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Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month - Gina Choi

May 2019

Wherever you go, there you are


 

Most of us face a variety of challenges throughout our lives. Acceptance — of self and by others — greatly impacts not only who we become, but how we deal with these challenges. Gina Choi’s journey towards self-acceptance is one of the life experiences that inspired her to give back to her community. Gina lives in Los Angeles and works as a strategic account manager. For her, working at Microsoft encompasses the life-lessons she values. “Working for Microsoft is incredible, in large part due to the mission and the way it enhances my day-to-day experience. But it’s not just about how that mission supports my engagement with clients and my ability to empower them,” Gina says. “It’s also about the way I feel accepted and empowered to give back.”

The new kid

While many people have had a positive impact on her, Gina’s mom has been a huge source of inspiration throughout her life. Growing up, their family moved 11 times all across the country. That meant Gina was the new kid at 11 new schools, where often, she was the only Asian student. “I really struggled with my identity as an Asian-American,” Gina remembers. Every summer vacation was filled with a great deal of anxiety, not just because she’d be the new kid come fall, but because she was afraid of being teased or seen differently for her Asian heritage. “My mom was always so supportive, never dismissing my fears or anxiety, just reaffirming who I was,” Gina recalls. Her mom helped Gina embrace who she was and her culture as a Korean and an American. “She’s played a huge role in who I am today,” Gina reflects. “Growing up with a person who is unconditionally supportive, not just to me, but to the community around her, taught me about the person I wanted to become.”

Paying it forward

As a result of her own identity struggles, Gina understands first-hand, the struggle of being both American and Korean. “I learned to balance that pretty well as a child, but I definitely struggled,” Gina says. “I have a huge heart for students who deal with that pressure at home and at school, who might not be in tune with their identity and may not be comfortable with that.” Compassion for these students led Gina to focus a great deal of her efforts on mentorship. She mentors Asian-American students at her alma mater, Pepperdine University. She also mentors a young woman in Kenya who recently became a teacher. “I feel deeply privileged to have many very strong, young women in my life,” Gina says, “and to be able to share my experiences and encouragement with them.”

The cycle of support

For Gina, giving back is a vital component of what she calls the cycle of support. “We all receive help from others during our lives,” she says. “I stand on the shoulders of so many mentors. I believe that as people who receive, we have a responsibility to give back. It’s a privilege, and an incredibly important part of my life. I feel strongly that the cycle of support must continue.” Looking back, each of us can pinpoint the impactful moments we had in our younger years. The struggles can make you feel so alone. So, regardless of what circumstance or stage of life you’re in, when someone comes along and stands beside you through your experience, it’s empowering and affirming. “I hope the young people I work with feel not only inspired by my story,” Gina muses, “but that they also recognize they are part of a larger community and they're not alone.”

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