On the fast track
From the time he sped to high school on the New York City subway, Jeff Chin was always a few steps ahead of his peers. He graduated at age 16 from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, a specialized high school for mathematics, science and technology in Manhattan. Today, after more than 29 years at EY — 18 of them as a partner — Chin, though retired, is still on the move, speaking at venues across the country to share his passion: accelerating the progress of Asian-Americans in the business world. He is president of Ascend, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to encourage the development of finance, accounting and business professionals and students in the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
Asian-Americans represent the largest group in accounting, finance, technology and related fields. Their presence in senior management is, however, disproportionately low. One main reason, according to Chin, is that this group in general needs to better understand what it takes to succeed in the business world. This includes seeking out mentors and promoting one's own accomplishments.
When Chin joined EY from a position in private industry, he was "lucky" enough to be pushed toward the need to focus on personal development and mentoring: "It was a great place to start a career and be anything you want to be." Ken Reiss, an audit partner now retired, took Chin under his wing. And the other partners he met early on were equally supportive. "Everyone wanted me to succeed," he recalls. This encouragement helped Chin gain confidence in the early days of his career. Eventually, he wanted to do his part to see that other professionals gained the self-assurance and mentoring they needed to move into senior management positions.
Chin also remembers the ways in which EY nurtures an inclusive environment. He was involved in the development of the EY Pan-Asian Professional Network in 2000. Through this group, young professionals could establish or enhance their own internal career networks. But Chin recognized that even more was not just possible, but necessary. And so in June 2005, Ascend was launched at EY's Times Square location in New York City, with more than 300 people in attendance. Chin acknowledges the contributions and encouragement of many, and in particular that of EY partner Allen Boston, the champion of Ascend and "a true inspiration."
The growth of Ascend has been nothing short of remarkable. With more than 4,000 members and dozens of corporate partners, Ascend has 10 professional chapters across the US and 16 student chapters, as well as 20-plus chapters under development. In August 2008, Ascend held its inaugural national convention in New York City, with more than 1,200 registered attendees. EY Chairman and CEO Jim Turley was the keynote speaker. Through this and other programs, Ascend is helping develop the business leaders of today and tomorrow. And another sign of change, a growing number of companies have established their own Asian networks.
In his characteristic way of always moving forward, Chin has joined his Ascend colleagues in continuing to expand the group's programming. A series of leadership development conferences is held in several major cities. The events present opportunities for young and seasoned professionals to meet corporate executives. And in an effort to build bridges between Asian and American business cultures, Ascend presents professional development sessions that help Asians understand how they can use their Asian values as strengths to build their careers. Other sessions address the characteristics of Asian cultures and ways non-Asians can be sensitive to differences to enable success.
If you would like to learn more about Inclusiveness at EY, please contact Billie Williamson, Americas Inclusiveness Officer.
"I believe in giving back to a business community that has been very good to me," is the way Chin explains his ongoing drive and commitment to Ascend and the progress of Asian-Americans in business. And until he sees a major influx of Asian-Americans into the C-suite, he has no intention of slowing down.