Diversity is important at Blue Shield of California. We believe in employing a diverse workforce that is representative of the communities we serve. To best support this workforce, we have developed several employee resource groups (ERGs) where employees can join as community members or allies. This month, we sat down with our Asian Pacific Alliance (APA) co-chairs, Sree Iyyanki, senior manager of Health Solutions Project Management Office, and Tony Hsieh, principal technologist of Developer Experience and Cloud Engineering, to gain a greater understanding of the work they are doing and the impact they are having at Blue Shield and beyond.

How has APA been involved with business activities at Blue Shield and what positive impacts have they had for our members and employees?

Every year we hold a signature event that typically focuses on professional development. Last year, our signature event was themed “Advancing through Opportunities,” and we continued that series this year with our signature event which we just held on May 15th that was themed, “Advancing through Leadership.” We had a power packed speaker series, our very own Blue Shield executives walking us through their leadership journey and sharing their recommendations and resources for strengthening leadership competencies. We also offered a workshop on personal energy management by experts from McKinsey Connected Leaders Academy.

Additionally, we launched translator and open enrollment volunteer support last year for 23 select markets and the premier lines of business, and partnered with Global Business Services (GBS) in being very intentional about how we use our diverse supplier budget. We also conducted a Pan-ERG tuition assistance benefit ‘Lunch and Learn’ session in partnership with Total Rewards. 

-Sree Iyyanki

How is APA partnering with community organizations?

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Asian Pacific Alliance employee resource group co-chairs Sree Iyyanki and Tony Hsieh

We have long partnered with Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF) based in Southern California. They help families that are in situations where there is domestic abuse. We have been involved with My Sister’s House, based in Sacramento, and they also help those out of domestic violence and abuse situations. We have also partnered with Asian Health Services in Oakland, doing volunteer events and providing fundraisers for donations.

-Tony Hsieh

What advice do you have for employees who may be struggling to advance in their careers or develop leadership skills?

The first thing I would do is to assess your leadership gaps.  Get a 360-degree evaluation and feedback from various stakeholders. I would then prioritize and plan the leadership areas or skills you want to focus on, add them to your personal development plan (PDP), and follow through with it. I would also recommend building networks across the organization, find opportunities to contribute your skills to volunteer opportunities and events outside of your regular work. Engage with ERGs of your choice. I think ERGs offer great opportunities to put your skills to use while building networks and finding mentorship opportunities.

-Sree Iyyanki

How can leaders and co-workers alike better help support everyone in advancing through leadership?

By fostering open, honest communication and accountability with the intent of helping in their growth. Collaborative goal setting helps. Also asking what success means to them, defining it, empowering teams to perform, checking in regularly and celebrating their progress and success.

-Sree Iyyanki

In what ways has Blue Shield helped foster an environment where members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community can feel safe being their true selves at work?

Blue Shield is spending the time and resources to encourage people to participate in the ERGs and partake in various events and activities. This is helpful to make sure people understand as we share the various cultures of the Asian Pacific American community, we can take in experiences from many different perspectives. This allows people to feel more confident in speaking to things that are important to them as part of their culture.

-Tony Hsieh

What did participants learn during this year’s signature event?

Many things. We had an exciting lineup of leaders at Blue Shield who shared their history and practical tips for being a leader, understanding how they stay up-to-date and refreshed throughout their day-to-day. There was also a McKinsey workshop that discussed managing your personal energy, understanding that we cannot always work on projects that energize us or that there are times of the day when we have less energy. It provided tips and tricks to build that energy back up.

-Tony Hsieh

Reflecting on the last few years, what are some wins from APA’s perspective?

We created a new organized workstream structure last year and recruited passionate leaders from across the company to support us in executing our roadmap, we transformed our communications, we have a new and improved newsletter and SharePoint site, and are very engaged on our enterprise social networking platform where we have the opportunity to share and celebrate our wins. We have had the wonderful opportunity to showcase new AAPI cultures and celebrate our diverse and rich heritage. We were also able to raise significant donations to help support the community organizations and causes we work with by planning fun events such as Wok & Cake Wars, Masked Singer, comedy shows, etc. and coming together as one team doing it. We are also offering many volunteering and activity-oriented opportunities for our members.

-Sree Iyyanki

What are some of APA’s plans this upcoming year and how can people get involved?

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are sending out weekly newsletters spotlighting and celebrating the AAPI leaders around us. We had a Pan-ERG speaking session, Embrace your detour with Kelli Chu. We have a guest speaker addressing us, Master Sergent Jeannie Lam, retired as a rescue pilot for the US Air Force. We read books by AAPI authors at Hillcrest Elementary in Oakland and participated in the rock the block at Sacramento Oak Park with Habitat for Humanity. We will also be holding fun activities such as a cooking demo and trivia games and we have a Sacramento Food Bank volunteering event that we’ll be doing to close out the month. People can get involved by registering as an APA member to receive communications about these events through our newsletter, and once you enroll, reach out to Tony or I and we can plug you into one of our workstreams based on your skills and aptitude.

-Sree Iyyanki

If you would like to work for a company that is committed to providing a diverse workforce where cultures are shared and celebrated, we invite you to explore our open career opportunities.