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Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: This is me, Yang

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May is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time to acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the history and culture of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. These communities have played an important role in enriching North America’s diversity and contributing to its success.

This year, we sat down with Yang Zhang, Inclusion and Diversity Executive Council (IDEC) member and Manager of Cybersecurity Architecture and Technology at TC Energy, who shared the importance of staying connected to family and continuing cultural traditions, while also embracing new experiences.

Meet Yang

I’ve been at TC for over two years now and currently am the Manager of Cybersecurity, focusing on Architecture and Technology.

I was born in Shanghai, China, and my parents and I moved to Toronto, ON when I was six years old. As immigrants, my family experienced the unique privilege of being able to preserve our culture, values and traditions even with an ocean separating us from our roots. 

Family – whether near or far – form the backbone of my life. When I was nine years old, my little sister was born, which was an exciting milestone for my family, particularly as China was still abiding by the one-child1 policy at the time.

Yang with her parents and younger sister in Calgary.

After graduating from Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, I made the move to Calgary for work. Despite being far from my parents and sister in Ontario and extended family in Shanghai, I maintain a strong connection with them through occasional visits, group text messages and video calls, although it can get a bit tricky with a 14-hour time zone difference between Calgary and Shanghai! I’m always trying to convince my family to move to Calgary, although I think the cold weather has made it a bit tough to entice them.

I also spend a lot of time with my extended family in Calgary. My fiancé is of French and Irish heritage, and he has ties to Asian culture through his extended family in Calgary. Together, they’ve become part of my journey toward cultural preservation and integration. We get together for activities such as going for dim sum and celebrating Asian festivities such as mid-Autumn Festival (or Moon Festival), which symbolizes reunion and giving thanks. Every year, we do a ‘spring roll madness,’ where we make hundreds of spring rolls in one sitting – enough to last us for months! It’s a fun and wonderful way for the family to bond and a beautiful way to blend families, cultures and traditions.

Traditions such as Chinese New Year (also called Lunar New Year or Spring Festival) hold a special place in my heart. The celebration extends beyond a single day, with a period of cleaning the house to sweep away bad luck and welcoming the new year with a fresh start. Our family loves to enjoy various dishes, including hot pot meals, lion’s head meatballs, dumplings, rice cakes, longevity noodles and traditional Chinese desserts like tang yuan (glutinous rice balls with sesame paste). We also exchange red envelopes filled with “good luck” money. Red is considered a lucky colour, so I make sure to incorporate the colour into my new year outfit! 

Embracing diversity 

Preserving my cultural heritage is incredibly important to me, but so is being open to different experiences. My parents instilled in me the significance of our history and culture while teaching me to remain open to trying different things, and embracing various elements of our surroundings.

From joining the Taiwanese club in university to learning French to trying out recipes from other cultural cuisines and more, my life has been enriched by these diverse experiences. I’m also excited to see increasing Asian representation in western society, like numerous restaurant options, and representation in films and books. These experiences have taught me the importance of inclusion and the beauty of varying perspectives – something I’m passionate about bringing to my work as a member of the Inclusion and Diversity Executive Council at TC Energy. As an Asian woman leader in IT, I am a minority in more ways than one. This only makes me more aware to look around the room to ensure a diversity of thought is represented, respected and encouraged. 

Yang as a child with her mother posing for photos in traditional attire. Red is considered a lucky colour in Chinese culture.

I am fortunate that my upbringing has allowed me to straddle two different worlds and gain perspective. I hope that by sharing my story, it inspires others to uphold their culture and history, while also being open to new experiences and embracing diversity. 

1 The one-child policy was an official program initiated in the late 1970s in China, which restricted many families to have only one child in the household. The program came to an end in 2016.

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