“I honestly didn’t expect so many offers to roll in,” said Lam, a fifth-year senior at the University of Washington (UW) who majors in Finance and Information Systems. He will graduate in March 2012.
Companies like Boeing, Living Social and Starbucks want to hire the 21-year-old to be part of their team. He attributes his success to Ascend, a national non-profit organization with a chapter in Seattle, that nurtures today’s pan-Asian American leaders as well as tomorrow’s. Lam served as interim president for Ascend’s UW student chapter.
“It provided me with the confidence and leadership skills throughout the school year to understand how to communicate with professionals,” said Lam. “There were so many situations and scenarios that went on in our student group that helped me understand how to handle situations in the real world.”
He said such situations include meeting deadlines and handling different personalities towards a common goal. As a result, his burgeoning leadership skills were recognized by the UW Foster School of Business who awarded him the Most Outstanding Student Leader award. “I couldn’t have won that award if it wasn’t for [the Ascend student chapter].”
Lam added, “[My team] fundamentally set up a foundation for me, and I have to say my success comes from them.”
Ascend hosts several events a year at the student and professional levels. Events range from personal development sessions on communications to entrepreneurship. Ascend also gives context to the cultural perspective in a corporate setting. For example, recruiters who spoke at last month’s national Ascend conference in New York City said that pan-Asian Americans tend to be humble during job interviews because of their cultural upbringing.
“There is nothing wrong with being humble,” Lam said, but adds you also have to be comfortable selling yourself.
“If you are doing amazing things, then clearly state it.”
Lam admits his GPA isn’t one he’ll tout at a job interview, but companies will remember him for other attributes. “It’s all about how ambitious you are, and how you are able to communicate your passion to the company that you are interviewing with.”
With the Asian American community one of the fastest growing groups in this country, Lam wants to see more Asians take on executive leadership roles. He sees the need for organizations like Ascend, especially since he has aspirations to be an executive himself.
As for those job offers, Lam accepted a position as an associate product manager at Microsoft. He’ll start in April, and in June, he’ll return to the UW to work on obtaining his Masters of Science in Information Systems.
Ascend is open to all ethnicities. It will have an informational meeting on January 19 at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m. Refreshments and wine will be served. There is no cost to attend this event.