May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Employees point to some of their AAPI heroes

(Clockwise from top left) Viasat employees Umaiyal Sridas, Phillip Hwang, Ngoc Tran, Denise Tung and Carminia Panlilio took a moment to think of some of their heroes during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is observed each May to recognize the contributions and influence of AAPI Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States

To commemorate the month, we asked some Viasat employees to share with us their AAPI cultural heroes.

Self-empowered player

Umaiyal Sridas | Software engineer

Naomi Osaka is the embodiment of self-empowerment, skill, and grace. She is the first Asian to be within the top rankings in tennis singles and is a truly talented athlete.

Her movement to take a break from tennis to focus on her mental health inspired me, not only because it brought mental health into the light, but also because it encouraged me to choose my wellbeing over how I may be judged or interpreted by the world.

Groundbreaking journalist

Carminia Panlilio | Head of product discovery

Maria Ressa is a prominent, Filipina-American journalist. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for her courageous, hard-hitting reporting on crimes against humanity and her strong advocacy to preserve press freedom.

As someone who works in product discovery, Ressa’s entrepreneurial journey is equally inspiring. Online news platform started as an idea formed by Ressa and a group of friends over drinks as they discussed problems — like the need they saw for citizens to participate, the need to strengthen democracy and trends they had observed. Television was changing in a participatory age, along with journalism. From there, they started imagining what was possible with all the available technology. They were using design thinking/innovation principles to discover a product.

Applying her same journalistic, dogged approach in business led to the creation of a much-needed news platform for users in a country where truth is not always readily accessible.

A forward-looking grandma

Phillip Hwang | Software engineer

My personal hero is my grandma; she’s the toughest woman I know! She lived in China through World War II and immigrated to America when the communists were taking over.

She never stopped learning and became the first computer scientist in the family, working as a keypunch operator until her retirement. Back in her day, companies had departments of women working in large labs punching cards that were stacked together to form a physical “program” that were then fed into a physical computer. She is inspirational through her fierce push for a better life and her anticipation that computers would be the future.

‘First Lady of Physics’

Denise Tung | Systems Design Engineer

Chien-Shiung Wu, a Chinese American experimental and particle physicist who made significant contributions in the fields of nuclear and particle physics, is an inspirational figure and a hero of mine.

She was known as the “Queen of Nuclear Research” and the “First Lady of Physics.” She was a barrier-breaker and one of a few women physicists in her time, becoming the first female president of the American Physical Society. She spent her lifetime as a huge advocate for promoting girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and she is my role model for my personal journey to continuing promotion of STEM education and encouraging girls to be our next generation of innovators.

Influential actor

Ngoc Tran | User experience researcher

A personal hero of mine is actress Sandra Oh.

I grew up in a town that did not have a large Asian population, and at the time, Asian representation in media was rare except for a handful of films and television shows. Sandra Oh has been acknowledged not only for her works, but also for being a trailblazer in the entertainment industry. Her commitment to sharing Asian stories with the world is inspiring.

As a global company, it is important for us to ensure that others’ stories are not left untold and that the diverse identities of our team members, customers, and partners are celebrated.