Congratulations to NetKAL VIII members Amy Ahn, Seung Baik, Gina Chon, James Jung, Peggy Kauh, Ellen Kim, Celina Lee, Richard Lee, Angela Moon and Michael Park whose winning community project is the upcoming Korean American Service Day that is scheduled for Saturday, November 8th in communities nationwide. For more information on this event and how to become involved go to: http://www.kacsd.org/
During Homecoming Weekend, Advisory Board President Suok Noh spoke about the future and financial sustainability of NetKAL, emphasizing the importance of Fellows supporting the organization after they have graduated. Class VIII heard this message and responded by being proactive. With Fellows Jane Norman and Jin Chun leading the charge, Class VIII decided to “pay if forward” and achieved the first ever 100% class participation of donations to NetKAL.
At the Distinguished Speaker Dinner of the final Class VIII weekend, they announced their pledge of $50,000. “This is a remarkable achievement,” Suok Noh commented. “I am extremely proud of each of you and look forward to your future achievements as Korean-American leaders. Your continued participation through our regional committees, the 2014 Gala and Summit in San Francisco and other NetKAL activities will greatly enhance the organization and I have no doubt that the network will benefit from your engagement as well.”
The final weekend session of the Network for Korean-American Leaders (NetKAL) VIII class took place on July 19 -21, 2014 in New York City, in conjunction with the NetKAL Advisory Board meeting. The graduating class of 27 fellows joins 172 other Korean-American leaders who have been involved in the NetKAL Fellowship Program since 2006. Thanks to the commitment of the Board and Fellow Alumni, NetKAL now has active regional committees in Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco and Seoul, South Korea.
On Saturday evening, the NetKAL Distinguished Speaker Dinner, co-hosted by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in New York, took place at the Griffis Faculty Club. Guests numbered 103 and included Dr. Marilyn Flynn, Dean of USC School of Social Work, and South Korean Ambassador Son Se-joo. The evening’s speaker was Joonho Lee, Senior Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who shared his life experiences as a Korean-American and how he successfully created a unique professional and personal identity, while assuming a leadership role at one of the most difficult times in American history.
Sunday marked the final installment for Class VIII and the members took great pride in knowing they are now graduates of the NetKAL Fellowship Program. Below are a few testimonials from NetKAL VIII:
“The most valuable thing I gained from NetKAL was paradigm shifting leadership training from professional CEO/executive coaches which addressed the next level of leadership development after what you might receive from a traditional Ivy League business school.” – David Kim, CEO at Foretuit
“NetKAL helped me think, learn, and experiment with new techniques and styles of leadership,” – Andrew Pak, Director at Mizuho Securities USA, Inc.
“Ultimately, NetKAL helps to develop relationships and access to other fellows and alumni.” – Phil Kwun, Managing Director/CFO at Sonenshine Partners
“NetKAL is an unparalleled way to make life-long friendships, experience incredible personal and professional growth, and develop a deep sense of mission with respect to the Korean-American community.” – Rich Lee, CEO at Caseflex
– NetKAL VIII Fellow, Andrew Pak‘s reflection on the 5th weekend
“Name? Date of birth? Social security number?”
Spouting back my DMV DNA is pretty easy, especially after going there for the third time just a couple weeks before NetKAL 8 officially started and my license expired on my birthday in February. Transferring out-of-state from Hawaii to New York isn’t easy.
As I waited at the DMV to complete the transfer, I remembered my single days and throwing in my astrological sign, Chinese zodiac animal, international Rolodex of nightclubs, and other intriguing facts that made up my dating DNA.
Fast forward 4 months to the penultimate weekend of NetKAL 8 and look beyond the superficial. With 4 weekends of intense MBA and Fortune 500 like training and coaching, it’s time to analyze my DNA more seriously. What is my brand DNA?
Specifically, as Dr. Greg Patton of USC’s School of Social Work posed the question to NetKAL 8, “how do you see yourself?” Or how do you want others to see you?
