Why Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Matters

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In 1843, a boat containing a 14-year-old Japanese fisherman named Manjiro became America’s first Asian immigrant. Manjiro and his crew were caught in a violent storm during a routine fishing trip. The little boat was carried out to sea, eventually washing up on a desert island some 300 miles away from Manjiro’s coastal Japanese village. 

After Manjiro and the crew spent nearly five months on the island, an American whaling ship finally arrived at the island and rescued them, which is how the Japanese boy became the first Japanese immigrant in America. Manjiro was eventually adopted by American Captain William Whitfield, and he went on to not only become a samurai, but also a political emissary between his home country and the West. 

Since Manjiro first stepped foot on American soil, the journeys of Asians and Pacific Islanders have been synonymous with America’s journey. They have included Japanese immigrants who came to Hawaii to work the sugarcane fields, and the Chinese laborers who, in May 1869, were integral in building the First Transcontinental Railroad. They’ve included activists such as Larry Itliong, a Filipino activist who was instrumental in creating the United Farm Workers, as well as an array of artists and writers who have produced some of the greatest works of art and literature, ranging from The Ramayana to The Joy Luck Club, as well as fashion icon Vera Wang and the architect behind the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the National Gallery of Art. They include Wong Kim Ark, a Chinese immigrant whose persistence laid the groundwork for landmark legislation on birthright citizenship. And they include technological pioneers who conceived such revolutionary ideas as Yahoo!, YouTube, and the USB.

In fact, Asian and Pacific Islanders’ cultures are inextricably woven into the fabric of American life. As President Ronald Reagan once said, “In a variety of fields that span the spectrum of human endeavor — including art, dance, agriculture, the sciences, medicine, commerce, government, and philosophy — Asian and Pacific Americans have made outstanding contributions to the cultural and technological development of their adopted Nation.”

Palo Alto Networks also benefits from the tremendous contributions of many Asian and Pacific Americans, whose career journeys are a vital part of the story of our company. 

They include Hien La, who escaped Communist Vietnam in a small fishing boat with his siblings and cousins, eventually making his way to America, where his determination to teach himself to fix computers helped him to begin a career in asset management. Today, he is Palo Alto Networks’ IT Asset Management Specialist at headquarters. 

They include Bobo Yu, a first-generation Chinese American who took STEM courses in college as a default because she was a stereotypical “good-at-math” Asian student who wasn’t confident to speak in public. As a woman in engineering, Bobo earned an internship in Hawaii with the U.S. Coast Guard and an opportunity to participate in a rotational leadership program while at her first job. After a sabbatical, during which she traveled through five continents, she returned to the U.S. and began working as a yoga teacher, enjoying this chance to practice what she needed and do what she loved. Eventually, she returned to technology and earned a Systems Engineer role with Palo Alto Networks, utilizing her engineering skills as well as the public speaking skills she developed and her talents for putting others at ease. 

They include Jerry Poon, who immigrated with his family from Hong Kong to Toronto, Canada, when he was only three. His family began their life in North America with almost no belongings of their own, finding discarded mattresses on which they could sleep. Jerry’s early love of computers led to him earning a degree in IT support services, working his way to Palo Alto Networks’ Sales team. Today, he works as a Sales Engineer for Channel Partners

They also include Yumei Peterson, Go To Market Strategic Program Manager. Born in Korea, Yumei moved with her family to New York City when she was just eight years old. After starting her career with a degree in education and experience operating a daycare center, Yumei took a risk and connected with a representative from HP at a career fair, indicating her interest in working in IT. The risk paid off. She eventually worked her way up through the organization by exceeding sales goals and joined Palo Alto Networks four years ago. Since coming here, she has earned three promotions, built enablement programs for the Inside Sales team, built the Sales Academy program in collaboration with the LEAP team for early-in-career graduates, and is now executing strategic initiatives for our WorldWide Shared Services organization. 

These are just a few of the many members of the Asian and Pacific Island American community whose backgrounds, experiences, and contributions we celebrate.