2023 was a turbulent time for the U.S. economy. As the impending doom of a recession announced itself all over the news, layoffs hit companies like a hailstorm. 

I had finished my undergraduate degree in May 2022, and was fresh out of college when I moved to the Bay Area. I was in the all too familiar tech bubble, excited to start my first full time job. After some time it felt like I was hitting my stride, and I was happy with the progress I was making. 

But one afternoon, I received the sobering news that I, along with many others in the company, were no longer part of the company.

I was in shock. Questions flew through my mind at 100 miles an hour: What should I do? What does my career look like? How do I file for unemployment? How long can I realistically pay for rent? Should I move back home to Texas where my parents are? If I move back home, wouldn’t that just be giving up?

And of course, the existential questions weaved their way in through the logistical ones. I started to question what my value was in the working world as I went through a monotonous flow of interviews and applications. I began to develop a burgeoning inferiority complex as I saw my peers thrive in their roles — all while I was stranded.

After a much needed break and mental reset, I went back to the drawing board. I started to reflect on what really felt like the right fit instead of mindlessly applying to open positions. I decided I’d stick through with this job hunt in the Bay Area, down to the last application. I’d clock in for my morning shift at a part-time job, carefully manicure through job applications at a library in the afternoon, and clock back in for my evening shift. Rinse and repeat. It wasn’t the easiest routine, but I felt that as long as I was working hard towards an end goal, I could win out against a nefarious sea of self doubt.

Finding CAA

At some point during the hunt, I landed across CAA’s opening for a Development Coordinator. I found myself particularly resonating with CAA’s mission and values. During my undergraduate years, I worked part-time as a program assistant at the Asian American Studies Program (AASP). It was one of the most profound experiences of my college life, knowing that I was making a positive impact within the AAPI community there. I now live in a city that was built on the backs of Chinese immigrants, who paved the way for countless years of activism within the Chinese American community here. After discovering CAA, I felt this sense of duty to serve this community as best as I could after my experience with AASP. 

Throughout my interview process, I had the pleasure of meeting the CAA and Stop AAPI Hate (SAH) Development teams. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with everyone, as they warmly gave valuable insight into the development world and the work that they do. I believe those conversations sparked a renewed sense of passion and wonder within me. I started to contemplate how I could best help the development side of CAA, especially as someone with fresh eyes and a unique perspective coming from a different field. 

Once I joined CAA, I almost immediately saw the impact our teams were having in all forms. While preparing for the 54th Celebration of Justice, I had the pleasure of collaborating with Germaine Wong, co-founder of CAA and current board member. I greatly respected her continued support of such a large event for so many years. I’ve been able to speak with a good number of our donors, understanding their sincere motives behind their contributions. I’ve seen the Advocacy and Education Equity teams tirelessly advocate for the hot button issue of affirmative action during the summer. I’ve seen firsthand the client meetings the Economic Justice team provides to ensure that Chinatown community members find needed jobs within this space. 

Throughout my time here, it’s been humbling to remind myself that quite simply? It’s not about me. So much of my post grad career up until now had revolved around me. What am I doing to advance my career? What job-related mishaps were going on in my life? My time as a Development Coordinator has really pushed me to look at the bigger picture: I am privileged to help serve a community vital to its city and beyond; I play a small yet immensely important role alongside others at CAA in helping those around us. 

I won’t end it off on a cheesy note and say that it’s now butterflies and rainbows in a fairytale. Challenges are always present in how I can best serve my role, especially as someone relatively new in the development field. I am continuously seeing ways that I can improve. I see ways in which development as a whole could also improve with CAA. But this is not new, and every role in a rapidly growing space encounters such challenges.

I can confidently say that 2023 has had much brighter moments since the start of the year. Some of those moments can be attributed to my time here so far at CAA.