I was kind of stumped. Even more surprising were the awkward responses, umm’s, errr’s, and rambling resume recitations I heard going around the room. Perhaps too vague, simple, or just early in the morning, most of us struggled with either a painfully long “hmmm” or a flash of panic trying to squeeze our story within 30 seconds.
Grouped in pairs and guided by Dr. Patton’s expertise and stopwatch, we practiced our brand statements and refined our professional pitch. “I want to be the Wolf of Wall Street” turned into “I want to be seen as a leading fixed-income specialist and go-to advisor trusted by my clients, as well as a passionate musician who champions healing arts therapy and outreach.”
Alright, I didn’t quite get my brand DNA up to that level during the session, but a clearer picture of my identity began to take shape. And after a few iterations back and forth with our partners, individual brands became more coherent and started to crystalize the remarkable talents and leadership potential of each Fellow. The live, interactive reactions from our peers was crucial in refining our professional brand statements and multiplying our intrinsic values so that we could be as IPO-ready as Dr. David Kim.
Now more confident in our executive brand position, we were well on the way to “Communicating and Leading Change,” the key theme of Weekend 5. The next step was to connect with your audience. Like Steve Jobs, “connect the dots,” and lead with persuasion and vision. Be ready and prepare your presentations strategically. Every interaction is an opportunity to rewrite the script by expanding on your personal brand with convincing stories and narratives that draw your listeners in.
Wait. Sweaty palms, lump in your throat, hypertension, migraines, upset stomach, weak knees, irritable bowel syndrome? Advil, a shot of whiskey, Midol, Imodium, and especially some PRCA will do the trick and alleviate any communication apprehension or anxiety. A.k.a. “Personal Report of Communication Assessment,” the enhanced awareness analysis measures an “Individual level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons.” (McCrosky; NetKAL). We deconstructed and unpacked the layers that hold us back from delivering the message and packing the punch. Just as we learned from G.I. Joe, knowing ourselves is half the battle.
However, we’re playing on the 21st century social media battlefield. Are you ready to launch and broadcast your brand to potentially millions of people? In a couple cases like Peter Kim’s and mine, it’s a failure to launch. The rest of us have lifted off with respectable LinkedIn profiles but are lost in cyberspace. Under Dr. Patton’s oversight, we passed around each Fellow’s profile, critiquing the executive summary, page layout, section format, skills, endorsements, competitive advantages, and accolades. It was like starting your career search with resume and cover letter writing all over again. In fact, building a snazzy LinkedIn profile is a crucial part of the executive evolution and NetKAL grooming process.
A strong LinkedIn profile is a powerful tool to be proactive in leveraging first, second, and third order connections. It will bring you more interviews, grow your network, get your name out there, and build the intermediate steps to navigate your career or even switch industries. You’ve created your own luck when your profile turns up in the next executive search algorithm or talent pool recruiting engine. Indeed, I’ve been inspired to retool my LinkedIn profile, but my relaunch is experiencing technical difficulties because I’m a dial-up Internet kind of guy who is in the process of merging my duplicate accounts.
Rewired and hungry, both intellectually and physically, this next generation of brand marketers enjoyed a special dinner with the evening’s Distinguished Speaker, Ms. Kyung Hee Choi. We were all humbled and honored to hear from this trailblazer and pioneer of a woman. Community leader, health activist, Wall Street Wonder Woman, Korean American beacon, a loving wife and mother of two.
Ms. Choi truly embodies the NetKAL philosophy and spirit, as she ultimately developed a brand strategy that serves and gives back to our community. Most people would call it quits after 25 dedicated years to JP Morgan, transitioning from the back office to branch manager to senior investment banker to head of Firmwide counterparty risk management working in three different offices globally, Seoul, Singapore, and New York. Her personal struggles, lessons learned, victories, and messages of hope struck a deep chord, particularly her poignant retelling of 9/11 and motivation for establishing the Korean Medical Program at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, NJ. Imagine many of our first-generation parents, grandparents, friends, and relatives who are currently in or could require hospital care. A warm bowl of rice, seaweed soup, and kimchi bring immediate smiles, comfort, and satisfaction. And a sound body and mind may also lead to faster healing and recovery.
