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Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month - Michelle Zung

May 2019

Cultivating generosity



With so much going on in the world and in our own lives, it’s not always easy to think about others. Michelle Zung learned early on that being generous is a trait that’s worth cultivating. A sales manager living in Brooklyn and working on the North America strategic team, Michelle has found synergy between her personal values and her world of work. “I’ve been at Microsoft for seven years and I’d definitely describe myself as a lifer,” Michelle admits. “I love the mission to help everybody on the planet and there are so many opportunities for growth here,” Michelle says. “And I really appreciate the amount of support we’re given as individuals and teams.” She also appreciates that Microsoft gives back to the community and provides so many opportunities for employees to give back. She’s particularly moved by the October Give campaign, when Microsoft brings in charities and volunteer opportunities. “I honestly feel Microsoft's values align with my own,” she shares.

Beyond memory

The person who inspired Michelle is someone she has no memory of. She doesn’t often talk about the fact that her father passed away when she was only one and a half-years-old. “I don't remember him at all, but the stories I’ve heard about him are powerful and of course he passed on his genetics, so I'm half Vietnamese. Usually, I’d talk about my mother, because she raised me and my six siblings as a single mother and she was instrumental in shaping me. But I feel compelled to talk about my father, because of all his achievements, and his amazing spirit of generosity and empathy,” Michelle says.  
 
Michelle’s father was born and raised in Vietnam. In 1950, as communism spread throughout the country, he left to get an education. Landing in France, he received a degree in mathematics, then went to Rome and became a priest. When he came to America, he went back to school for two more bachelor degrees in chemistry and physics, and a Ph.D. in chemistry. After that, her father took a job teaching at William and Mary College, before finally meeting Michelle’s mother.

The ripple effect of empathy

Eventually, the family moved to a very small town and soon thereafter, Michelle’s father did something that embodies the heart of generosity and empathy. “In 1975, my father sponsored his entire extended family from Vietnam to come to the U.S. We lived with over 30 refugee relatives,” Michelle remembers. Looking through old newspaper articles about her family’s pilgrimage to the U.S., she found herself thinking more deeply about her family history. “What motivates me every day — why I want to do better and be successful — has a lot to do with how my father lived,” she says. “If I come across a challenge, I think about the things he had to do to leave Vietnam, get an education, start a business and support his entire family. He brought them to a safe place where they could provide more for their families.” After witnessing the profound differences her father made in the lives of members of their extended family, Michelle was drawn to helping others. “His life really motivated and shaped me more than I realised,” she shares.
You can't do that if you're too distant from it. In order to fully understand what empathy means, you need to be a bit more hands-on and up-close to people in need. It's not just about growing yourself. The more you grow and the more you help others, the better you can make other people's lives.

Compassion without borders

Michelle believes that compassionate and inspired action can create meaningful change in the world. She feels blessed to have an amazing team that embodies that, and inspires her every day. One of the issues that hits home for Michelle is what’s happening with immigrants and family separation at the border. Michelle donates to numerous charities and organisations working to help end this humanitarian crisis and create a more compassionate, inclusive world. “For me, ending family separation at the border is something I’m very passionate about and I want to do what I can.”

Up close and personal

Michelle believes it's critical to give back because every donated dollar or hour can make a real difference. She also feels it’s important to get closer to those in need. “It’s so important for individuals to grow themselves and develop empathy,” she says. “You can't do that if you're too distant from it. In order to fully understand what empathy means, you need to be a bit more hands-on and up-close to people in need. It's not just about growing yourself. The more you grow and the more you help others, the better you can make other people's lives.”

To learn more about Michelle or connect with her, check out her profile on LinkedIn.