Annalise Ko, 20’s
Current Role: Software Engineer
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
Shanghainese and Taiwanese.
Tell us about your family story.
My parents met in Boston when my mom was in dental school and my dad was working after getting a PhD in Pennsylvania. My mom had just immigrated to Boston from Shanghai and my dad had gone to grad school in the states from Taiwan. I was born in Massachusetts but our family ended up moving to Shanghai because of my dad’s work. We had originally planned to only stay for a couple of years but ended up living in Shanghai for 18 years where my sister and I attended an American school. After high school, my parents moved back to the states and I ended up going to college in California before I started working at my first job in Boston.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Shanghainese and Taiwanese?
I think that because Asia is such a huge continent, people very often do not recognize all the different cultures that make up Asia. This, to me, is both a strength and a challenge. It’s a challenge because many people don’t realize that a lot of beautiful countries and cultures make up Asia and for that reason, everyone essentially is grouped under the label “Chinese” which erases a lot of these other countries.
But at the same time, what I love about being Chinese American and Taiwanese American is that I really do appreciate all the different cultures. It’s really interesting to me to see the similarities and differences in East Asian culture versus other Asian cultures in South Asia, Southeast Asia, or Western Asia.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I most recently started a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team for my department and I got the support from my manager and my director to do this. I’m really fortunate to be in a company and in a department where people want to focus on DEI initiatives and so, I’m really excited to be one of the leads on this. I think it’s really important to not just have a diverse team but also to make sure that your team has the resources and the opportunities to support everyone individually and as a whole. So that’s what I’ve started to work on at work and I’m really excited to see where we will go with this.
Reflecting on how you grew up, what did you learn or appreciate from your family?
I think that because I grew up in Shanghai, I was really fortunate in being able to celebrate major holidays in my culture like the Lunar New Year or the Mid-Autumn Festival. Some of my best memories are seeing all the decorations around the city and attending different celebrations for these holidays. It’s one of those things I didn’t realize that played such a big part in my life until I didn’t have it anymore. Coming to the states for college and not being able to celebrate these holidays, I realized just how much I did appreciate having the opportunity to really celebrate my culture growing up.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I speak Mandarin at home with my parents and to my maternal grandparents. Because I grew up in Shanghai and I heard my mom, who is Shanghainese, speak it to friends all the time, I can also understand it but because we never spoke it at home, I can’t speak it. My dad is Taiwanese but I don’t understand or speak his native language. He only ever spoke it when we went back to Taiwan to visit and even there, most of my family members spoke Mandarin.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
No matter where you grow up, you should know your roots. Take the time to appreciate your parents and your ancestors, and learn their stories. As immigrants, it’s easy for us to focus on living and surviving in a new country but don’t forget about where you came from and what it took for you or your parents or grandparents to immigrate to this country. If you’re able to, I encourage you to ask your family to share their story with you and to then take the time to really listen to them.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
I’m really grateful for my friends and my family. I’m extremely fortunate to be able to surround myself with people who genuinely make me happy and who support me. But aside from that, I really love music! I was in orchestra all throughout middle school and high school and was part of our high school choir group and also did acapella in college, so music is really important in my life.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
I’m one of the three hosts of a podcast called Adulthood Pending! You can find us @adulthoodpendingpodcast on IG or at our website adulthoodpending.com.
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
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Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
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