During our family reunion, we had an intriguing discussion about our profession while enjoying a bottle of Don Julio. My wife’s aunt said that she had worked for her company over 30 years and that she would never take on the lead role. As a minority woman who is in her 50s and isn’t fluent in English, she rather stayed in the technical position than being a leader. My cousins agreed with her perspective. To them, a leader has to have perfect English and the ability to bullshit. As Vietnamese, we were not trained for those leadership roles. She went as far as criticizing the way we raise our kids different than the way white people raise their kids to prepare them to be future leaders.
I completely disagree that leaders have to have perfect English. For example, Ángel Cabrera is the president of George Mason University and he speaks with an accent. I am director of design and web services at Scalia Law School and I don’t speak perfect English either. As leaders, the way you communicate is more important than your accent. Yes, I have seen leaders who bullshitted their way through, but you can smell them miles away. I have no respect for those leaders. For me, leaders don’t have to have in-depth technical skills, but they need to have a vision and enough technical knowledge to understand what is possible and what’s not. Because I have technical background the people who answer to me can’t bullshit me. I understand what’s possible and how to accomplish it. Likewise, the people above me respect not just my leadership skills, but also my technical skills.
As for parenting skills, I did not understand the comparison between my cousin whose wife is Jewish and us (two Vietnamese parents). They have one boy. We have four. Of course, we can’t spend all of our time on one kid. I found her reasoning to be laughable and somewhat offensive. I don’t mind her criticizing our parenting skills, but putting down our son is hurtful.
It is time for us Vietnamese to stop using our language barrier as a clutch. We need to get over it. In fact, we should use it to our advantage. We can speak both languages. We bring a diverse perspective into the team. Let’s take on more leadership roles than simple be led.