May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month and GE Research is celebrating by talking about supportive work environments that promote diversity and foster growth. GE employees who identify as Asian Pacific Islander (API) have created a great community through GE’s Asian Pacific Allies & Friends (APAF) employee resource group (ERG). For the last 25 years, the group has offered its members and the greater GE community opportunities for volunteering, education, mentoring, and more.
The APAF was created in 1997; the group’s kickoff meeting in Schenectady, NY drew 150 attendees. Today, the APAF serves more than 9,000 API employees through 18 hubs and 33 North American chapters. The Capital Region Chapter is very active with more than 140 members from GE Research in Niskayuna, NY and 100 members from the nearby Schenectady campus, which houses employees from GE Gas Power and GE Renewable Energy.
Chapter Co-Lead and GE Researcher Voramon Dheeradhada has been with GE for 15+ years and is quick to provide her endorsement for the APAF. “I attended my first APAF event early in my career and it provided a real work family feeling. It gave me the opportunity to connect with people from similar backgrounds who had similar struggles growing up,” she said. “Our culture can be different, and it was nice to connect and learn from others outside my technical sphere.”
The APAF sponsors multiple initiatives and activities in support of three group pillars:
The large and diverse API community includes those who can trace their origins to any Asian country or Pacific Island. The list of countries/islands is extensive (40+) and includes China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Samoa, Tahiti, and Guam. This site provides a great definition of API and related terms.
The APAF celebrates the diversity of the API community through events that promote networking and educate on culture. This includes roundtable Q&As with internal GE leaders and external influencers covering topics like career paths and leveraging your heritage to drive impact. The APAF also helps spark conversations between employees and GE leadership to drive positive change and impact inclusion & diversity priorities.
A group event hosted on GE Research Niskayuna's Innovation Patio.
Mentorship and career development is another major undertaking aimed at connecting and growing APAF members. The APAF sponsors many education opportunities throughout the year.
In June, APAF National will wrap its first session of their new 12-month Mentorship Program. Locally, the Capital Region Chapter has a few dozen mentees teamed with local GE senior/executive leaders for one-on-one guidance.
“The Mentorship Program has been a great success and we are happy to have had the ability to offer one-on-one pairings for our Capital Region members,” said Chapter Co-Lead and GE Researcher Shaopeng Liu, who organized the program locally together with GE Gas Power colleague, Sunitha Vijay. “It has very much been a custom experience. We kicked off with a workshop on ensuring effectiveness, managing expectations, and best practice guidance, then left execution to the individual teams. The feedback has been great, and we are excited to offer a second class later this year.”
In addition, GE has long partnered with the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) to engage emerging professionals and build better leaders for tomorrow. Many local APAF members attend SASE events and professional development opportunities to connect and grow.
The APAF Mentorship Program kickoff call.
The APAF is all about providing support, both for its members and for those in our communities. The Capital Region Chapter hosts an annual Walk for Education, which for the last 15 years has raised more than $150,000 total for three organizations: Northern Rivers Family of Services (Schenectady), One Sky Foundation (China), and AIM for SEVA (India). This signature event brings together members of the GE Research community, APAF members, and APAF supporters for a walk around the Niskayuna campus.
“The Walk for Education has had the longstanding support of GE leadership and it’s an event that many APAF members look forward to every year,” said Voramon. “The organizations that benefit have a lasting impact on the people they serve… less fortunate children. We are proud to support them.”
Community service is another way APAF members give back. The group regularly volunteers with the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, sometimes in collaboration with other GE ERGs, and leads beautification projects for local organizations and schools.
There’s lots of pride in GE’s APAF family – pride in heritage, pride in the community they’ve built, and pride in the philanthropy they provide. Their efforts to promote diversity and foster growth are no doubt helping GE Research see, move, and create the future.
The 2021 Walk for Education at GE Research Niskayuna.