Ascend N. California - VP Communications Relations
As a Chief Consultant for California’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Legislative Caucus, Stephanie Tom manages the members and mission of the Caucus dedicated to increasing AAPI representation and advancing AAPI issues and causes statewide.
Prior in 2018, she was the Deputy Director for Strategic Planning, Broadband and Digital Literacy at the California Department of Technology (CDT) focused on providing broadband access and adoption in rural areas of the state.
Before her state service, she was at Oracle Corporation for 19 years where one of her accomplishments included serving as Co-Founder and Chairperson of Oracle Corporation’s first Asian employee resource group.
Stephanie is passionate about leveraging her experiences to give back to the community. She has served on the Board of Directors for the California Asian Chamber of Commerce and Asian Resources Inc. (ARI) and currently serves on the Executive Advisory Council for Leadership California. She is on the Board of Ascend’s Northern California Chapter.
She cherishes time with family and friends, and practices self-care with music, meditation and yoga.
Hometown Sacramento, California
How did you first learn about Ascend?
I am incredibly proud Ascend was the first AAPI nonprofit Oracle Corporation has ever dedicated funding to. As a co-founder of Oracle‘s first AAPI employee resource group – the Oracle Professional Asian Leadership (OPAL) – we were determined to have the company allocate budget for AAPI employees as it already had for Latino, African American and LGTBQ employees. Thanks to Livia Ching, former Executive Director of Ascend NorCal, who initiated the partnership. Thus, I was first introduced to Ascend through my leadership role for OPAL, and have been an advocate for the organization ever since.
What’s your perspective on how we should better leverage our Ascend membership?
Everything is what you make of it! Ascend, the largest national organization dedicated to AAPI advancement, is a phenomenal organization that I am proud to be affiliated with.
To make the most of a membership within an organization and leverage its resources and power, members must be intentional about their affiliation – how they want to participate and contribute. I’ve met many phenomenal people through Ascend. Some people attend an event and move on, but others, such as Katsuhiro Furuyama, are model members starting out as volunteers and, due to their sheer passion and dedication, become chapter leads recognized with the President’s Award at the National Convention!
What's one important thing you have learnt through Ascend?
Equity matters and we are stronger together
How do you work to empower our AAPI community?
I am truly dedicated to increasing AAPI representation across all sectors to achieve equity and inclusion for our community. I focus on the following to achieve this:
Network – I am willing to meet anyone that looks to connect with me. In turn, there are times I have reached out to complete strangers with backgrounds or profiles I find intriguing. Several times a week, people reach out to me via social media, especially after a speaking engagement, to connect and expand their network. Ultimately, I believe you can learn from anyone and it is inspiring to meet complete strangers that share your passion.
Support – For every person I meet, I want to learn about who they are; why they do what they do; and what their future aspirations are because I am always thinking about how I can help them. For example, right now I have a couple of interns who are interested in volunteering during this campaign season so I introduced them to campaign offices in their local district. On the opposite end, there are several AAPI candidates who will run for elected office in 2024. The Caucus will focus on these races after the 2022 election, but in the meantime, I stay connected with the candidates so they are aware of Caucus priorities and who they should be meeting to strengthen their campaign. Finally, I am in touch with several Gen Z students who are working towards a career in political science. I am helping them navigate the best next steps to achieve their goals whether it be a Fellowship in DC or an entry-level job at the Capitol. Overall, I am always looking to fill the pipeline of AAPI leaders.
Connect – I’m always looking to connect people to support their goals and mission. Recently, I met with two outstanding individuals Natassia Kwan and Justin Zhu of Stand with Asian Americans (SwAA). They proactively reached out to the Caucus to support AB 2596, a bill authored by NorCal Assemblymember Evan Low to establish Lunar New Year as a holiday in California. I loved their energy and their willingness to work with us as advocates! As a result, I connected them with Andy Wong, the External Affairs Director for Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA). Even with the recent passing of AB 2596, I know they will continue to be impactful partners and effective advocates for important AAPI initiatives in the community. On a daily basis, I meet with many AAPIs who want to help and engage, but they do not know where to go or who to connect with. Therefore, I look to build these bridges to support a unified community since we are stronger together.
How can we better support each other?
See above! Have courage and ask how to help. Be proactive about helping, not passive. We need to move past indirect actions, such as liking or sharing a post on social media, to direct engagement that makes an actual impact for the community (see below). Who have you helped today?
How can we better support our community by getting more civically engaged?
You can do any or all of the suggestions below by dedicating less than 3 hours per month!
Donate time or money to a campaign or non-profit.
Volunteer for a campaign, either by phone or text bank virtually!
Advocate for a cause you believe in, such as Anti-Asian hate crimes or immigration rights by:
Contacting your elected official via email or phone to take action on a specific topic;
Sending support letters to your local elected official or the Governor to pass a bill
What ask do you have for the next-generation of Pan-Asian leaders?
Dream big, help each other, and please work on soft skills. We are an incredibly intelligent, talented and hard-working community who deserve more than we have ever been recognized for.
The recent report by Ascend regarding diversity on corporate boards is tough to digest, but it’s a realistic, data-driven report illustrating exactly why our AAPI community needs to level up to drive an increase in representation in the private sector. The time is now, and the community needs more bold AAPI leaders!
What book(s) do you typically recommend others to read and why?
Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath – The more you know yourself, the better and faster you will be at decision making and accelerating your career and life.
Take Your Power Back by Deborah Liu – I wish this book was available when I was younger! This book is packed with fantastic advice for females navigating their careers and the format is easy to read and easy to execute.
Reach by Adam Molinsky – True story: I received this book randomly in the mail exactly when I was looking for a more meaningful position in my career and contemplating leaving Oracle Corporation. This is a fantastic book that teaches you how to step outside of your comfort zone, which is necessary for personal and professional growth.
I’m Not Who You Think I Am by Maeley Tom – Of course this is a fantastic book….by my mother! Although focused on politics, it gives great examples of key life lessons such as everybody matters and to believe in yourself.
Stephanie with her husband and sons
With her parents
* When acquiring a book recommendation, please consider making your purchase through AmazonSmile smile.amazon.com, setting Ascend Foundation Inc (Location: New York, NY) as your charity of choice.