charities
- We supported and worked with over 15 other Asian American organizations
- We received our 501c3 non-profit status
- We established the APEX Honorary Advisory Board filled with quite a few APA trailblazers.
- We established and produced numerous key events including the such as the Lunar New Year Charity Gala (1994), the Anniversary Awards Extravaganza Dinner (1994), the APEX/SNAPY Youth Olympics (1995), the APEX MBA/JD Forum (1995), the APEX/NAAAP National Leadership Conference (1995), the LOLLAPOLASIA Benefit Concert (1996), and the APEX Asian American Career Day (1997). Whew, that’s a long list!
One event that stands out the most is our 3rd APEX Third Anniversary Awards Extravaganza - coincidentally, that was my last gala as President. This was a sold-out black-tie affair at the Biltmore Hotel, and we had over 550 people in attendance. It was a pretty huge deal because we’d secured some major corporate sponsors such as Southern California Edison, House of Seagram, Anheuser-Busch, Mars Inc., AT&T, Toshiba, and Wells Fargo Bank.
During the event, we honored some esteemed community and business leaders including US Ambassador March Fong Eu, California State Treasurer Matt Fong, actor Jason Scott Lee, Entrepreneur John Tu of Kingston Technologies and TV News Anchor Tricia Toyota.
We had such a great time that night, but I also remember that we ran way, way over. We didn’t even finish the speeches and presentations until 11pm!
How did you get involved with APEX?
To cut a long story short, it was because of my softball skills. Let me explain.
I had just moved from San Diego and only knew two people in Los Angeles -- my Jewish fraternity brother, and my younger sister Wendy. One weekend, my sister invited me to a “Sports Day” picnic that was organized by two optometrists -- Peter Koh (Founding Membership Director) and Santi Smithsuvan (Founding Community Relations Director) in Monterey Park. There must have been a couple hundred people there; they were all young, professional and “Asian American” like me! This “Sports Day” picnic a variety of sporting activities. One of the sports was a softball game that was organized by an Air Force attorney, Victor Chen (Founding Sports Director). I hit three home runs in that game and was immediately invited by Victor to join his co-ed softball team.
This was a pivotal moment for me. I didn’t grow up in LA and really didn’t know anyone. It was here that I got to meet and bonded with people like Mike Ni (Founding VP), David Lin (Founding Corporate Relations Director), Kathy Hom (Founding Communications Director), Kerry Lin Liu (Founding Special Events Director), Sharon Yu Lin (Founding Professional Development Director), and Susan Phan Lim (Founding Administration Director). This was pretty much the core group that when on to found APEX. When it came time to vote on who would become “President” I was elected in a unanimous vote.
So how did I get involved with APEX? I hit three home runs in a softball game at a picnic.
What inspired you to create APEX?
I’ll be honest -- before I started APEX, I was a real “banana”. Yellow on the outside, but white on the inside. I had mostly white friends when I was growing up in Illinois, Maryland, and San Diego. In fact, I distinctly remembered my sister Wendy having to explain to me why I should use the word “Asian American” vs “Oriental”. Yep, I was that guy.
So when I went to that fateful “Sports Day”, and met so many young Asian Americans professionals whom I felt connected with, I was blown away by the possibilities.
Here was this rapidly growing population of young Asian Americans that were, generally speaking, college-educated, ambitious, and social. After talking to them, I realized that most of these folks were involved in Asian American activities in college, but didn't have any opportunities to do so as a young professional. Of course, I was also thinking and having conversations about what it meant to be “Asian American” in the United States. The images of the Korean shops being burned down that I saw in the news haunted me. That could’ve been my relatives. That could’ve been my people.
So APEX started with a single question:
How do we inspire, educate and motivate our generation of Asian Americans to excel and lead not only within our respective professions but within our communities as well?
From there, we spent several months thinking about what APEX could be.
One of my first brainstorming sessions was the famous Souplantation lunch with Santi Smithsuvan where we came up with the famous three pillars of APEX scribbled on a napkin.
Another time I remember was that we all had Chinese lunch meeting and then went to see an afternoon screening of the biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story starring our future APEX awardee Jason Scott Lee.
The movie was incredibly inspiring for all of us. Here was a major studio film that debuted number one at the box office starring a sexy six-packed Asian American male who faces and fights racism and gets the blonde girl. Only two months earlier, Jason Scott Lee was in a little critically-acclaimed film called the Map of the Human Heart, where he also plays the romantic lead and, again, he gets the white girl! Unfortunately, Hollywood wasn’t really ready for a romantic Asian male lead and has not really cast Jason in that type of role since then.
I also had numerous impromptu sessions with my founding VP Mike Ni (center in picture) who lived next door with another founder David Lin (left in picture). Mike had both a Stanford and MIT engineering degree and was very structured and really helped me to refine the vision of what we would become APEX.
Some of the design principles we came up with:
- Firstly, we’d have an Asian American / Pan-Asian focus, instead of making ourselves exclusive to a single ethnicity.
- Secondly, we would target Asian American young professionals in their 20s and 30s.
- Third, we’d address both community service and professional development issues creating a place for these Asian Americans to grow as leaders.
- Fourth, we decided to focus on APEX as a medium of "exchange" to bring increased awareness about and to Asian Americans.
And lastly, we decided from the get-go that we would have to be not-for-profit and serve a greater good. Looking back, I think the organization has remained true to those initial thoughts.
Do you have any favorite memories during your time in the organization?
Here’s something you need to realize -- twenty-five years ago, the Internet wasn’t mainstream. Everything we did was offline. We used snail mail, physical flyers, and phone landlines. Check out the following diagram, which illustrates the APEX recruitment process in 1994...
It’s almost comical how much easier it is run an organization like APEX in 2018 vs 1993, but I do have fond memories of envelope stuffing parties and telephone trees to get the word out.
Seriously, though -- every time we’d get together for board meetings, but we would have to multitask and stuff envelopes or affix stamps on postcards while we talked. I even remember making membership telemarketing calls at Raymond Chang’s house in RPV. We did have a “human-computer” at our disposal. Our Director of Membership Peter “Rainman” Koh had a near photographic memory, and he memorized our entire membership roster down to their phone number and address.
Tell us more about current venture M8. How did it all start?
Ever since my APEX days, I’ve made a career connecting people for love, business, and friendship. But I wasn’t having much success when it came to dating -- and for quite some time, I just couldn’t find The One. One day, I went to an event with my friend film producer Teddy Zee, who is also an APEX advisor. When I got there, I was introduced to this beautiful, driven women named Linda.
Here’s what happened:
I thought we hit it off, but she said I wasn’t her type. Thankfully, Teddy gave me such a great endorsement that she decided to keep an open mind, and it turned out that was all the help I needed. We eventually got married and now have a 3-year-old son named Kingston.
This made me realize that we all need a little help from our friends... especially when it comes to love. It’s also why Linda and I decided to create a matchmaking app where your friends are part of the magic.
At M8, we recruit and reward friends to become your “virtual wingman” who vouch and introduce their single friends - just like what Teddy did for me. We believe that real-life friend endorsements and introductions provide an important human dimension to our platform giving both you and your matches better insight into potential compatibility and a “warm intro” that establishes common ground. And by incorporating two user tracks - Dater and Matchmaker - M8 has something for everybody - whether you’re single, in a relationship, or married with kids.
Check out our app at meetm8.com, or download it via this link.
Interview with Paget Kagy of Kat Loves LA!
APEX had the opportunity to learn more about the entertainment industry through the Asian American lens of Paget Kagy, actress, writer, and producer of Kat Loves LA. Read on to find out about her career path and how her culture has informed her thoughts and her work.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your professional background, and your path to what you currently do?
I’m an actress/writer/producer who recently produced the first season of an Asian American romantic comedy “Kat Loves LA” that’s gained quite a bit of accolade from within the industry and 150K+ views on Youtube. I also work in digital advertising, which surprisingly, has been helpful in producing. I believe the most important skill that any professional can cultivate is being able to effectively communicate (written and verbal). When you’re working in the corporate world, that’s a skill that most effective professionals are forced to develop, but not as much in the creative world.
When I first entered the entertainment space, I was solely interested in acting, like with most actor-hyphenates. It was fun, creative, and freeing, and seemed so diametrically opposed to anything related to business. However, when you are strapped for budget and committed to seeing a project through, what do you have, but your smarts and savvy? the most important tool you can ever rely on is being able to sell. Not in the door-to-door sleazy kind of way—but in the ability to identify and present the mutual benefits to all parties involved. Selling is first seeing the opportunity, and then showing it to the other party.
2. APEX is always trying to foster cultural awareness amongst our members and the community. How does your culture and background inform what you do, both personally and professionally?