It is approximately 2:30pm, October 5, and you have just crash-landed in a seaplane on the east shore of Laura Lake in the subarctic region of the northern Quebec-Newfoundland border… NetKAL 8 is stranded in the Subarctic! Divided into 3 separate teams enacting our own “Survivor” simulation, we need to decide what to do with a magnetic compass, a gallon can of maple syrup, water purification tablets, hand axe, flashlight, matches, snowshoes and a mix of 8 other items. More importantly, are we more likely to survive by packing up and trekking to the nearest town of Schefferville which is more than 50 miles away, or camping and persisting near the crash site in the hopes of being rescued?
NetKAL 8 is one creative and crafty class, showing that we have some MacGyver tricks up our sleeve. Armed with a wind-up alarm clock transformed into a compass and a makeshift drone fueled by the maple syrup, we’ve got a shot at making it, especially if you happened to be on my community project team, who scored highest on the survival checklist rankings. Please note that the judges will factor in and assess our survival skills when deliberating over our community team proposals.
Unfortunately, we were more like MacGruber than MacGyver in the arctic tundra. The lone rangers who gunned it for Schefferville died first, but even the smarter teams who made a base and lasted a couple weeks die off eventually. Somewhat depressing, but despite losing this struggle we realize the importance of working as a team. Even though Lionel Messi won the 2014 World Cup Golden Ball, his team still came up short and lost the ultimate glory. Germany played better as a team from the group stage en route to the final, and from start to the overtime finish against Argentina.
Dr. Patton broke it down and deconstructed the control mechanisms and inner workings of an effective team. What makes good teams gel and click? We recalled our best and worst team experiences, listed the qualities that characterized each, remembered important inflection points and how the group progressed over time. What are the goals, and is each person’s commitment and role defined to implement them?
Interestingly, increasing buy-in and delivering better team results came back full circle to knowing and communicating your personal brand. Identify strengths and understand proprietary assets to quantify the brand DNA. When in doubt, use the LinkedIn profile as your calling card and distinguish yourself from the next Moneyball statistic. Leveraging self-awareness and personal experiences of each member enhances the team’s chances to succeed and build a great offense and defense.
Just look at the all-star brands in NetKAL 8 for inspiration: the Justice League, National Security and Counterintelligence Unit, Media Maven, Crimestoppers, Education Innovator, Political Power Pundits, Wall Street Fat Cats, Law and Order, Artificial Intelligence, Iron Chef, Shark Tank, and the ultimate Dr. Lee.
As such, recognize and be proud of your brand DNA. It is a unique strand that should be engraved on all your personal profiles, especially LinkedIn. Then we can build and leverage our collective DNA by linking and forming a stronger NetKAL organically. The more we love our individual nucleotides, the more we unlock and realize the team’s potential. Ready to modify the NetKAL DNA?
– New York State Liquor Authority Press Release
Albany, NY – The State Liquor Authority today announced the appointment of Kevin D. Kim as Commissioner of the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA). Mr. Kim was nominated by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and confirmed by the New York State Senate as a Commissioner on June 20, 2014.
Prior to his appointment, Mr. Kim worked as an entrepreneur in the education field and also currently serves on the Board of Directors of two non-profit organizations: Korean American Community Foundation (KACF) and the International Student Conference. His previous professional experiences include serving as a federal law clerk for then-U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, a corporate attorney at Davis Polk & Wardwell, and Deputy Director of Community Affairs for former Congressman Gary L. Ackerman of New York. Additionally, Mr. Kim formerly served as a member of midtown Manhattan Community Board 5’s Public Safety and Quality of Life Committee, where he worked together with community residents, licensees, and the SLA in reviewing and making recommendations on liquor license applications. Mr. Kim is the first Asian American to serve as a Commissioner of the SLA.
“Governor Cuomo’s administration is committed to attracting the best and brightest in State government, and the appointment of Kevin Kim is a prime example,” said Chairman Dennis Rosen. “I look forward to serving with Commissioner Kim, as he brings his first-hand experience serving as a community board member as well as a deep understanding of the need for government and business to work together.”
