Guest blog post by Emy Tseng, Broadband Program Specialist, BroadbandUSA, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
I am honored to participate in the Department of Commerce’s celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I was born in Taiwan and spent most of my childhood in Seattle. Growing up, my favorite subjects were math and music. Along the way a number of teachers encouraged me to pursue STEM/STEAM subjects. My high school math teacher, Janice Oasaka, was a particularly important influence who provided guidance and, at times, some tough love.
When I went to college at Brown University, I discovered that other women did not necessarily benefit from this level of support. There were few other women in my math and engineering classes, and I was the only female physics major in my graduating class. I became aware of the importance of equity in STEM/STEAM and addressing the technical skills gap.
I spent the early part of my career as a software engineer in network architecture and database internals. But as the Internet went mainstream, I became more interested in the socio-economic implications of the digital divide and who might be left behind. So in 1999, I left the private sector to study public policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At MIT, I was again fortunate to have a strong mentor, Sharon Gillett, who helped me establish my career in broadband policy and digital inclusion. After graduate school, I worked in philanthropy and local government – helping establish one of the country’s first citywide digital inclusion initiatives.
I have benefited from mentors outside of my professional life as well. I love singing, particularly Brazilian jazz. I credit the musicians in the D.C. jazz scene for encouraging me to take music more seriously. They taught me from the bandstand, offering me opportunities to perform and record.
In 2009, I joined the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to become a Program Officer with the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. Currently, I work with BroadbandUSA and provide states, local governments and other stakeholders technical assistance on strategies to increase broadband adoption, use and digital skills. As part of this work, I facilitate the Digital Inclusion Leaders Network, a group of state and local government leaders. We meet regularly to share best practices and resources and ways to address challenges. I try to create the type of collaborative learning environment that I have benefited so greatly from during my educational and professional experiences.
While my work has changed over the past twenty-plus years, my focus on digital inclusion has remained constant. Technology is a powerful tool and can a great enabler – however, for everyone to benefit, we need to design policies and programs that are equitable. In the end, it’s people who matter and I am grateful to have a role in empowering them through technology.
Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series showcasing the vast and diverse work of Department of Commerce AAPI employees during Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.