As an Asian American creator, there are a lot of considerations in choosing what story to tell. Do I want to make something that’s marketable? Something that stands the best chance of getting picked up by a network? Or something that speaks to me and is honest to my sensibilities and identity?
Ultimately, I chose to make this an Asian American led project, with both leads being Asian, because it was a story that I could tell earnestly, in a way that I hadn’t seen other creators do in this genre. The ultimate opportunity I saw was doing something different, not popular.
After the first season was released, the stakes seemed even higher than just challenging norms through casting. My eyes were opened up to a whole community of Asian Americans who feel disenfranchised, sold out and thrown out, by Hollywood. Releasing the first season has forced me to ask this question for this and future projects: If I have the chance to represent Asian Americans in a positive way and have been given that privilege, shouldn’t I? Don’t I, in some way, have that moral obligation?
And this is where the personal and professional meet. I have professional ambitions, but I also have a moral compass—so, how do I negotiate between the two as I progress in my career? Ultimately, I hope to be someone who can create change in this industry.
3. The intersection between the entertainment industry and Asian/Asian American community has been a hot topic. What are your thoughts on the current landscape of the industry and what do you think can still be done to improve it?
I think it’s getting better for Asian Americans in Hollywood. I know there is a lot of criticism around Crazy Rich Asians, but it’s a step in the right direction. The truth of the matter is, Hollywood sees CRA as an “Asian American” film, whether or not we wholeheartedly like or support it. In other words, if we want to encourage the wave of more Asian American content to be made, we better go watch it in theaters.
Where Hollywood desperately needs to catch up is showing more Asian American characters in 3-dimensional roles that have character arcs. This includes showing attractive Asian American men in romantic leading roles. I’m sick of the sexy Asian girl trope, and sick of the nerdy Asian guy tech/medic/waiter/butt-of-the-joke.
4. What advice would you give aspiring actors and actresses, producers and writers, or anyone looking to go into a career where they’re not as well-represented?
My advice to anyone of any race, or background, is to be honest about who you are and never apologize for it. It’s something I still struggle with at times. But the more you embrace your flaws and the unique traits that make you, you, you can start becoming empowered in that and finding your authentic voice. To be honest, I think that’s where a lot of new content creators fail. They are too wrapped up in trying to make their project “the next such-and-such”, or make it really clever, or really funny, that their work lacks heart. First, find your voice. Second, create.
5. What was the inspiration behind Kat Loves LA and who do you think would really resonate with the series?
To be honest, the inspiration for Season 1 was inspired from failure. I was going through a rough patch around the time I wrote the first draft, and was actively considering giving up on acting altogether.
Instead, I decided to write into that feeling of failure. I chose to focus on a time in my life when I had felt the lowest of low. I was fresh out of a relationship, stagnant in nearly all areas of my life, and living alone. “Kat Loves LA” is the story that plays in the fantasy version of my life from 6 years ago.
I hope anyone who has felt depressed or lost at any point in their lives, can relate to the basic premise of the story and feel comforted by the fact that they are not alone. I hope it will also resonate with Asian American audiences in general, as it shows a positive representation of us on screen.
6. What kind of takeaways do you hope people get from watching Kat Loves LA?
I want anyone who watches Kat Loves LA to feel less afraid, and less alone, because there are millions of others who go through the same emotionally challenging periods of their lives. But we do come through to the other side with a little will, and a little faith.
I’m also hoping to inspire other Asian American creators to go out there and tell an unapologetic Asian American story knowing that it can be done, and people will enjoy it!
7. What are you looking forward to the most as you gear up for Season 2?
I’m most looking forward to seeing it all come together on screen! I really enjoy the script and story for Season 2, as it’s a little more mature this time around. I’m also in love with some of the new characters we’re introducing and very excited to see them come to life! Please help us by donating to our Season 2. Your donation could pay for a day’s work for one of our crew members, or help feed us on set! Please check out our page for perks, industry raves, cast list, and remember that every dollar counts: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/kat-loves-la-love-drama/x/10848366#/
APEX Interviews Asian Boss Girl (ABG)
Asian Boss Girl is a podcast hosted by three amazing Asian American women - Melody Cheng, Helen Wu, and Janet Wang. They use this podcast as a means to share stories that relate to the 20-30 year old Asian American woman, speaking about topics such as working, dating, and living in Los Angeles. Their ideals align with APEX's mission of promoting cultural awareness & Asian representation, and we're honored to have had the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their motivations behind their podcast and their thoughts about APEX and the Asian American community.
1. What was the inspiration behind AsianBossGirl and can you tell our members a little bit about what it is?
Initially, the idea of creating the podcast came from a night of casual “girl-talk” while around some of our friends who work in the media and entertainment space. They thought that our conversation reflected a unique perspective that would appeal to a wider audience.
The name ABG is an acronym that can be interpreted as “Asian Baby Girl”, a term commonly used in the 1990s to refer to a type of girl in an Asian American subculture who flaunted her sexuality and was usually associated with gangsters, but was a strong and commanding figure. As women who grew up in the 90s, we have a particular connection to this archetype. And now, as adults establishing careers and lifestyles in 2018, a time when cultural diversity and equality for women are very prominent topics, we saw the possibility to re-define the “Asian Baby Girl” archetype as an “Asian Boss Girl” - a woman whose lifestyle may be polarizing (whether that is working in a male dominated career or going clubbing in provocative attire), but who is in command of her life and identity.
2. What was the most challenging and/or fulfilling parts of getting ABG off the ground?
The most challenging part of starting the podcast was learning and getting a process down with pushing out content. All three of us had to learn how to edit with Adobe Premiere, learn social media marketing skills, figure out how to record, create a website, and distribute to iTunes and other podcasting platforms, while maintaining full time jobs & social lives. The most fulfilling part of the podcast is reading responses from listeners about how they relate to our topics. It’s a crazy feeling to get positive feedback when we weren’t sure of the outcome to begin with.
3. Who do you see as your target audience, and what do you hope your audience will get out of your podcast?
Naturally, being women who work that 9-5 life, we see our target audience as women who work similar hours and live similar lifestyles. Our goal for this podcast is to fill some of the void apparent in media, to be open and honest with our conversations, and to provide a relatable voice for hard-working, Asian American women. We hope to tell the stories of everyday Asian American women that isn’t as present in the media world. And what we’ve come to realize with this podcast is that by being authentic with our voices, others are inspired to be authentic with theirs as well. “When we see someone we know, we feel known as well, and seen.” - from Krista Suh’s book, DIY Rules for a WTF World.
4. Personal grooming, dating, work life balance - you ladies cover so much relatable content in Season 1. What episodes were the most well-received and what kind of content can we see in Season 2?
Perhaps it was due to the early release of episode 2 that garnered an overwhelming amount of comments, but a hot topic from our listeners was the ****boi episode, which exposed an audience of men coming forward to defend certain ‘****boi’ labeled behaviors. Mansplaining, if you will. We intend to have several guests on the podcast for Season 2, and we have brought up 2 of our friends to provide a male’s perspective on the ****boi episode.
Aside from this, we have received several topic requests on how to maintain/grow friendships and deepen relationships, requests for further discussion on identity, how to shift to a more creative field of work, dealing with uncertainty, how to stop comparing yourself to others, i.e. a lot of personal life situations that are not easy to talk about, even with friends.
5. Are there any plans to potentially host guests on ABG?
Yes, definitely! We are currently in the middle of preparing for Season 2 and we have special guests, whom we are excited for, lined up for future episodes. Krista Suh, the creator of the Pussyhat Project, is one of them!
6. Sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for the three of you and ABG, what would've made it a successful year for ABG and each of you?
Looking back at our past year, just being able to put out a podcast is a feat that we’re really proud of. All three of us didn’t have much time during season 1 to reflect on what we put out since we were constantly thinking about what we needed to do next (edit, topic for the next episode, etc.). However, this break we were finally able to talk with our team and answer emails. Hearing from our listeners, and seeing that they connect with our content and enjoy learning a new perspective from the Asian American Women story is such a surreal feeling for us. If we’re able to continue to connect with our listeners and reach a greater audience, we’ll call that a successful year.
7. What mentors or individuals in the Asian American community do you look up to that you think our members should know more about?
Two individuals Mel looks up to are from the Pacific Arts Movement in San Diego: Brian Hu, the current Programming Director and Lee Ann Kim, the former Executive Director of the film festival. Their passion for Asian American presence in media and their activism in the community sparked Mel’s light to take action. “I remember, sitting as a college intern, during the opening speech for the festival as they spoke about why Asian American stories need to be told. They talked about how story- telling connects people and creates shared experiences and opportunities for our communities to exist. I was so inspired by them that I chose to stick with the organization throughout my last two years of college (something very rare for a college student to do) and that experience has led me to where I am today. I wouldn’t have known about this Asian American community without them, and due to that I owe them a lot.” We are also lucky to be surrounded by Asian Americans who are close friends, and who inspire us greatly. Namely, WongFu Productions. They are OG YouTubers who continue to pave the way for themselves and other Asian Americans in media and entertainment.
