THE BLOG
11/18/2014 12:38 pm ET Updated Jan 17, 2015

Being Asian In American Business

Being a Filipino-American, I was born and grew up in California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. In any other part of the nation, kids would watch their parents get ready for working in factories, high rise buildings, or farmlands. I watched my parents work for high tech juggernauts like Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, and a host of other technology companies who started in Northern California. But being around technology didn't mean that you were an integral part of Silicon Valley; if you weren't white, you still stood out like a sore thumb, and if you tried blending in with white people, you were met with skepticism. American business is, and always has looked at Asians as commodity items - smart folks that were a dime a dozen, who worked hard and spoke little. But in today's business world, the Asian influence is slowly making itself known.

Today, the bulk of Asian workers in high tech can be seen in the crowds of production assemblers and technicians who gather in clean rooms all around the Valley. Hourly workers, many of whom hold advanced college degrees, are a cheap, efficient, and intelligent source of employees for technology companies. I fact, a number of these Asian workers actually had previous careers as physicians, nurses, and accountants in their home countries. But for many Asian immigrants, understanding and blending in with American society is an uphill battle.

One thing that I learned growing up in America, is that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. This goes against the typical Asian mindset, which is to remain humble and quiet in the midst of your employer. This mindset is responsible for the many Asians, who quietly do their work, without complaining or raising a fuss, and their American employers who take advantage of that mindset by paying the low wages and running the long hours, knowing that no complaints will be heard. An outspoken Asian worker in America is typically seen as a troublemaker with a chip on his shoulder, and so I stood out while others melted into the background. Being the son of a US Marine, I was never ready to bow down to the man, and I let each of my employers know it.

If more Asians were willing to stand up for what they believed in, they would get more respect in American Business. Americans are used to hearing people, not assuming or guessing what someone thinks. In Asian societies, many thoughts are assumed or inferred, which is why Asians tend to be quiet people. But here in America, people are direct and outspoken - if you don't say anything, then you must not have anything to say.

Asians have been fueling American high tech since the late 60's, and today the trend continues. The Asian mindset of humility and quietness puts many Asians into low paying jobs with long hours, which does a disservice to both their livelihoods and their respect. As more Asian immigrants enter America, they need to make their voices heard, or else be relegated to low level jobs which are far below their skills and education.

Asians give a lot more to American innovation that we get credit for - it's time we get recognized for it.