“I thank Governor Cuomo for the trust he has placed in me for this important position and the tremendous opportunity to serve. I look forward to working with licensees, community boards and the SLA in promoting and regulating this very important industry,” said Commissioner Kim.
Mr. Kim received his B.A. and M.A. from Stanford University and his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and a member of the Columbia Law Review. He is proficient in spoken Korean and conversant in basic Mandarin and Japanese.
October 17-18, 2014
Mark your calendar now for NetKAL’s premiere event of the season!
2014 NetKAL Gala Celebration
To kick off a weekend of networking, collaboration and learning, NetKAL and USC will hold an evening gala celebration at the San Francisco Design Center on the evening of October 17. Located in San Francisco’s hip design district, the Design Center is world-renowned as the Bay Area’s premium choice for special events. The venue features a spectacular four-story atrium with a retractable skylight that reveals the starry night sky.
This elegant setting will provide the perfect backdrop for an evening featuring performances by top Korean entertainers, Youtube celebrities and keynote addresses by respected Bay Area leaders.
2014 NetKAL Summit: What’s Next?
We are living in an age where rapid change is inevitable and unavoidable. The question for those who are in positions of power and leadership is, “What’s Next?” What does the future hold for NetKAL members and how can we best prepare our leaders for success in their respective industries? The options are few – either lead in a time of change or be left behind. Which will it be?
The 2014 Summit, on October 18, will feature innovative speakers that will attempt to provide solutions to some of these pressing questions. They will guide attendees through the ever-changing, and often confusing, future possibilities for various industries including tech, media, social services, politics, business and healthcare.
The goal of the Summit will be to educate and inspire Korean-American leaders by leveraging the technology and innovation expertise in the Bay Area. The Summit will connect Bay Area leaders with influential individuals from all over the U.S. and a wide variety of industries that are looking to evolve and prepare their businesses for the future.
by Irene Lee, NetKAL VIII Fellow
“Being a Student Again” was an appropriate theme for the Homecoming weekend, which included alums from past NetKAL classes. It is also a good motto for all of the NetKAL VIII sessions thus far, because when you gather 28 amazing Korean-Americans from various walks of life in one room to learn about leadership, it feels much like school or summer camp.
The presence of NetKAL alums really made Homecoming weekend an extra special event. We all felt incredibly lucky to have them there with us. Their participation in the “unplugged” panels provided a platform to share their successes as well as their failures (and some were complete with poignantly placed expletives!). One of the highlights of the panels was Iron Chef UK Judy Joo, who wowed us with stories of her experiences as a chef and TV personality. She attributed her success simply to hard work, being in the right place at the right time, and creating her own luck. After filling ourselves with delicious eats from ‘wichcraft, NetKAL VIII Fellows Esther Lim and Jane Norman led a team-building exercise in which we flexed our creative muscles by constructing the tallest tower using spaghetti noodles and marshmallows, which was no easy feat! Many groups ended up with lots of sticky fingers and little to no success, but it certainly was a great test of communication and teamwork.
The final panel of the day involved a heated discussion on the “Bamboo Ceiling.” Does it exist? What can we do about it? How do we press forward to see more Korean-Americans rise into exclusive, top-level management positions in major companies?
This discussion reminded me of the time I had interviewed with a prosecuting agency, before I became a deputy district attorney. My interview panel consisted of two Caucasians, an African-American, and a Korean-American. They grilled me about my knowledge of the law, and at the very end they posed a simple, but direct question: “Do you have what it takes to stand up to a judge and be an advocate? Can you be a voice in the courtroom?” I assured them I could. Minutes after my interview concluded, they had called a mentor of mine, telling him that I had all of the qualifications but they just could not see me fighting in the courtroom. Being female and Korean-American, it did not take much for me to realize why they thought so.
