By Alice Day
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“Professional development,” “networking,” and “community service” are the three pillars of the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP), a nonprofit, professional organization with more than 25 chapters in the United States and Canada.
NAAAP-Seattle is a professional networking organization that “promotes the career advancement and leadership development of Asian American professionals,” through professional development, community service activities, and social events. NAAAP has fostered great Asian American leaders such as Albert Shen, Judy Yu, and Elaine Kitamura. It prioritizes getting more Asian young professionals and recent graduates involved in the community, hosting career events to help young professionals to grow in their careers, and connecting them with more senior professionals.
“We’re a volunteer-run organization. Everyone gives their free time when they can and they also contribute their skills and talent,” said Hang Chen, vice president of NAAAP-Seattle. “It’s a place where people can grow and become leaders because people here have passion. They like to give back, improve themselves, and make a difference.”
NAAAP-Seattle, formerly known as AsianMBA, was founded in 1979, and in 1992 became the Seattle Chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals. The “premier leadership organization for Asian Americans” in Seattle operates under the main goal “to build and make leaders in the Asian American community,” said Chakrya Lim, PR/marketing chair of NAAAP-Seattle. “Our strategy is to empower everyone on our board with an idea to run with it.”
“We focus a lot on developing leadership skills in Asian Americans because there is a lack of leadership at higher levels and in for-profit organizations,” said Sherwin Tsao, president of NAAAP-Seattle. “Our main overall goal is to break that bamboo ceiling.”
NAAAP-Seattle holds monthly board meetings at the beginning of the month and all members are invited.
“We offer a diverse range of things that not a lot of networking organizations offer,” said Lim. “You can build professionally, meet people from a wide range of industries, and there is also a community-service aspect if you are just interested in helping out.”
NAAAP-Seattle holds a wide range of events, from community service and volunteer work like cooking meals at the Ronald McDonald House and cleaning up the streets, to picking up trash with the Adopt-a Street program. They host professional development events like seminars, workshops with guest speakers, and social mixers to help network and reconnect with old members.
One of NAAAP-Seattle’s most popular events this year was the “Career Diversity Mixer.” NAAAP-Seattle brought in recruiters from local companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Puget Sound Energy.
“We had recruiters there and we had job seekers there,” said Tsao.“Trying to match people together, some to find employees and others to find their next job, to help people out.”
The main event every year is the Annual Scholarship Gala which will be held on Nov. 6. at the Foundry. This year’s keynote speaker is Justice Mary Yu with Natasha Chen of KIRO 7 as the master of ceremonies. Three outstanding Asian American high school seniors will be awarded the NAAAP-Seattle Future Leaders Scholarship Award which recognizes seniors who have “demonstrated leadership qualities, community service, and high academic achievement in the greater Seattle area.”
“What makes NAAAP different is that the people here do it with passion. They really want to be part of the organization and make a difference in the community,” said Chen.
“It’s a good vehicle and safe environment to grow as a professional leader.”
Today, NAAAP-Seattle has 15 board members, 120 members, and over 2,000 Facebook and newsletter followers. In the past, they’ve worked with sponsors like Microsoft, State Farm, and Macy’s to host social mixers, contribute to scholarships, and host professional development events. Membership costs $25 per year and is open to all ethnicities, genders, and ages.
“We love our organization and we love being a part of the Asian American professional community and being a part of the greater Seattle community,” said Chen. (end)
Alice Day can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.