8. APEX has many members from the Asian American community who are actively involved in professional development, community service, and cultural awareness. What are your thoughts on areas that really need a voice from the community that we can contribute more actively in?
Apex is doing such an amazing job in providing a platform for the community. An area of focus where we can all pay closer attention to is our youth, more specifically the Asian American young adults in college. College is a time where we not only set that foundation for our careers, but also for self identity. Many of our listeners message us about feeling like they don’t “fit in” with their college due to the small number of Asian American organizations in their town, or a fear of life after college with a lack of career direction (or things not going the way they expected, e.g. made it to that tech job, now what? My parents want me to pursue medical, but I have no interest in it, etc.) Hopefully, we can provide a greater network to these students so their college experience can result in a better self discovery and identity journey. Also, with a stronger network, we can share more stories within the Asian American community so these students can choose from a bigger pool of career options and not be afraid to enter this post-grad chapter of their life.
Message from the President
Happy New Year!
As APEX begins its 25th year, I’ve been reflecting on the organization’s purpose – to serve as a medium to bring increased awareness about and to the Asian/Pacific Islander (API) community through its programs. This is intentionally broad as it is meant to reflect the diverse interests and backgrounds of the Asian/Pacific Islanders here in Southern California. Too often, the diversity of our community is overlooked and our voices on key issues ignored or misrepresented. Throughout the years, APEX has put together programming designed to break mainstream stereotypes about Asian/Pacific Islanders, raise awareness of pertinent API issues, and give back to the community. In 2018, APEX will be even more committed to doing this.
This year, you’ll see us even more engaged with our community partners. We want to ensure that we help amplify the voices of our community whenever we can. In addition, we are also committed to engaging with our stakeholders, which includes YOU. We want to speak with you, get to know you, and find out how APEX can serve you better. We want APEX to be reflective of the diverse API community. Finally seeing as this is our 25th year, this will also be a time of celebration! Throughout the year, we’ll be rolling out alumni interview, stories, and other posts to reminisce about the last 25 years and celebrate APEX’s accomplishments, culminating at our 25th annual fundraising gala in the fall.
So whether you’re new to APEX, a regular, or alumni, I hope you can join us in 2018. We have an exciting year ahead and we’re very excited to meet and speak with you!
OCA-GLA + APEX Interboard Mixer
On July 27th, 2017, members of the APEX board met with the board of OCA-GLA (Organization of Chinese Americans-Greater Los Angeles) in Chinatown, Los Angeles. Founded in 1973, OCA is a national organization dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans in the United States. Over the course of 44 years, OCA has grown to 80 chapters nationwide and is still actively participating in civic and national matters, striving to instill a sense of social responsibility in the APA community through leadership opportunities and community empowerment activities. APEX had a very productive interboard mixer with this wonderful organization!
A Transition of Presidents
Recently, the APEX Board went through a significant transition in leadership. Our President of 2017, Jimmy Zhong, is on his way to the prestigious University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business this fall and needed to end his term early for his studies. Jimmy and his leadership have been invaluable to APEX and the community, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
We are pleased to announce that Christian Tiu, previously APEX's Executive Vice President of Development and Finance, will be fulfilling the Presidential role for the rest of 2017 and until the end of 2018. For everyone to get to know him a little better, we asked the new President a few questions:
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
I am a Strategic Marketing Manager for Boston Scientific. I have a BS from UC Riverside (go Highlanders!) and an MBA from Boston University (go Terriers!). Having survived my share of New England winters, I’m very appreciative of the awesome weather we have here in LA. I also love the city’s culture, diversity, and great food!
2. How did you get started in APEX and what positions have you held?
This is my 4th year with APEX. I became a board member in 2014. During my 4 years I’ve held positions as Chair, Director, VP, EVP, and now President.
3. What is your favorite part about being in APEX?
First and foremost, I love how APEX’s continually strives to serve the API community through our events and partnerships. Second, I love the people. APEX always brings together a great group of people and I love working with everyone on the board. It’s a hard-working group that also knows how to have fun.
4. What is your vision for APEX during your term and what do you hope to accomplish?
I want APEX to be synonymous with making an impact in the API community. During my term, I hope to develop deeper relationships with other API organizations, help develop strong API leaders, raise the profile of APEX Cares, and establish a medium to facilitate ideas and conversations that are relevant to the API community.
With Christian's unparalleled experience and knowledge, we look forward to his leadership and expect great progress on APEX's mission and goals!
APEX Q1 Recap
APEX celebrated our entrance into 2017 with a bang, electing in 30 board members and welcoming APEX members to 4 events in Q1. APEX Cares started off the year by making a trip to the Los Angeles Food Bank in February, where we sorted and packaged canned goods and other foods for the hungry. APEX volunteers helped to package food for more than 5010 people! APEX Cares volunteers returned in April to Pasadena to continue our long-standing support of Kids Reading to Succeed, a children’s education program that serves to promote literacy and inspiring children to read books. Thank you to all of our APEX Cares volunteers who came out to serve their communities!
In March, APEX kicked off our networking programs with our New Member Mixer at City Tavern Downtown, where nearly 100 new and returning members came out to celebrate International Women’s Day, meet the 2017 APEX board, and mix and mingle with appetizers and cocktails. Also in March, APEX in partnership with Northwestern Mutual threw our first Professional Development event of the year, welcoming successful business owners and entrepreneurs Alex Yu, Chantel Bonneau, and Jenny Leung as our guest panelists. APEX members networked with finger foods, wine, and a beautiful high-rise view of the sunset before participating in a panel discussion on how to grow and manage a business.
We are just getting started for the year so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media @apexorg to stay up to date on our latest events!
Letter from the President
When I first started volunteering with APEX, I was overwhelmed by the spectrum of our programming – Professional Development, APEX Cares, Community, Culture, Youth Education. I wondered - how could one organization stand for so many different things, and did our diverse missions take away from our ability to make an impactful difference to our community?
Over the years, I would come to know the organization and its constituents, and through you all, the Southern California Asian/Pacific Islander community. If there’s one thing that APEX has taught me, it’s that diversity is not a weakness, it is a strength. APEX’s programming reflects the multi-faceted interests and backgrounds – both professionally and personally – of our members. The strength of our diversity is our ability to break stereotypes, serve communities of all cultures, and adapt to the changing issues faced by Asian-Americans.
Last year, issues such as API inclusion in the media, immigration, and diversity in the workforce made their way into the national conversation. Too often, the API community’s own voices on these subjects were minimalized or misrepresented. In order to make our voices heard in the mainstream, the conversations have to start here in our own communities. My vision is for APEX to serve as a forum and a voice for the API community, and to empower our leaders to address the professional, cultural, and philanthropic platforms that uniquely affect us.
A Recommitment to Engagement
Over the next several weeks, we will be bringing on our new leadership team, and you may notice some changes in our org chart. That’s because APEX is recommitting to engagement, with new membership, marketing, and development teams to reach our constituents and sponsors. We want to talk to you, get to know what your passions are, and understand how the organization can serve your interests. Whether you are a new member or a vet, come and chat with us. We will also be rolling out a new and improved apex.org this year, as well as a new digital content blog called the APEX Compass. More to come – so look out for that soon.
A Call to Action
Over the last several months I have seen so many pour out immense emotion and passion, often coupled with frustration, at the state of the country or community around us. If you are one of those I am describing, let this be your call to action. I encourage you to not sit idly by - become a leader in your community and an agent of change for the causes you believe in. Utilize APEX’s programs and resources to grow both personally and professionally, and reach out to our leadership team to learn about how you can get more involved. We are waiting to hear from you at email@example.com, through social media, phone, or at an event. I hope you will join APEX on this journey in 2017.
2017 APEX President
APEX Leadership Conference
The APEX Leadership Conference is a career development conference dedicated to Asian Pacific American professionals in Los Angeles. Event workshops include developing leadership skills, career advancement, and networking. The conference draws professionals from various industries, such as tech, entertainment, finance and many others. Participants can take advantage of the leadership conference to expand their network, showcase their skills and provide opportunities for career success.
- "Career Oxygen: The Blueprint for Negotiation Success” - Do you have what it takes to influence, negotiate and lead with confidence? Negotiation is the key to business success. It is also the key to your OWN career success. Learn about negotiation success from Lisa Gates, Co-Founder of She Negotiates, a consulting and coaching company that has been featured on NPR, CNN, Fox, and in publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, More Magazine, and Real Simple, among others.