Thankfully, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office believed in me and, to date, I have completed over 900 hearings and more than 30 jury trials for them. However, when I appear before a judge or jury, I am often aware that I have to prove that I deserve a seat at the table more than some of my colleagues do. Whether it is referred to as the Bamboo Ceiling or something else, there is a palpable sense that some do not see Korean-Americans as deserving a place in the courtroom, boardroom, or the main stage of national politics.
A common solution that was presented to tackle this issue was to find successful mentors to help us up and then become mentors for those who are up and coming. We have also been given the challenge to make NetKAL the most relevant and powerful network possible, which will propel more Korean-American professionals into positions of power and influence. I joined NetKAL to be part of this sphere of influence and to be equipped to mentor the next generation of Korean-American leaders. So, for me, these ideas are the embodiment of NetKAL.
The final presentations of the weekend were of the three community projects for our class. The first, a Korean-American community day of service, centered around the Saturday of Chuseok, actively demonstrating that we are relevant contributors to our communities. The second, two paid internships for Korean-American college students in Washington D.C., in partnership with KALCA (Korean-American League for Civic Action), which will help pave the way for future movers and shakers to make a difference in politics. Finally, the third, a “list-serv” that connects Korean-American college students with unique internship opportunities directly from NetKAL alumni, such as in the public sector, entertainment, and fashion industries.
Our three community project ideas reflect our desire to bring a greater presence for Korean-Americans as well as provide opportunities for the next generation to be bigger, brighter versions of ourselves. Our main hope for these community projects is to render the Bamboo Ceiling obsolete.
Read More about the Homecoming event!
When you become a member of the Alliance, through an annual gift, you support the future of Korean-American leaders. Gifts made to the Alliance directly fund our fellowship program, the hallmark of NetKAL which provides invaluable networking and leadership training. This unique platform enables second-generation Korean-Americans to increase their role in society and cross political, economic and cultural boundaries.
Membership in the Alliance also means that you become part of the Network, with access to year-round events across the country and civic-minded leaders within the Korean-American community. As the Network continues to grow, so do your own possibilities.
The Alliance is also an excellent opportunity for past NetKAL Fellows to “pay it forward,” ensuring that the fellowship program can continue to provide the highest level of educational workshops, seminars and projects for each and every class.
Strengthen the Korean-American community with your tax-deductible annual gift today!
Donate online at http://netkal.org/alliance-membership/.
Donate by mail to Daniel Thomas, associate director, development
USC School of Social Work, 1150 S Olive St, Suite 320, Los Angeles, CA 90015
(make checks payable to USC School of Social Work)
The Network of Korean-American Leaders (NetKAL) at the USC School of Social Work, a fellowship program promoting civic leadership among successful second-generation Korean Americans, has appointed two new members to its advisory board: Karen Ha, a venture partner with Athena Technology Ventures, and Sabrina Kay, an entrepreneur, educator, fashion designer, philanthropist and the current chancellor of Fremont College.
“We are very pleased that Karen Ha and Dr. Sabrina Kay have agreed to join the NetKAL advisory board. These are two very accomplished women who represent the Korean-American community at the highest levels, and we look forward to benefiting from their leadership,” said Suok Noh, president of the NetKAL advisory board.
The 12-member advisory board was formed to provide strategic guidance and offer insights that advance NetKAL’s pursuit of strengthening Korean-American community through mentorship to emerging leaders. Among the group’s priorities are expanding programming and volunteer engagement, fundraising, and increasing outreach and communications efforts.
“NetKAL is at a critical juncture in its history and poised for dramatic growth,” said Jehoon Lee, director of NetKAL. “We’ve brought together some of the best and brightest in their respective fields, and it is a great privilege they have agreed to offer their expertise in support of NetKAL.”
