Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Editor’s Note: One of our core tenets as a company, championing people, is reflected in the diverse backgrounds of our employees. We believe in an inclusive, collaborative environment – one in which all parties involved seek to better their understanding of their fellow human beings. It is with this in mind that, this month, we will be highlighting our employees of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent. Stay tuned for this ongoing series.
Our company's director of customer programs, Alex Kim, has spent the past few decades dedicated to serving San Diego. Kim is of Korean descent, with his father being born in Hawaii prior to it becoming a state! Like some of the other AAPI employees we've spoken to, Kim's family stopped speaking Korean to "assimilate" to United States culture. Learn more about Kim's family history, and valued traditions, in the interview below.
Thank you, Alex Kim, for all you do for our company!
How many years have you worked at SDG&E? What do you do at our company?
I have been working for Sempra Energy for 31 years and have been with SDG&E for the past 19 years. I am currently the Director of Customer Programs, where my team of 200+ employees and I are responsible for providing energy efficiency, customer assistance, demand response, green energy, and customer resiliency programs.
We also conduct planned outage communications and customer outreach and we support our large business, Access and Functional Needs, as well as the federal government and military customers.
What makes you most proud of being part of the AAPI community?
I am proud of the long history of the positive contributions and influence the AAPI community has made to the American culture and our society. In addition to the vehicles, technology and fantastic cuisine, the AAPI community is growing in recognition in music, film, and business.
What has been your favorite project so far? What do you wish other people knew about SDG&E?
When I was a manager in 2006, I started our Clean Transportation program. To promote EVs, we purchased our first two electric vehicles before they were commercially available. It is incredible to see how far EVs have come and the future for them since that time.
I wish people knew that SDG&E has a long history of being a leader in sustainability. When I joined the company to lead our Sustainable Communities program, we helped to bring the first LEED-certified buildings to the San Diego region and our company continues to be a leader including our recent announcement to be net-zero GHG emissions by 2045.
What is a tradition you wish to pass down, that your family has passed down to you?
Every New Year’s Day, my mom makes a special Korean soup. It is meant to bring health, positive energy and good luck in the new year.
Define and describe the most important (or most celebrated) holiday of your culture. How is/are they celebrated?
Although I did not grow up with this tradition, one of the most important traditional Korean holidays is the first day of the Korean lunar calendar, known as Seollal. Generally, it occurs in January or February on the second new moon after the winter solstice which is typically the same as the Chinese New Year.
The celebration usually lasts three days: the day before Korean New Year, Korean New Year itself, and the day after Korean New Year. During this time, many Koreans visit family, perform ancestral rites, wear hanbok, eat traditional food, and play folk games. Additionally, children often receive money from their elders after performing a formal bow.
What advice would you give people outside of the AAPI community to be better allies?
According to a Pew Research Center report, “A record 23 million Asian Americans trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, each with unique histories, cultures, languages and other characteristics.”
Additionally, each region within a country and each generation has its own sub-culture. To understand the AAPI community, recognize there are vast differences within it and get to know the individual cultures and people.
Is there anything you would like others to know that we have not included here about you or your culture?
I am a second-generation American. My dad was born is Hawaii before it was a state and my mom immigrated from Korea. To help me and my brother better assimilate into the American culture in the rural suburb of LA where were raised, I was not taught how to speak Korean or learn about its culture. Many other Asians have had this same upbringing.
Getting to know people as individuals in addition to their culture will help to continue to build understanding and make us better as a society.