Over the past few years, the rise in anti-Asian hate and xenophobia, combined with a global pandemic have made normal, everyday life difficult for the AAPI community. By sharing stories and insights from those in the Chinese American community, Committee of 100 hopes to shed more light on the issue but also help celebrate the amazing accomplishments from within the Chinese American community to the world at large.
The staff of Committee of 100 sat down with some of our Next Generation Leaders and asked them about their careers, what the past year has been like as a Chinese American and their hopes for the future as we move forward in this pandemic world we all live in.
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 2017.
This month, we spoke with NextGen Leader Dustin Oliver Ling, who is a Director in the Global Public Sector at Citi Banking Capital Markets and Advisory. Dustin is a senior banker with over 20 years of experience at Citi and serves as a trusted advisor to development finance institutions and other multilateral organizations. He serves as a global relationship banker within the Global Public Sector Group which spans coverage of 160+ sovereigns with a specific focus on supranationals, the emerging markets and ESG.
Dustin has spent his career at Citi working in various increasingly senior and strategic roles at the World’s Most Global Bank. During his tenure, he served as a senior leader within Operations & Technology, Global Compliance, Citi’s Canadian franchise and for the last ten years within Citi’s Global Public Sector, the group responsible for sovereign and supranational relationships. Dustin is also a senior champion of firm-wide diversity, including for the AAPI, LGBTQ and Hispanic-Caribbean dimensions.
Dustin can be found 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?
Dustin: In Corporate America, there are certainly many myths around Asian leadership, which are not widely communicated or documented and hence not well understood. The challenges I faced in Banking and Finance when I started was primarily an AAPI representation issue, where I did not see many AAPIs or Chinese Americans at the C-Suite or MD level. At that time, mentorship and sponsorship in my industry was typically non-Asian at the start of my career, which is a real challenge as you think about climbing the corporate ladder and promoting the telling of AAPI stories of success. I will say we have come a long way and much of that is us as a community trying to pivot from a tragic moment and taking our seat at the table as Chinese and Asian Americans to drive increased influence and representation.
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?
The short answer is, it depends and generally no. If you look at the great research done by Ascend, McKinsey, BCG and others, it is clear we are not well-represented at all levels. More often than not we are represented well at the junior levels but lacking especially at the senior levels even though our representation in absolute levels at most organizations is adequate. This also depends on the industry that you are in and it is important to go a level deeper. For example, we know that AAPIs are in the low single digits of C-suite representation at Fortune 500 firms. In business, Asian Americans can represent up to 20-25% of the labor force but are often not represented in senior management roles. Our NGL Service Project team is actually working on highlighting this exact challenge using facts, data, and digital narratives.
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?
Dustin: A few key actions come to mind which can help us be on this journey together as a unified voice. Finding community in each other as a Chinese American community, which is cross-sector, cross-generational and cross-immigration heritage. Committe of 100 has a big role in driving this and how we bridge this gap by connecting the 100 Chinese Americans to the 6 million. Secondly, I believe we are stronger together, hence we need to find community and alliances in two other critical areas, the wider AAPI community (or the community of 20 million, which we are part of) and other dimensions of diversity, such as African and Hispanic Americans, while also recognizing our intersectionality through our solidarity and learnings from the LGBTQ community and Women.
Committee of 100: What moment or learning experience inspired you to work in your professional field?
Dustin: My family has strong roots in the Chinese Diaspora when they left the mainland during the war and headed to the Americas and I was born in the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. I have found Chinese communities have settled in the harshest and most difficult places and circumstances in the world and flourished whilst learning the context and culture that they have found themselves in while facing discrimination. This was certainly the experience of my grandfather when he landed in Latin America. Today, I work at Citi, the World’s Most Global Bank with a presence in 95 countries and serving 160 worldwide – while I get to work with sovereigns and supras to drive progress and growth. It’s that globality, diversity, and intersectionality, which inspires me to do what I do every day. I get to deal with global challenges at a local level every day, which is beyond exciting.
Committee of 100: For those Chinese Americans and AAPIs who just recently graduated college, what advice would you give to them?
Dustin: Go about your career and life without any ceilings of any kind — bamboo or otherwise — and wherever you are, always build bridges and ladders towards your next role(s) way before you even have them in hand. Do not overanalyze, just do it and while you are at it make time to connect with people and (your) passions on a deeper level. Know what you want, do not let others decide that for you but do not do it alone – find sponsors and mentors, both AAPI and non-AAPI. Putting your head down and expecting to be recognized is not going to get you ahead.
Committee of 100: What do you most want to be remembered for in terms of making your mark on this world?
Dustin: That throughout my life that I was a good son, a good brother and a good father, who was loving and was loved in return. That throughout my career, I was an effective and impactful leader and hereby made a meaningful difference within my own organization and also that of my sovereign and supranational clients whose mission it is to serve their citizens and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).