Committee of 100’s Next Generation Leaders program focuses on young leaders who are passionate about the organization’s mission to promote the full inclusion of Chinese Americans across society and advance the betterment of U.S.-China relations. The program was first established in 2014. The staff of Committee of 100 sits down with one of our Next Generation Leaders each month and asks them about their careers, their passions in life and the challenges (and opportunities) for the AAPI community.
This month, we spoke with Allen Chen, Managing Director and Partner at BCG.
Allen focuses on large-scale AI transformation, primarily in the healthcare and retail industries. He also serves as the CTO of BCG X, which is the company’s tech and AI build arm. He is a software engineer by training and started his career at Amazon. Since then, he has founded two B2B SaaS startups, one of which was acquired by News Corp and the other by BCG.
Connect with Allen on LinkedIn here.
Committee of 100: As a Chinese American, what are some of the challenges you have encountered to become a leader in your respective field?
Allen: I’ve fortunately not experienced much overt discrimination in the workplace, but am subjected to the same factors that many Asian Americans experience in the professional workplace as they climb the corporate ladder, including stereotypes about skillsets, generalizations about strengths and weaknesses, and lack of mentors.
Committee of 100: There are more than 6 million Chinese Americans in the United States today and it is one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S. Do you feel that Chinese Americans are well represented in government, business, and other parts of society?
Allen: The data suggest that at least in business, Chinese Americans (and other Asian Americans more broadly) are well-represented at the entry and mid-levels of the corporate ladder, but as someone who has been fortunate enough to have “broken through”, I definitely see the lack of representation at senior levels.
Committee of 100: What do you believe needs to be done so that more Chinese Americans feel empowered to follow their dreams and push forward to create the programs/businesses/position they want?
Allen: I think having mentors that can guide and show aspiring leaders that there is indeed a path for them can be incredibly inspiring and give people the confidence to see that the road is narrow, but it’s indeed possible! I have been so incredibly fortunate to have had strong mentorship throughout my life and career, and I seek to pay that forward by doing whatever I can to bring up the next generation.
At the macro level, I think that the more that companies can understand the nuances of the Asian American corporate experience, the better equipped they will be to leverage resources like Employee Resource Groups to drive actual change.
Committee of 100: What moment or learning experience inspired you to work in your professional field?
Allen: I am a builder by heart. I just love to create. My path in the corporate world has not been driven by a desire to climb the corporate ladder, but rather to find myself in a position to drive change through technology. I am so incredibly fortunate to have had many doors open for me throughout my career (frankly much of it through luck and not my own doing) that have enabled me to build cool things, and that’s what keeps me motivated.
Committee of 100: For those Chinese Americans and AAPIs who just recently graduated college, what advice would you give to them?
Allen: Figure out what you love to do and keeps your motivated, and find mentors that can help you shape your path to achieving your goals.
Committee of 100: What do you most want to be remembered for in terms of making your mark on this world?
Allen: I would like to look back and say that I had a life well lived, having given 100% to every pursuit, having invested in the people I’ve met along the way, having been grateful for the privileges I had but not earned, and having no regrets for the paths not taken.