About the New Members
Karen Ha is a Venture Partner with Athena Technology Ventures and brings over 25 years of experience in both venture capital and the software industry. As the co-founder and CEO of the e-commerce software company Savvio, Inc., she raised $13m in venture funding, and as Vice President for the Professional Services Group of Interleaf, Inc., she developed an organization of 150 IT consultants throughout North America and Europe. Ms. Ha has held the position of Director for Oracle Corporation and also for StartingPoint Partners, a venture capital firm specializing in the investment of high-tech, startup companies. She also served as Vice President of Worldwide Professional Services for Portal Software. Ms. Ha received her B.S. and M.S. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Ocean Engineering and Systems Management. She is currently a member of the Visiting and Development Committees for MIT Corporation, the Leadership Council for the MIT Public Service Center, and previously served as Director of the Fund Board for the MIT Alumni Association. Ms. Ha is a co-founding board member of the Korean-American Community Foundation of San Francisco.
Dr. Sabrina Kay is an entrepreneur, educator, fashion designer, philanthropist, and the current Chancellor of Fremont College. She is the founder of California Design College (now the Art Institute of Hollywood), the nation’s first institution for computer-aided fashion design. She is also the founder and owner of Premier Business Bank, Fremont Private Investments, The Sabrina Kay Collection, Fashion Umbrella, and LA Designs. As a philanthropist, Dr. Kay founded the Sabrina Kay Charitable Foundation and serves as Chairman for After-School All-Stars Los Angeles. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission, American Friends of the Louvre, the California Fashion Association, and the International Medical Corps Leadership Council. She is the recipient of the Education Award from After-School All-Stars, the Humanitarian Award from International Medical Corps, named Woman of the Year by the California Legislature and Rising Asian Woman by the World Affairs Council, and was a finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Dr. Kay holds an MBA from University of Southern California, an MS in Higher Education from University of Pennsylvania and received her doctorate from The Wharton School and Graduate School of Education at University of Pennsylvania.
NetKAL IV Fellow Connie Chung Joe once set her sights on international human rights work, but discovered that the Korean community in Los Angeles needed her more. Now, she is the executive director of Korean American Family Services (KFAM), a nonprofit organization that helps thousands of area immigrants overcome issues ranging from domestic violence to acculturation stress. In a recent interview with Eliza Gallo, Ms. Joe shared how NetKAL helped her and other Fellows to launch a program which finds Korean foster families for children in Los Angeles.
EG: What are the goals of Korean American Family Services?
CCJ: KFAM is a community-based organization that has been serving Korean immigrant families since 1983. Our purpose is to be a resource center for Korean immigrant families who are facing acculturation stresses, anxiety, or whatever they’re struggling with in their adoptive country. There really weren’t very many resources available to Korean-Americans that were linguistically and culturally appropriate. Women and children who were facing issues such as domestic violence or child abuse often had nowhere to go and no one who could help them because of barriers with language and cultural stigma. So that is how the agency came about.
KFAM started out as being mainly about providing services for domestic violence and family violence, and from there it became a larger counseling center that provided mental health services and additional social services. Our center now serves about 7,000 individuals a year through our counseling, family violence and social support services. This includes direct services as well as prevention, outreach and education.
EG: Why did you choose to participate in the NetKAL Fellows program? What was the experience like?
CCJ: Because I run a Korean community organization, I thought it was important to meet the up-and-coming leaders in the Korean-American community, especially here in Los Angeles. A lot of people who have been associated with NetKAL have gone on to become very prominent members of the community. I was looking for some way to be involved with other predominantly second-generation Korean-American professionals. Even though I do run across other Koreans or Asian-Americans in the nonprofit field, I was longing to have a larger cohort of professionals who were at a similar point in their lives. Even though we are very different as far as the work we are doing, there is a camaraderie among NetKAL Fellows that comes from having similar backgrounds, growing up second-generation with immigrant parents and working really hard at school.
The NetKAL Fellows Leadership Program was far better than I could have imagined or expected — and I heard that from everyone in my class. I think a lot of people came in with similar reasons: they thought it would be an important networking opportunity or they wanted to learn about structured leadership. However, I do not think most expected the camaraderie and personal relationships to be quite as strong and important as they ended up being for our class. It was surprising how much self-examination was involved. I know people who made life changes, both professionally and personally, based on what they learned through the NetKAL Fellows Leadership Program. It seemed to have a very profound effect on many of us.
EG: What influence did NetKAL have on your work?