- “Managing Up” - What skills do you need to handle your boss? And how can you be the most effective employee you can be? Being able to optimally communicate information, make appropriate decisions, and effectively escalate issues is very important to work with your manager more effectively. Develop your strategic plan to ͞manage up͟ and give your manager the things they need to best manage you. Don't leave the quality of your relationship with your manager solely in your manager’s hands. Take charge and start managing up!
- “Building & Managing Global Networks” - Thinking of expanding your networks domestically or globally? As the President of Blacoh Industries, Andrew possess over 25 years of experience in global marketing. Come listen to Andrew touch on being an authentic leader that will attract and expand the right network around you that will work for you both in the short and long term.
- “Branding and Promoting Yourself” - “Work hard…others will recognize your accomplishments…and you’ll be automatically promoted.” While this prescription is correct, it is only partly true. In this workshop, you will identify your unique brand – the brand called “you.” Linda Kim, a VP at Bank of America, will help discover practical and effective tools to promote yourself to advance your career.
- “Succeed at Being an Introvert” - Do you consider yourself an introvert who has trouble finding your way up the corporate ladder? Look no further as Eddie Lin, founder of MentorMint, will share his experiences and tips for those who are looking to get out of their comfort zone. Eddie will share his stories of how he moved up the corporate world and his years of experience coaching young professionals who are introverts.
- “Present with Power: Keys to Outstanding Public Speaking” - Today’s professionals seeking to become leaders and managers of their organizations need to know how to PRESENT WITH POWER. Do you? Dave Morris, Toastmaster and former President, will share his story on becoming an effective Toastmaster speaker. He’ll also share key strategies and techniques, including how to effectively present complex information, engage the audience, and present with power.
See you at the APEX Leadership Conference on October 1st! Get your tickets early! Admission includes lunch.
American Ninja Warrior to inspire students at the APEX Youth Education Summit
Hoan Do is a student success coach, author of Succeeding in the Real World, and competitor in NBC’s hit show, American Ninja Warrior.
In addition to competing in NBC's hit show, American Ninja Warrior, Hoan Do has traveled to every corner of the United States — and parts of Canada — on a mission to provide students with practical strategies to help them to succeed in and out of school. He takes abstract life lessons and makes them real through creative metaphors and analogies, likening attitude adjustments to “changing the radio station.”
“Sometimes your biggest breakdowns in life can provide you with your biggest breakthroughs in life,” he says. “It’s not about being positive all the time; it’s about having the right attitude.”
On Sunday, September 11th, Hoan Do will be speaking in the Japanese American National Museum at the APEX Youth Education Summit ‐ Los Angeles, CA at 9:30 am.
After graduating from Pepperdine University in 2007, Hoan beat out candidates who were considerably older and vastly more experienced than him to work with the top personal development company in the world. As a national speaker and corporate trainer, he conducted sessions for distinguished audiences that included: Century 21, Bank of America, Honda, Toyota, UBS Financial, Chambers of Commerce, and the U.S. Army.
“Hoan Do is consistently one of the most popular speakers at our National Conference on Student Leadership.”
— Susan Liimatta, National Center for Student Leadership
“Out of all the speaker that I have heard, what makes Hoan unique is his ability to connect with the students. Hoan is genuine, relatable, and truly understands what students are going through.”
— Bruce August Jr., University of Texas at Dallas
Hoan is also the author of Succeeding in the Real World, was recognized as the Best Youth Mentor by the International Examiner, and is a recipient of the Verizon Wireless Motivator Award.
APEX welcomes Hoan Do as the keynote speaker of our Youth Education Summit!
For more information on the Youth Education Summit, visit the YES Event Page.
A Decade and More: Volunteering for YO
I first heard about Youth Event when I was part of Chinatown Youth Club and we were invited to participate in 2002. As a participant, I remember being a competitive individual who wanted to win first place. After reflecting through the times I was participating as a youth, I now remember something more important that I didn't realize back then. I remember having caring and inspiring team leaders who showed me that giving back to my community was more valuable than winning. It wasn't obviously mentioned or shown, but I couldn't imagine a better way than having one of my team leaders be the Miss Los Angeles Chinatown Queen. What she represented as queen along with her contribution to APEX's mission through YO was like icing on the cake.
They provided a bigger vision for me than what I had for myself. Before YO, being successful was my vision, but in a completely different way. It meant making a lot of money, working at my dream job and being the "man." However, my team leaders showed me that I could still be the "man." While they couldn't show me how to make a lot of money or get my dream job, they demonstrated how I can, instead, be a leader who can do great things and change people's lives for the better. I can be remembered as someone who only looks out for himself or I can be remembered as someone who also looks out for others. Without a doubt, I’d rather be the latter. Like that famous line from the Declaration of Independence, “we hold this truth to be self-evident”: if it's only going to be for yourself, then there will never be enough to make you happy. Therefore, I saw their expanded vision for me as an opportunity to be what Magic Johnson called it, a "catalyst for positive change in my community." That's the reason why I began volunteering as a team leader after graduating high school in 2006 and that's the reason why I continue to volunteer after all these years. I have the ability to make a difference, even if it's one street corner at a time. It may not always be with YO, but it's a first step.
And what a journey it has been since that first step! Being around for this long has truly been a blessing. Not only have I met extraordinary people who have become my friends, but I've also been fortunate enough to see how YO has evolved for the better through the years. For starters, having the event tied to a specific theme each year is what made it unique year after year (Search for Z Cure and The Quad Wizard Tournament). The activities may be similar, but the challenges in completing it are different. For that, I have to thank the many Chairs and Directors of YO that I've worked with for their creative vision. Like many team leaders before me, I'm just grateful for the opportunity to assist APEX in fulfilling their mission through YO. Whether as a team leader or behind the scenes as a committee member, it's been a wonderful experience. When it’s time to move on, I hope I have inspired the next generation of youth.
Above: Volunteers from 2015 Youth Event: The Quad Wizard Tournament
APEX Committee Recruitment 2016
APEX is recruiting for our 2016 planning committees! This is a great way to get involved in your community, make new friends, and work on our most impactful APEX programs. Many of our current board members got their start through a planning committee, so whether you are an experienced volunteer or brand new to our organization, we hope you can find the time to contribute and be a part of something special!
Youth Education Summit (YES)
As part of APEX's commitment to community service, professional development and cultural awareness, the Youth Education Summit is being brought to the Los Angeles area as a career day for at-risk high school youth to start thinking about their future and what tools they would need to reach their goals. On top of workshops focused on personal finance, college applications, degree selection, and interview training, YES will bring in working professionals to educate using insights into their careers and life tips. The goal is to not only prepare under-served youths for a college career, but to give them the inspiration and means to succeed, both traditionally and non-traditionally.
Committee members will be expected to assist with event planning and promotion. Members will do this by but not limited to: participating in local grassroots marketing, talking to event sponsors, and coordinating with various participation groups in order to make YES a success. Meetings will begin in March/April and continue monthly until mid summer at which point meetings will be held at least every other week up to the day of the event.
Career Symposium (CS)
The APEX Career Symposium is the largest career development conference dedicated to Asian Pacific American professionals in Los Angeles. The core of the conference is the Career Fair, an event that connects students and professionals with corporate recruiters from various industries such as tech, entertainment, finance, and many others. The goal of the career fair is to help attendees expand their network, showcase their skills and offer opportunities for career advancement.
Committee members will be expected to assist with event planning and promotion. Meetings will begin in the beginning of summer and will be held every other week until August. From there, meetings will increase to weekly leading up to the day of the event. Each committee member will participate in local grassroots marketing as part of event promotion. More details to come.
The 23rd Annual APEX Awards Gala is an event where the Asian Pacific Islander American community will come together to celebrate the organization's past and present accomplishments. This annual fundraising benefit will honor the contributions of prominent Asian Pacific Islander Americans in the arts, community, and corporate sectors. The Awards Gala allows APEX to recognize these accomplishments that others have made throughout the course of the year while bringing together APEX members, supporters, community leaders, elected officials, and corporations.
The Gala committee will be tasked with diverse responsibilities including managing media, decorations, vendors, caterers, registration, volunteer coordination, and silent auction. Major assignments will also include after-party planning, sponsorship outreach, marketing, and graphic and video design. Committee meetings will start in May and occur monthly. We will have weekly meetings starting in October leading up to the event.
APEX Board Experience: Q & A
How did you get involved with APEX?
