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Pet Sins October 2008

Black managers open the doors for Asian worker

I am an Asian working in the high tech industry. I did not have trouble landing a job after college. In my first job, I worked mostly with other people of color, both on a peer level and on a managerial level. My managers and direct reports were other people of color, though a few levels up the management chain, the high level managers were European Americans.

Anyway, I didn't think much of it at that time and did not feel my career was held back by my race. But when I tried to transfer departments in the same company to explore other interests, the barriers became much more apparent than the proverbial glass ceiling. I interviewed informally with a few groups. A trend became apparent. In those groups where a white man interviewed me informally, they were most uninterested in having me on board. I was a star performer in my job, but the white men seemed to assume I was unqualified for the jobs I was seeking (which were on the same level, or even lower than my job at that time). They turned me away, either by not even bothering to contact me about the interview results, or by offering me a position even lower than the one I sought. Here I was, a star manager in a well-known, demanding department, being offered an entry level position on another department that was well below my qualifications.

But on the occasions when it was a black man who interviewed me, I was offered opportunities to interview further. In other words, the doors were opened for me by other people of color. If this only happened with one black man or one white man, I wouldn't have noticed at all. But this happened a few times. I finally transferred from my department to work for a black manager. He has valued my skills and was able to channel them appropriately and grow my career.

H.T.