Unapologetically Asian: Celebrating the strength and pride of Asian Pacific Islander communities during AAPI Month

by The Smartsheet Team

Unapologetically Asian. That’s the theme of the Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month here at Smartsheet — to empower all generations of Asians, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders to live with pride, without downplaying it.  

“I had a real identity crisis growing up in different countries throughout my childhood and early adulthood. In India, my accent was too American; here, I had an Indian accent. Being shamed for my ‘ethnic’ food at school or ridiculed by my cousins back home for being unable to speak our mother tongue as well as they did was all too common. Over the years, I've grown to be proud of my heritage, its unique culture, foods, clothing, customs, and more! I'm eager to share what it means to be Asian, Indian, or a Malayalee with folks on the outside and bring my unique perspective. And I'm always trying to learn more. This is what being Unapologetically Asian means to me.” — Lekshmi U., Sr. Product Marketing Manager

The annual celebration honors the rich and diverse history, traditions, and cultures of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and reflects on the challenges that these communities continue to face, including discrimination and violence — and the work we must collectively do in the community and as allies  to work towards greater equality for all. 

At Smartsheet, we are deeply committed to fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace where every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to bring their authentic selves to work. We recognize that diversity, in all its forms, is a fundamental strength that drives innovation, collaboration, and growth.

One significant component of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion has been the establishment of our Employee Resource Groups. These groups serve as vital pillars of support, advocacy, and community for underrepresented employees, including our Asian Pacific Islander community. 

How we’re honoring our API communities

By hosting several events throughout Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, Smartsheet supports the Asian Pacific Islander employee resource group as it celebrates — and holds space for — its diverse communities and their rich histories. 

“As a third culture kid, being Unapologetically Asian to me means embracing both sides of my heritage. I was always proud to be American and proud of my Filipino heritage, but was never accepted fully into either culture — fully being the operative word. I embrace the fact that I bring a different and unique perspective to being Filipino as well as to being American. Filipino-American is not a single way to be, but embracing my path through that landscape and growing from it is what I think of as Unapologetically Asian.” — Ian N., Technical Account Manager


Virtual charity games

Virtual games kicked off the celebration. Employees learned about – and tested their knowledge of – AAPI activists, organizations, media, pop culture, and more, all while having a blast with each other online. Each point that was earned went to support climate resilience in the Philippines: Our donation helped four Filipino farmers protect their crops and went towards the rehabilitation and climate change adaptation support of 267,000 trees, including banana and coconut. 

Creating conversation

To foster conversation and celebrate the month together, we created randomized, informal opportunities for API ERG members to get to know each other and other employees.

Volunteer events

At our Boston office, a pizza fundraiser helped raise funds to support Asian and new immigrant youth via the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center’s Youth Program. 

In Seattle, employees joined the ACRS Food Bank, which provides culturally-familiar foods to immigrants, refugees, elders, and families throughout Washington State, for a day of volunteering, prepping grocery bags for delivery, and loading and unloading delivery vehicles. 

Guided meditation

In honor of APAHM and Mental Health Awareness Month, which is also the month of May, a Smartsheet team member led a meditation while exploring what it means to be unapologetically Asian/Pacific Islander. 

Fireside chat  

To close out Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month and kick off Pride Month, our API and Rainbow Collab ERGs partnered up to celebrate the API experience in both communities. With API-inspired snacks on hand, Smartsheet employees swapped ideas and stories during a fireside chat with Seujan Bertram, chief operating officer for Netbase Quid.

“For me, being Unapologetically Asian means being comfortable in my skin and having pride in my ethnicity and culture. It means speaking up against the model minority myth and not trying to fade into the background to fit in. Growing up primarily in white spaces and being a Chinese adoptee, I struggled with finding my identity and feeling pride instead of shame for my Asian features and background. Being Unapologetically Asian is not being afraid to be me.” — Alyssa L., Project Manager

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