I first heard about APEX a week after I moved to the LA area and was eager to be more involved with the community and meet like-minded people. I saw that APEX was looking for committee members to help plan their annual Youth Olympics event and was excited to join the planning committee. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I could help or even if I’d be of any help but I decided to dive in anyways. In my first meeting, they paid for my boba tea and I’ve been coming back ever since! - Anonymous Board Member
A few years ago, I attend an APEX professional development speaker panel. I was really inspired by the message of the speakers that I wanted to get more involved. I started by attending more events, and eventually joined the board, and became one of the organizers. - Phil Chang, Director of Mentorship
I started out as a committee member for YO and then Gala. Joining a committee is a great way to get exposed to APEX before fully committing. I encourage APEX members to join a committee if they're interested in becoming board members. - Christian Tiu, Director of Development
As a young professional, I felt a little lost and happened to stumble upon APEX's Mentorship Program right when they were looking for mentees. The mentorship program pairs experienced professionals with entry-level, young professionals by industries. Through this program, my involvement in APEX steadily grew and I eventually joined the board. - Jennifer Du, Director of Marketing
First event I attended was the Youth Olympics back in 2007. It wasn't until 2009 did I become more involved as a volunteer photographer and after a few years when I felt ready officially joined the board in 2013 and have been on since. - Dave Ong, VP of Programs
How has APEX helped you (personally, professionally)?
I thought it would be a good opportunity to give back to the community and try something new. APEX has certainly expanded my network in meeting new people and allowed me to see a different side of Los Angeles I wouldn't have otherwise. - Jessica Ng, VP of Finance
I joined APEX to grow as a professional. I've known about APEX for a few years but wanted to become more active and reach out to those that are in the same career position that I once was. When I first graduated, I struggled searching for mentors to provide me professional guidance. Now that I have workforce experience, I want to be the anchor for others. - Vivian Tran, Chair of Professional Development
The people are absolutely awesome. As with any organization, the assets are really the people, and while I don’t plan on continuing on as part of the APEX board, I value all the relationships that I’ve built through this experience. - Darrell Arthur Li, Chair of Youth Olympics
I definitely have improved upon a lot of my personal and professional skills. One of them is public speaking. I used to be horrible at it, and through the different opportunities that APEX presented, and through practice, have vastly improved since. In addition, it is a great way to practice leadership skills in a trusted and safe environment that can translate over to the workplace. - Phil Chang, Director of Mentorship
Personally, I've met many great people through APEX -- people I consider friends and hang out with outside the organization. Professionally, I've gotten to know many different professionals across different industries who can help me if I ever decide to switch careers. In addition my role as Director of Development has allowed me to get to know and network with top level managers/executives of many different companies. - Christian Tiu, Director of Development
It's true that you get what you put in with APEX and the more I volunteered the more I learned not just professional skills but also interpersonal skills. An example would be my photography as there is a huge difference between my old pictures and my newer ones. I definitely learned a lot more when I became Vice President of Programs because of the responsibilities attached with it but also by interacting with the board members and learning something from each of them. - Dave Ong, VP of Programs
What did you learn?
What I did not expect was to build relationships beyond professional networks. In the short time with APEX, I met a group of what I am proud to call lifetime friends who have done nothing more than altruistically support each other. They are not simply professional networks, but a genuine connection that reaches beyond the surface. - Vivian Tran, Chair of Professional Development
I have learned many new skills, especially how to plan, coordinate and execute an event. By being involved with all the steps along the process, and with collaborating within a team environment, I have definitely learned some key success factors for leadership in APEX. - Phil Chang, Director of Mentorship
As current VP of Finance, I gained valuable leadership skills working on nonprofit finances and event planning. It felt like running a business with people and relationships as our product or service. While I learned a lot through the experience, I still have a lot to learn and develop. - Jessica Ng, VP of Finance
Say yes, and learn how. My involvement with APEX challenged me to constantly step out of my comfort zone. I've learned so much about digital media marketing, advertising and even stepped into the world of graphic design. I'm so proud of what the organization has accomplished this year and happy to have been able to craft APEX's tone and personality! As an introvert, the idea of networking did not excite me but through APEX, my networking skills have improved tremendously! With practice, I've met new friends and connections and changed this negative association to a positive one! - Jennifer Du, Director of Marketing
Share some personal memories of APEX
One of my favorite memories of APEX was at an APEX Cares event at Kids Reading to Succeed (KRS) in Altadena. At KRS events, volunteers get divided into a grade level of their choice and go into the designated classroom with the appropriate reading level books. I chose grade level 2 and walked into the classroom unsure of the enthusiasm or energy level of the children that morning. But to my delightful surprise, right as I and a couple other volunteers walked into the door, a tiny bright-eyed student runs up to me and excitedly exclaims that she wants me to be her reading partner. Regardless of anything else that could have happened that day, I knew that the rest of the day was going to be a good one. - Anonymous Board Member
My most memorable time with APEX would be the Board retreats and the material building for the Youth Olympics event. In these events, bonds were strengthened, goals were aligned and the organization's vision became clear. I was very impressed because it's very rare to see an organization that has such strong team dynamics and are highly in sync. - Vivian Tran, Chair of Professional Development
One time after an outing we went to get ice cream and with such a big group, I got to try all the ice cream flavors of the store. Then I met someone in our group who ate 3 scoops of ice cream in one sitting. Through APEX, I've met a magician, a dentist, a tax attorney, some one who used to draw pandas for a living, among others. Our organization is unique in that it isn't preferential to any industry and welcomes all aspirations and backgrounds. At our Youth Olympics, we work with at-risk high school students for a day of fun team-building and leadership exercises. Working with these children, hearing their stories and aspirations and being able to share our experiences and recommendations made me feel like I could help them in someway in getting to where they need to be and to not be afraid to take risks. - Jessica Ng, VP of Finance
I love how our board came together and pulled off our 2015 Awards Gala. It was challenging without a Gala Director this year but I thought we collectively did an amazing job putting together a well-received event. - Christian Tiu, Director of Development
I am a huge Harry Potter fan, so I was beyond excited when our Youth Olympics had a Harry Potter theme (The Quad Wizard Tournament)! I tried to adapt a lot of the magical world into the day, so the kids could experience their own kind of magic. I had so much fun creating a game to test the kids spell casting ability. My best memory though, was assisting a Quaffle score, during my very own Quiddith training! - Jennifer Du, Director of Marketing
I have a lot of fun memories with APEX. One of my favorite ones was during Youth Olympics when I was a Team Leader, my team went from last place to 5th I think. When they called out our name one of the kids yelled out "YES! We're not last place!". I could go on and on so I'm going to stop myself with that story; if you ever run into me ask about the time Larry applied to be on the board. - Dave Ong, VP of Programs
Why should I join the board?
As you join APEX, you step up to the role of a leader. APEX has a President leading the team towards the mission and vision, but we are all leaders in advancing the organization. You will be taking the initiative to host, organize, and manage professional events that will foster others. Not only are you developing skills as an innovative leader, but you will experience a sense of self-accomplishment knowing that you've created a positive impact on others. - Vivian Tran, Chair of Professional Development
It's a great way for those who have little to no experience being part of a functioning board to learn how to work with and for your peers making important decisions along the way. - Larry Quach, VP of Strategy & HR
From learning in a hands-on environment that directly improves upon your professional skill set, to building a camaraderie with great teammates I can also call my friends, it is a truly memorable and valuable experience, that I can say helped make some of the best years of my life thus far. - Phil Chang, Director of Mentorship
APEX strives for quality. Throughout this year, I've worked with an amazing team who committed their time to do something for others and pushed me to do better in the process. As I plan to continue to be on board next year, I only want others on the board to do the same. Un-awesome people who don't want to be part of a awesome team need not apply. - Jessica Ng, VP of Finance
You should join the board because you'll get to work with a group of dedicated and passionate individuals. In addition, the stuff that you'll be doing for APEX will look really good on your resume! - Christian Tiu, Director of Development
We see each other almost every single week - and during our busy months, multiple times a week. With events every single month of the year, communication is constant and we spend so much time together that I know who has specific eating habits, food allergies and who lives off caffeine. We sacrifice a lot of our nights and weekends to make sure that the APEX mission moves forward. But through this, amazing relationships are built and strong friendships are made :] - Jennifer Du, Director of Marketing
If you plan on joining the board be prepared, its not all fun and games but I assure you its rewarding. It is one of the fastest ways to learn about the community we serve, to develop professionally, to learn new skills, to meet like minded people (who I count as among my closest friends) and most importantly defining who you are. - Dave Ong, VP of Programs
Martell Icons of Inspiration - Ryan’s Reflection
Thanks to Martell and APEX, I won a trip to France! Martell, the cognac brand, and APEX started a mentorship program called Icons of Inspiration, in which the mentees were assigned to each pitch a project that incorporated his/her identity as an Asian-American. As one of the winners of that competition, I got to stay at a VIP château in the Cognac area, eat fancy meals, tour Martell's vineyards and distillery, and explore Paris.
