This month, I got the opportunity to attend the Asians In Advertising inaugural AIA Summit “Breaking Barriers.”

Asians in Advertising (AIA) is a non-profit organization that strives to develop a free community, create opportunities, and help elevate Asians to higher leadership positions. Founded in 2021,  AIA has cultivated a space for Asians within the advertising field to come together in a community where Asians are often excluded.

The summit organized twelve workshops and two networking sessions featuring over forty panelists of stellar advertising, communications, and marketing backgrounds who are creating meaningful impact in the industry. 

Under the Summit’s theme of “Breaking Barriers”, each day took on a subtheme that equipped attendees with advice and support on how to “breakthrough” in the industry. Day one centered on recognizing internal struggles and one’s self-growth journey. Day two emphasized the importance of engaging with the community around you by bringing your true self wherever you go.

Here are my top takeaways from the summit :

Work On Yourself

“People value you at the value you put on yourself.” – Keynote Speaker, Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop reminded Asians in advertising that you are your own best advocate. Act on your ability to own the space you’re in, and execute what you want to change in the industry.

Disrupt the Narrative

“I followed the formula and I’m not happy. I felt so shameful for not being happy about the life my parents wanted for me.”

Nicole Cruz reflected on her personal journey as a woman of color. Audience members flooded the chatbox with messages of resonance. For many Asians, navigating a career is oftentimes influenced by familial expectations and the pressure to succeed. The linear “formula” may satisfy the stability that Asian parents wish for their children, but happiness is not a guarantee. Put yourself first and trust in yourself–don’t sacrifice your own dreams to live someone else’s.

Know Your Worth

“It feels like you’re carrying the weight of everyone who looks like you, in that room”

Maryan Samson described the experience of being at the table and what it means to be someone who represents a collective voice. Being in such a position can be mentally exhausting because one voice cannot fully encapsulate the vast experiences of other underrepresented communities. But, do not forget that your voice is powerful and matters in that room. 

Work With Others

“Create our own moments…not waiting for someone else to do something.”

 Keynote Speaker, Cynthia Choi

Cynthia Choi spoke on what the industry should do more of in the future and why creating events like the summit are important for community members to lead. If no one makes space for you or if you continue to wait for an idea to become concrete, it may never happen. Give yourself permission to take charge and pave the way.

Magic of Mentorship

“The more we can help our mentors, it helps the mentee as well in the long run.”

Melanie Salamat shared advice on how mentees can effectively engage with mentors who are excited to help their professional journeys. Mentorship is a two-way street. For

mentors to be effective, a mentee must help steer conversations in the most meaningful direction. Salamat advises mentees to take the initiative to set up the call and create an agenda with prioritized talking points. A mentor is eager to help–just tell them where to start.

Successful ERGs

“Get rid of the letters you have no intention of honoring…Be intentional about who you want to include in these conversations and then mindfully include them.”

Jerry Won elaborated on navigating inclusivity and the lack of representation for the Pacific Islander “PI” part for events like AAPI Heritage Month. Thoughtfully consider your event’s line-up and confirm that the platform especially amplifies those who are too often overlooked.

The Future of Advertising

“Psychological safety is really the key to creating a culture where people want to belong and people feel close to their employees and their peers.”

Nikki Lamba underscored psychological safety as the main pillar of inclusive culture in the workplace and through the industry’s future direction. It left attendees’ questions to ponder about the future of diversity, equity, and inclusion: How well is my workplace nurturing a domain where psychological safety is ensured? Are the employees comfortable with speaking up in rooms where diversity and inclusion lacks?

After the summit, attendees praised the event for offering a vulnerable space that empowers a community that is marginalized in the industry. The response signifies the incredible value summits like this provide for people who want to be seen and heard in otherwise isolating corporate environments. 

As someone early in their career, I found the Asians In Advertising Summit to be much more than your typical advertising event. It was meaningful, not only because I got the chance to listen to numerous inspiring speakers, but also because has become an external community to which I could go for support. AIA welcomed people like me to share their career journeys with the nuance of our navigation through life as Asian Americans. I am grateful that such resources exist as I voyage through the industry myself. It signifies a hopeful step for the future of Asians In Advertising and other advocates for inclusivity.

Through a dedicated Polycultural practice, Direct Agents has developed innovative marketing strategies and creative solutions to help brands authentically reach multicultural audiences. For guidance on building an inclusive marketing strategy, contact [email protected].

– Narizza Saladino, Brand Research Coordinator