Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
Guest blog post by Jennifer Rimbach, Access to Capital Business Development Specialist, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
I’ve never been a fan of labels. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t until I visited my mother’s home country of South Korea as an adult after college that I started to feel incredibly connected to Korean language, food and people. Growing up in Maryland and North Carolina, I was exposed to a smattering of diverse neighbors and classmates, and I had the privilege of not having to think much about my own racial and ethnic identity. In fact, in many ways I feel blessed to have had a happy childhood of blissful ignorance.
This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I’m so proud to be a part of a community that has deeply rooted family values, ancestral respect and a love of the land. I’m eternally grateful for a community that shares in large part many of my experiences, while having their unique flare. Serving as a Business Development Specialist really allows me to be part of a mission larger than myself. I’m on an access to capital team and feel fortunate to work every day with diverse entrepreneurs, many of whom are committed to making a difference in their communities through job creation, training opportunities and nonprofit involvement. Along with the technical assistance aspect of my role, my job provides me with the opportunity to work on data analytics and public policy, allowing my reach to have a multiplier effect.
In addition, my career has provided me the opportunity to work in international development, allowing me to travel and experience myriad diverse cultures and geographies. Traveling abroad forced me to confront my own mixed heritage. It gave me an opportunity to examine the impact that being born into a multicultural family had on my identity. Through history, immigration, and politics, I’m only now beginning to scratch the surface of understanding how Korean and Japanese traditions and cultures have influenced me. I’ve since come to realize that it’s impossible for me to separate the various elements that make me, who I am. I am Korean. I am Japanese. I am German. I am American. And I am all of these things at once.
This February, I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang with a Filipino American friend. It was such a pivotal, heart touching experience for me to share all things Korean with him and soak in the beauty that is the Korean peninsula. I’m so thankful to have this type of connection with more than one culture, because in a way, it has allowed me to recognize and appreciate the many histories and experiences that others around me carry within themselves as well.
For Asian Pacific American youth, I encourage you to explore careers where you can marry your passion with a social mission. I suggest you try on a career in public service because our community needs greater representation in government and politics, especially from the next generation of youth. And, as you continue to build your professional and personal networks, I recommend reaching across differences and expanding your networks to include people from all backgrounds and walks of life. I believe that the true work that we as Americans have left to do is to embrace the differences for which this country has fought hard to provide space.