It started on November 19, 2014 when I went to the APEX Fall Benefit Mixer, where we had to bring peanut butter to donate to the homeless in L.A.’s Skid Row. The prospect of an entertainment mentorship AND a chance to win a free trip to France thrilled me. My career goal is to be a writer/director in film & television, and France was one of the top countries I’ve always wanted to visit, because of its arts & culture.
MEET THE ICONS MIXER
So, I applied, and later got invited to the Meet the Icons mixer on February 26, 2015. There, they played video clips of other prospective mentees and I realized that I was never asked to send a video. So, I thought I didn’t get into the program and that they only showed videos of people who got in. Soon, they named the mentees who got accepted into the program, and to my relief, I was one of them. We took a group photo and then listened to our entertainment mentor, Chris Tashima, tell stories and answer questions about his career as an actor and director. He once won an Oscar for a short film he directed and starred in called Visas and Virtue. Finally, Chris announced our assignment -- Conceive of an arts/entertainment project, in any discipline, medium or format, incorporating your identity as an Asian American, and propose or pitch it.
We had about five weeks until the deadline in April, and of course I spent those five weeks occasionally asking the other mentees, “How’s your assignment?” Pretty much procrastinating. Days before the deadline, I brainstormed a feature film based on my personal experiences working on Asian-American pageants. In my mind, ever since the assignment was announced, I had always known my pitch would be about that.
One late night in May, I read an email with the subject line:
[ APEX / MARTELL MIOI PROGRAM ] Congratulations, Ryan!
Wow. I won. It seemed too good to be true. I decided to wait for the APEX newsletter to announce the winner before I would announce it on my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. As for APEX and the mentorship program, I'm so grateful for the experience that I continue to volunteer for them and attend their events. People mention the project I pitched and encourage me to actually make it. I'm glad to know that I'm onto something.
APEX 22nd Awards Gala: Black & White - Recap
This year, we held our Gala at the Park Plaza Hotel! Here are some shots after we set up!
We started the night with our VIP Reception, sponsored by Johnnie Walker
To kick off, we had a live Roast Pig carving!
Thanks to our gracious donors, we had a wide selection of items to bid on! (Yes! That is a giant panda in the corner!)
But the night belonged to these four special honorees - for their work in the AAPI community! Congratulations once again!
(TR) Marvin Yueh, representing Kollaboration, Community Advocate Award
(TL) Tina Hsing, representing Panda Restaurant Group, Excellence in Corporate Achievement
(BR) Christopher C. Chen (Linsanity & Sneakerheadz Producer), Excellence in Arts & Entertainment
(BL) Christian Tiu, Director of Development, APEX President's Award
See more of our pictures on our Facebook page!
The 2015 APEX Board thanks our honorees, APEX Alumni, volunteers, friends, family, and our generous in kind donors and sponsors of the 22nd APEX Awards Gala!
Crystal Sponsor & After Party Sponsor: KCM Agency
VIP Reception: Johnnie Walker
Entertainer: Peter Chun
Venue: Park Plaza Hotel
Photobooth: Boba Life
After Party: The Continental Club
To read more about our past Galas, see here
Interested in being a sponsor or donating to APEX? firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in volunteering? email@example.com
Martell Icons of Inspiration - Vicky’s Reflection
The Martell Icons of Inspiration Competition appeared on my radar one morning as I scrolled idly through my social media feeds, waiting for my breakfast at a street cart outside my office in Manhattan. I noticed that the deadline was some far off date in the future, and that there would be some intermediary round in Los Angeles before any winners were selected. It seemed like a lot of effort, but the prospect of winning a free trip to France was intriguing enough to warrant marking my calendar. “I’ll get around to it,” I figured. If you know me, you’ll know that I’ll pretty much take any excuse to get on a plane and travel. So, I got around to it and managed to make the first cut.
Upon advancing to the final round, I had to consider if it was worth making the cross-country trip to Los Angeles. If I was going to spend the time and money on flights, hotel, and overall effort, I pretty much had to win the trip to France. The problem was, I wasn’t sure how I was going to. Going into the mixer I had no idea what to expect. I was somewhat familiar with APEX, having friends who attended APEX events before, and had a vague inkling of Martell’s involvement with the alcohol business. The event itself was a lovely production, in particular the cover band that played songs by my favorite band, Daft Punk, on electric violin. I had heard a lot of great things about Stephen Liu so was glad to finally meet him. It was also pretty fun to see what all the finalists were up to in their respective fields of entertainment and entrepreneurship, two industries that are traditionally underrepresented by Asian-Americans. Being in a ballroom full of people who likely had similar upbringings as I did (and who likely went against their immigrant parents’ wishes of pursuing a professional track in medicine or law or engineering) to recognize our collective achievements in these creative fields was a new and surreal experience for me.
At the mixer in Los Angeles, we were presented with a final assignment that would determine who went France. The assignment initially seemed a bit daunting, but after some quiet time to think (and with the added pressure resulting from procrastination), inspiration struck so I sat down to write the entire business plan in one sitting. Designing a community service project that would benefit the Asian-American community and detailing its implementation and foreseeable challenges was a pretty broad topic at hand, and the open-ended nature of the task made it both easy and that much more difficult to address. Having written hundreds of scientific reports and iterations of business plans, putting pen to paper was the least of my worries after determining my thesis. At the time of the deadline, I was wrapping up my own business of three years. Amidst negotiating a deal to sell my company which involved obscure legalese and going back and forth with lawyers, having this assignment to complete provided a much-needed leisurely writing outlet.
I woke up one morning, months later, to discover an email congratulating me on winning the trip to France. Elated, I started researching Martell and their vineyards in southern France and found little information on the internet. It was all quite mysterious up until I received a detailed itinerary of the activities that were planned; even then, it was not entirely clear what was expected of us on the trip. I had visited Paris previously in the winter for Fashion Week and left with little desire to return, but I had higher hopes for French summer, and for Cognac.
Arrival in France, from New York to Paris to the southern region we stayed as part of the MIOI program, went without a hitch. The weather was perfect, and really everything that Martell arranged on our behalf was beautifully coordinated. From the historic invite-only family chateau where we stayed, to the cooperage and vineyard visits, to the in-depth explanation of the commercial distillation process, there was constant information flow throughout the trip.
Our main guide, Christophe, a former chef, made us feel right at home and I honestly felt like a princess living a fairytale for three days. An exquisite castle in the countryside, Michelin-grade meals (paired with quality Martell cognac of course), and a grand piano all at my disposal – what could be better? I recently made a personal resolution to become better educated on wines and spirits, so this 3-day crash course of the history and production of cognac, the cultural and modern-day implications for both the liquor and the brand and more was quite timely and much appreciated.
Despite all of these wonderful provisions, my favorite part of the trip still was meeting and sharing the experience with my mentor Stephen, fellow MIOI winner Ryan, and the Martell representatives Vicky and Christophe. Pursuing entrepreneurship (or in Ryan’s case, entertainment) can sometimes be an isolating journey, even more so when your upbringing is not particularly conducive to the path you have chosen. There is something to be said about sharing a nice, new experience with kindred spirits, and even better when it is over a delicious French meal paired perfectly with the best cognac offered by Martell.
Alumni Stories - Tuan Do
Let me tell you about some of the best years of my life. After growing up and attending school in the Sacramento region, I decided to move down to Southern California in 2006. As a kid, my dream was to live in “SoCal” and be in the thick of the action as depicted by Hollywood. Knowing only two friends in the area I got involved with APEX in hopes to meet people and get involved with the Asian Pacific Islander American community. I first volunteered for the Gala committee and soon became the Director of Special Events the following two years. In my third year on the board, I became the Vice President of Programs. I remember thinking to myself that being vice president would be the highest position I would want to be on APEX and that three years on the board would be enough for me. I met a lot of great friends and contacts in the community and I didn’t feel the need to continue APEX anymore. All through my life I was happy being second in command and staying in the background instead of being in the spotlight. Being vice president was good enough for me.
Then I remember having a brief conversation with my former boss, John Chiang, who was the State Controller at the time. APEX was going to honor him with an award at the gala (my idea) and when I presented our invitation to John he asked me bluntly if I was going to look to become APEX President next. I had no answer for him at the time because I wasn’t thinking of continuing my term on the APEX board past the current year. His direct question to me made me think about the possibilities of becoming APEX President and how I would be as a leader. Like I said before, I never thought of being the top person in an organization and have always thought being the support person. I remember being in college and I was given the opportunity to become president of a cultural club but I turned it down and took a supporting role instead. The question that John Chiang asked me made me realize that leaders like him always look to be number one. To be a leader, you have to aspire to be the top person and not be afraid to stick your neck out there with the possibility of failing. This is something I have never done. Growing up my parents taught me to play it safe which meant not taking risks. But, I decided that this was my time to make the jump. This was my time to take the next step.
