Cynthia Bradt: What My Vietnamese Parents Taught Me About DE&I
At Samsung, it’s part of our company’s heritage to push boundaries and defy barriers to achieve meaningful progress and power bold innovation. But innovation doesn’t just happen — it is designed by humans for humans. And a critical ingredient is our inclusive culture and diverse workforce. Our company is made up of nearly 270,000 people around the world of different ethnicities, races, genders, sexual orientations, identities, religious beliefs, and abilities. But together, we’re ONE global team united by Samsung’s purpose and values.
1. What does diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) mean to you, both personally and professionally?
I am a first-generation Vietnamese American woman. I was born to two Vietnam War refugees who fled their home country in pursuit of freedom. My parents overcame incredible obstacles to pursue their American dream.
My mom was 15 years old when she arrived in this country. Once out of refugee camp, she entered high school in Silver Spring, Maryland. She didn’t speak any English at first, but she studied hard and got accepted into the University of Maryland Chemical Engineering program. My mom graduated Magna Cum Laude with her BS in Chemical Engineering and landed her first job working for the U.S. Department of the Navy, developing underwater explosives and missiles. She moved up the career ladder and eventually moved on to serve as Science Advisor at the Pentagon, and then as a Senior Executive at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, where she retired. As for my dad, he was 21 years old when he arrived in this country and started a career as a Software Engineer after graduating with his BS in Software Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he met my mom.
My parents’ story is the biggest reason why I became involved with DE&I pursuits at Samsung. My mom, especially, overcame many professional barriers as an Asian woman working in a male-dominated industry, while being a mom to four kids, and main breadwinner for the family. While I have not faced obstacles nearly as astronomical, the workplace barriers that my parents faced during their careers still exist today for underrepresented groups. I want to help break down the barriers for myself, for others, and for future generations. We all need to unlearn centuries-old social practices, dismantle biases towards women and minorities, and challenge assumptions – especially related to views on how we should behave, where our “place” is, and what the limits are to our success.
For me, DE&I all boils down to doing the right thing. Committing to and fostering DE&I is simply the right thing to do for every organization. As a tech leader with massive global influence, Samsung is striving to lead by example and prioritize the well-being of all our employees and communities.
2. What has been your greatest learning or most exciting experience in your career journey as it relates to DE&I?
I started my DE&I journey very recently, although I have taken leadership roles in employee resource groups (ERGs) throughout my career. For example, over a year ago, I became the Professional Development Leader of our Next Generation Leaders (NGL) ERG, which was created to help cultivate the talent of early-career professionals across our teams at Samsung. This has been an extremely rewarding experience as our ERGs have been so instrumental in championing inclusion and helping to uplift so many people in our communities.
Most recently, I began serving on Samsung’s first DE&I Council, a diverse group of leaders from across Samsung Electronics America who are spearheading efforts to create an organizational culture that promotes inclusion and belonging. Prior to this, I didn’t fully appreciate how DE&I holistically impacts our workplace and business outcomes. My experience has taught me just how much inclusivity and creating a sense of belonging really matters. And it has reminded me that we, as a company, have the privilege to be able to help others, and should maximize opportunities to support underserved communities.
3. How have you seen diversity efforts progress in the workplace during your career?
Events that transpired since the start of the pandemic, including the murder of George Floyd and the rise of anti-Asian violence, have elevated the urgency for DE&I in the internal workplace conversation, as well as externally for consumer-facing brands.
In the two short years that I have been at Samsung, I have seen a significant increase in focus and commitment to DE&I. Samsung has really stepped up by renewing its dedication to driving meaningful change. I am very proud of the progress we have made so far, and hopeful that we will continue to make significant strides in advancing DE&I in the years to come.
Most recently, we have appointed our first ever Chief Diversity Officer and formed a DE&I Council comprised of employees from all levels and functions of the organization. The Council has started creating measurable goals to foster DE&I, improve diverse representation, and cultivate diverse talent at all levels. Over the past few years, we have launched new ERGs and currently have a total of six (WISE+, Galaxy of Black Professionals, LGBTQIA+ Equality Alliance, Veterans Community, Next Generation Leaders, and Unidos). We are working to ensure the success of our ERGs and making certain that the groups continue to benefit members. In all, we have more work to do, but I am excited about where we are headed.
4. What’s one simple way your fellow colleagues can turn allyship into action?
There are so many ways to get involved and make an impact! Anyone can start small and build from there. You can join an ERG and/or participate in ERG-backed events or activities. If you are a leader, you can mentor and sponsor employees from underrepresented groups to help them reach the next step in their career journey. As a leader, you can also make conscious decisions to build diversity and inclusivity within your teams. Anyone can carve out an hour or more of their week to get involved.
5. What advice would you give to your younger self?
My advice would be to focus on achieving your goals, while prioritizing your mental health and well-being. Go after what you want and deserve but do it by being your authentic self. Use your voice. Claim your seat at the table. And once you’re there, use it thoughtfully and strategically to raise others up alongside you. And, most importantly, you do you!