CCJ: One of the biggest things was that we launched our Korean Foster Family Initiative (KFFI). One of the components of the NetKAL Fellows Leadership Program is a competition, with a $5,000 prize for the winning proposed community service project. The class was divided into three teams, and, of course, everyone wanted to win. We’re talking about a lot of highly competitive alpha types! What happened in our class was that we realized that all three groups were competing for the same end goal: to raise awareness for and recruit Korean-Americans to become foster parents. This was such an important issue for all of us. The winning team, titled Hansori, decided that this was not just an issue for competition; they wanted to continue moving it forward.
It is very well-known that there is an absolute dearth of Korean foster families and zero active, licensed Korean foster families in Los Angeles County. It is something that has been on my radar for a long time, but how do you do anything about it without funding or resources? The determination and dedication of the volunteer group that came out of NetKAL helped me to find the resources, the time and the additional support needed to actually launch this idea. Our agency worked with Hansori’s volunteers to research the issue, as well as organize surveys and focus groups which helped us to pinpoint the challenges foster parents faced in the Korean community.
When I told the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) about the project, the director was very impressed by how this group of Korean-American volunteers who, in addition to their own busy lives, were finding the time to work together on this. In January 2014, KFFI was launched as a formal project. DCFS provided support that helped us to hire a full-time project manager to run the program. The response to the project from the Korean community has been amazing! To date, 39 people have been through the orientation, which is the first step to becoming a foster parent. We hope that by the end of this year we will have gone from zero to 10 or 20 foster parents, ready to help Korean or other Asian children who might otherwise lose their language or face the trauma of being separated from their culture. I am really proud of what this project has become and that the catalyst was the NetKAL Fellows Leadership Program.
EG: What is the value of building ties among Korean-American professionals? Do you find yourself networking with fellow NetKAL alumni?
CCJ: One of the really wonderful things about NetKAL is that there is a tremendous diversity in the careers and experiences of its participants. There are very few opportunities available that provide the level of combined education in finance, IT, the government sector and the arts. I never really get to work with people in those fields. Many of the NetKAL Fellows who work in the private sector had never had much opportunity to hear from people in nonprofit, working directly with vulnerable communities. So there was a lot that we could learn from one another and a lot to be shared. Additionally, due to the caliber of NetKAL Fellows, when they share something — whether it is a new project they are working on, a new Web site, a mobile app, or an article they wrote in the newspaper — I know it is going to be something valuable. NetKAL has been an amazing way to open my mind to new ideas, careers and fields.
I network with NetKAL Fellows all the time. I see members of my class both through NetKAL-hosted events and less formally. For example, if someone is working on something special, the other Fellows want to support that.
EG: What advice would you give to a young Korean-American who is just starting out?
CCJ: I have realized through being in the professional world for 10 or 15 years that it is not just about grades. In the Korean-American community, that is always a major emphasis. Korean parents instill this value that you need to do well in school and go to a good college. I do agree, wholeheartedly, that this is important, but it is not the be-all and end-all. There are other qualities that are incredibly important for success, including social intelligence, good interpersonal skills, and the ability to work with others. So I often urge people to get an internship or part-time job, because what you learn from your textbooks and lectures is only part of what will help you excel when you go out into the professional world.
Also, it is so important to be open-minded, to try new things and not be stuck doing just one thing. I changed my career path so many times. I started off thinking I was going to work in international human rights, then I was a lawyer for seven years, and now I’m working in the nonprofit sector. Some of the other NetKAL Fellows in my class had wanted to do other things, or had been toying around in other fields and just weren’t ready to pull the trigger. I was surprised to see how many of them ended up changing their careers, and they said that NetKAL helped them to do that. It helped them get past their fear that they had to do what was traditionally successful, and, instead, to look at what they were passionate about and what they loved and think, “I can take that risk.” They felt emotionally supported by their colleagues and, in some cases, the other Fellows actively helped them get into new areas and develop business relationships. The NetKAL Fellows Leadership Program had a tremendous value for a lot of us. It helped us open our eyes to new things or take risks that we didn’t think we could.