With the help and support of my wonderful friends and board members, I became the 2010 and 2011 APEX President. During my two years as president, we were able to accomplish many programs and outreach efforts to the Southern California community. My confidence as being a leader soared as the organization had tremendous success and gained recognition in the community. I learned what my strengths and weakness were and challenged myself to improve. I found my leadership voice and leadership style. I understood how to motivate board members to work hard for a common cause without monetary compensation. Under my leadership, we worked hard to understand what our members needed and tried to deliver effective programs and services to them while adhering to our mission goals of providing professional development, community service and cultural awareness. I enjoyed being at the head of APEX and working alongside such wonderful team members and friends. I asked myself, “Why haven’t I stepped up before?” I guess it wasn’t my time yet. Being on APEX was the right time. Being APEX President was my destiny.
Looking back on my seven years on APEX, I gained invaluable leadership experiences and skills. I gained confidence in myself and in my abilities. Most of all, I gained lifelong friends that I truly feel comfortable with. My most important take away for getting involved with this organization are the friendships and experiences that came out of joining APEX. The board members, members and volunteers on APEX became my friends. They became my brothers and sisters. They became my family.
Now as an alumnus, whenever someone asks me about APEX my eyes light up and there’s a grin on my face. I’ll never forget some of the best years of my life. Go APEX!
Connect with Tuan at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mrtuando
Alumni Stories - Genessee Kagy
In 2007, I was a fresh college graduate back in LA, after 4 years in NorCal. At the suggestion of my parents, I researched some Asian American professional organizations to jumpstart my LA network with.
The following year, I applied to be Director of Administrative Affairs.
Little did I know it at the time, but the people I met, and continued to work with, in various capacities (as Chair of Marketing for 3 years, Chair of APEX Cares for 1 year, Chair of Membership for 1 year), became some of my closest friends.
In addition to the Board Retreats, and long email chains that resulted in well-promoted and attended events, I spent weekends with my fellow board members, running half-marathons, catching up over brunches and potlucks, exploring some of LA’s most storied restaurants (I’m not a foodie, but I suppose became one by association), and really appreciating my city, local community, and newfound friendships.
They say, "work hard, play harder." And APEX uniquely epitomizes that philosophy.
Operation Christmas Child, held during the holiday season each year is probably my favorite event. It’s a great opportunity to give back to underprivileged children in a low key atmosphere, and spend time with friends. In 2014, we had a great turnout, and tallied over 100 shoeboxes filled with gifts, hygiene items, and stationary!
The first few years as a new professional, can be both exciting and overwhelming, and having a project and organization you’re passionate about, and working on it, with other dedicated, motivated individuals, adds tremendously to the experience.
Since then, a lot has changed and most of us have become alumni, but we still consider APEX an integral part of our growth. And you can bet, that any community event has at least a handful of alumni in attendance.
Professionally, APEX helped me to become comfortable with networking, taking direction, and well as delegating. Even now, 8 years later, I consider joining the Board to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Connect with Genessee at https://www.linkedin.com/in/genessee
APEX President’s Welcome!
Happy New Year!
I would like to introduce myself as the newly elected President of APEX. APEX has been a big part of my life for the past 5 years. I was the Chair of Professional Development for 2 years and moved onto the role of Director of Professional Development for 2 more, taking a break in between. What is inspiring to see is how the APEX community continues to grow and impact the communities in Los Angeles and Orange County every year with great professional workshops that help build on your professional career, community outreach that involves volunteering with other organizations and networking to meet like minded professionals. This year, I hope to build on this momentum to strengthen our community and continue to make a positive impact.
A personal goal of mine for 2015 is to build stronger relationships within our members, community and supporters. APEX doesn’t run on its own. It’s because of all our volunteers, supporters and dedicated board members both past and present that make it happen. I want to thank each and everyone of you who have ever contribute to the organization and hope that you will continue to support us in 2015 and beyond.
Please follow us on social media for behind the scenes and updates on our exciting upcoming events and programs! I look forward to meeting our current members and new members this year. Feel free to reach out to us as we are always looking for great people to work with.
Apply for Martell ICONS of INSPIRATION Mentorship Program
“80% of success is showing up.” —Woody Allen
When you say yes to an event invitation, you say yes to a chance to meet like-minded people. When you say yes to a date, you might find your soul mate. When you say yes to a mentorship program, you can probably end up with opportunities that you never imagined you could have. Truthfully, we, like you, cannot predict what your future is like. However, each step you take in the present, can determine what your future holds. Take a step towards the endless possibilities ahead.
A selection of up to 40 people will be chosen to attend exclusive networking receptions throughout the program. Running from January-June 2015, 2 outstanding mentees, selected by Martell ICONS, Stephen Liu and Chris Tashima, have the chance to visit Paris and Southeastern France for a Martell Cognac tour.
*Opportunities to meet with this year’s Martell ICONS, Stephen Liu and Chris Tashima and be inspired by their success stories, and gain access to a wider network in your aspiring industry
*Networking reception events in Los Angeles and you will find yourself in the presence of many influential community and business leaders
*Grand Finale Event at a major venue in Las Vegas where you will get to meet and mingle with the ICONS, other key influencers and fellow professionals
*Complimentary trip to Paris and Southeastern France for a Martell Cognac tour
Itinerary includes: over-night stay in Paris for fabulous meals and sightseeing, staying at Martell’s own chateau in an idyllic Cognac region of France to explore the area and experience an exquisite Cognac tour to learn about Martell, the oldest Cognac house that has been making Cognac history since 1715.
Applicants must be at least 21 years old.
Applications are due by November 30, 2014. For official details visit the application page.
APEX Professional Development Hosts Communication Workshop
First Asian American Awarded Pulitzer Prize in Poetry
Sarah Lawrence professor of writing and poetry and Graywolf Press author, Vijay Seshadris, recently became the first Asian American to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his collection, Three Sections. Whether you view poetry as the highest echelon of expression or a rarified indulgence, from ancient China to the salons of Versaille, poetry has often been a benchmark of inclusion in the culture of a place and time. It’s very premise challenges our understanding. As Robert Frost put it: “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”
While media reports have emphasized Seshadris being the first Asian American to earn this distinction for poetry, the Pulitzer Prize Board notes, simply, that his work “examine[s] human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.” His style often plaits frothy philosophical musings into sordid or mundane sketches of modern life. Take for example his poem “Imaginary Number”:
could the mountain that remains when the universe is destroyed
like the square root of minus 1,
is an impossibility that has its uses.”
We might speculate whether “the mountain that remains” alludes to Mt. Meru, if only obliquely, before shifting gears into some “Gödel, Escher, Bach” styled existentialism—but it is worth asking whether we should frame Seshadris’ work in terms to culture? Born in Banglore, Seshadris moved to Columbus, Ohio, at the age of five and went on to earn degrees in writing from Oberlin and Columbia University, after being inspired by Thomas Pynchon and 60s and 70s American poetry at a young age. One would strain to read connections to his birth city into his work. There is little that evokes ancient Kannada literature of Banglore, or the modern tech hub now home to Google and Boeing research centers and hailed as the rock and metal capital of India.
I would suggest that Seshadris’ poetry is a well-curated cross-section of contemporary life and thought in Brooklyn. In terms of culture, you couldn’t get much more insular than poetry; and in that pecking order, Seshadris couldn’t have a more modish pedigree. He is the third Sarah Lawrence faculty member to win a Pulitzer in Poetry, and second author on Graywolf Press to claim a Pulitzer in three years. Works like “Surveillance Report”, might suggest social critique, but is more of an ironic exercise in self-observation. Works like “Purgatory, the Film” and “Purgatory the Sequel” might read like a voice-over from lifetime television, annotated with tid-bits of urban Zen— but “Rereading” is filled with compact and lyrical imagery, and seems to tell the wistful story of many lives in under 150 words. And yet, in a recent NPR interview Seshadris cautions, “No one tells the real story of their lives, including me.”
Walt Whitman wrote, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences.” Seshadris’ recognition is not a triumph of outsider poetry nor a nod to the “exotic East”; his is a well-wrought product of the American liberal arts machine. The question to those of us who love the arts and care about the advancement of Asian Americans, but whether or not we are committed to provide the accolades and economic incentives to encourage more bright people to the humanities. Los Angeles is still touted as a creative capital of the world, yet only one of 41 major productions from 2012 and 2013 was shot entirely in LA. Great art has never had anything to do with ethnicity, although it is about a culture of patronage.
APEX Cares Volunteers Help CAUSE Honor API Leaders
This past Friday, April 11th, 2014, the APEX Cares volunteer network came out to help with logistics for the “Reaching New Heights” 21st CAUSE dinner. Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE) founding member Charlie Woo was joined by over 50 elected officials to jointly recognize pioneering corporate and social leaders. This historic event comprised the largest convening of API representatives in the history of the United States. Our own Thomas Wong, Jacqueline Wu and Olivia Lee were among the youngest attendees recognized for their public service.
There is a strong synergy between the mission and history of APEX and CAUSE. Both founded in 1993, each organization has strengthened the API and wider Southern Californian communities and served as a springboard to advance young API into higher ranks of leadership. The outpouring of gratitude for CAUSE and its key supporters--which helped sustain a greater vision for the API community through starker times--was a necessary reminder that until the 1990s there wasn’t a single API voice in the legislature. It has been the unwavering work of organizations like CAUSE and APEX which helped cultivate this commitment to community-building through civic engagement.
Congresswoman from New York’s 6th congressional district and CAUSE honoree, Grace Meng, marveled at the strength and solidarity of Asian Americans in California with good-natured humor, and commended CAUSE, saying, “Your work is vitally important to the API community… We are running out of time to develop our younger generation.” CAUSE honoree Michelle Kwan, public diplomacy envoy and America’s most decorated figure skater, said, “I believe in this organization that is empowering people to empower themselves!” Executive Director of CAUSE, Carrie Gan, paid tribute to the inspiration that Kwan gave a generation by saying, “Michelle Kwan embodies the epitome of the dream of immigrant families."
The evening captured a resounding sense of pride in perpetuating the democratic values that continue to build a stronger and more resilient America. California Congressman Ed Royce of the 39th district said, “The people gathered here in this room are the bridge between the U.S. and Asia.” In his acceptance speech, California State Senator Ted Lieu from the 28th district and CAUSE honoree said, "For 21 years CAUSE has helped to empower the community and diversify the legislature." There is no denying our increasing economic and cultural interdependence on the Pacific Asian region, and organizations like CAUSE and APEX are ensuring that the upcoming generations make an impact not only for API, but for society at large.
Congresswoman Judy Chu of California’s 27th congressional district and first Chinese American woman elected to congress said triumphantly, “Today, the API Caucus has 11 members; the highest in history!” Assemblyman for the 49th district, Ed Chau, rallied by adding, “The API community is at a tipping point in terms of increasing political engagement.” The evening’s keynote speaker, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, gave unequivocal praise, saying: ”CAUSE interns are literally changing not only the face of politics, but the face of this nation. Mayors come and go, but Charlie Woo and CAUSE stay.”
It was an evening filled with spectacular speeches and brushes with legendary figures in the world of business and politics. For me personally, the most memorable aspect of the night was working side-by-side with the ever-inspiring group of APEX volunteers, accomplished CAUSE staff and a brilliant and ambitious cohort of CAUSE leadership Fellows. It goes without saying that the achievements of the distinguished trailblazers honored that evening will be commemorated for years to come; but I trust those very same leaders would share my excitement to see the passion and promise of these up-and-coming leaders. CAUSE and APEX are eagerly taking up the torch and working in parallel to the enrich this legacy. Carrie Gan, shared this sentiment saying, “It was such a pleasure to have all the APEX Cares volunteers there in full force. I look forward to our continued partnership.”
APEX OC Enjoys Happy Hour at 7 Seas Restaurant
APEX OC celebrated our first happy hour event for 2014 at 7 Seas Restaurant on Tuesday, March 25th. It was a casual evening to make new friends and socialize with our members. The most popular conversation topics were about Asian Professional Exchange Mentoring Program and the upcoming Youth Olympics. Both LA and OC boards were represented, past and present. We were provided an extended happy hour menu which kept our gathering going. Stop by our Facebook album and Instagram for more!
APEX Cares OC Volunteers at Belle of the Ball
Saturday, March 22, APEX Cares teamed up with Girl's Inc. and made prom dreams come true for many young women! Brand-name sponsors donated over 2,300 dresses, 1,600 pairs of shoes, and 900 pieces of jewelry. Aside from a personal shopper, the event provided teens with workshops that helped empower and develop the young women's personal growth. Visit our Facebook album for pictures from the event.
APEX Cares Inspires Kids to Go Green with Kid Reading to Succeed!
APEX Cares partnered with Kid Reading to Succeed (KRS), Saturday, March 1st, at Jackson Elementary School. This month's theme focused on celebrating spring and being environmentally conscious. Regardless of the rainy weather condition, over 15 enthusiastic APEX Cares volunteers showed their love and support by encouraging the kids to read aloud. To over 40 kids, volunteers also taught the importance of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, and guided kids to creatively apply what they had learned with a project toward the end of the session. Using a toilet paper role, string, and a plate, kids crafted and decorated bird feeders to take home. Join APEX Cares for the next volunteer event!
APEX Cares Infused Volunteer Spirit at the 36th Annual L.A. Chinatown Firecracker Run
APEX Cares infused our first 2014 volunteer spirit at the 36th Annual L.A. Chinatown Firecracker 5K/10K/Kiddie Run on February 23rd to embrace physical fitness and cultural awareness. Over a dozen APEX volunteers showed up early Sunday morning to help set up the Kiddie Run Registration section by putting up the banners, organizing the t-shirt sizes, filling in the goody bags, and checking in kid runners. There were over 5,000 runners this year, including Apex board members. At the starting point, seeing excited runners and a few thousand firecrackers explode with loud popping noises to welcome in the Year of Horse set the stage for a fun and festive event. The Lunar New year celebration lived on throughout the day and night, followed by performances, entertainment, food and wine at the historical district.
APEX Cares OC Volunteers at Pet Rescue Center
On Saturday, February 22, APEX Cares collaborated with the Pet Rescue Center of Orange County. In an effort to encourage pet adoption of animals saved from pet shelters, over 20 volunteers sported green aprons stocked with information to promote awareness and adoption of these pets at Laguna Beach. Participants were able to exercise with the dogs, engage in conversations with interested families, and enjoy working as a team. The event quickly reached capacity, so make sure to sign up early for the next APEX Cares event! Check out our Facebook album and Instagram for more!
First LA Mixer of 2014: Elevate to APEX, Spotlights APEX Mentoring Program
Whether you’re looking to expand your professional horizons or your personal network, our first LA Networking Mixer of 2014: Elevate to APEX, offers the perfect opportunity.
Coming up on Thursday, February 27 at the stunning Elevate Lounge in Downtown, Elevate to APEX will put a spotlight on our very own APEX Mentoring Program (AMP). AMP matches pairs based on their areas of interest and specific career overlap. Our mentors generally boast at least 5 years of professional experience in their given field, while mentees are anywhere from recent college graduates, to those looking to make a career change. Pairs meet once a month, and throughout the program, which runs from April-August 2014, professional relationships between mentors and mentees will be facilitated through AMP workshops focused on topics like goal setting, networking, career strategies, public speaking, and leadership. Meet Iva and Yao Yao, a successful AMP pair from last year's program.
Iva and Yao Yao both worked in the Web/Marketing/Commerce sectors, and joined AMP in 2013 as mentors and mentees. Though the program has ended for them, they still keep in touch.
“I was so happy to be paired up with Yao Yao! It was a great match,” said Iva, “She’s is in Chicago for B-school and I'm in China for work and we still keep in touch. I think that says a lot about our experience.”
And for her part, Yao Yao has gained unique insights from an industry veteran stating “I consider myself very lucky that Iva and I had a lot of common interests, things we never even listed in our original application,” said Yao Yao, “I've gotten a lot of perspective and insight from Iva, who's basically the more experienced and accomplished version of me!”
Come to Elevate to APEX and find out how you can apply, and meet some more of our successful pairs from 2013’s AMP!
Orrick Law Firm and APEX OC Hosted Kickoff Mixer
“New Year, New Ideas,” APEX’s first professional mixer of the year, co-hosted by both APEX OC and Orrick Law Firm, gathered over 130 guests, Thursday, February 6, 2014. Guests from throughout Orange County and Los Angeles braved the rain and gathered at Orrick’s prestigious Irvine office to build their professional network and learn more about Orrick and APEX. Young professionals represented industries in law, engineering, research, finance, fine arts, medicine, psychology, and education.
The spectacular night kicked off at 6:30 pm with introductions from both organizations, after which a resident origami expert showed guests how to fold cranes, hearts, or Orrick’s signature logo. The night continued well past 9:00 pm with drinks served only to those with origami logos at the hosted bar, courtesy of Orrick, and Vietnamese appetizers of banh mi and spring rolls, provided by APEX.
2014 began with a strong footing and APEX OC looks forward to continue building a supportive network and raise cultural awareness in the local OC business community. Join APEX in Los Angeles for its kick off mixer later this month, Thursday February 27th. In the meantime, visit APEX’s Facebook and Instagram for more photos!