Spotlight on NAAAP Leadership: Judy Lao, NAAAP New York Chapter President
Judy Lao, NAAAP New York Chapter
Judy Lao started her involvement with NAAAP as Vice President of Community Alliance for NAAAP San Francisco in 2008. A recent transplant to New York from California, she worked as Director of Local Arrangements for the 30th anniversary of NAAAP’s 2012 annual convention in New York. With a renewed participation in NAAAP, Judy is the current president of the New York chapter. She is so excited to help rebuild the New York chapter to become the “go to” Asian American organization, both on the corporate and individual member level, with her amazing Executive Officer Team and Board of Directors. It’s because of this amazing team that the New York chapter has come back to life. During the day, Judy is the Paralegal Coordinator and Trial Specialist for the Manhattan office of the law firm Jenner & Block. She is also active in several other New York-based non-profits.
ALIST Magazine: How do you see your role in changing the world?
Judy: Thanks to the brilliant women of the generations before me, there are far more mentors and opportunities that have presented themselves to me in my lifetime. Now there is a world of potential for me to be anything I set my mind to. Unlike previous generations, I’m growing up as a professional in an environment where I can do everything: have the family and career, with support both in the workplace and at home. There is an understanding and admiration in today’s world for strong, intelligent women. Luckily, I’ve also had the honor and pleasure to interact with women of such caliber and it is their words of wisdom that guides me on my career and life path.
ALIST Magazine: What is your passion?
Judy: As cliché as it may sound, my passion is life and living it to the fullest! I honestly try not to waste a day. Whether it be putting together events for NAAAP, or traveling the world to experience all there is to see. I’m a sponge every day, and I’m passionate about the quest to never stop learning. I work just as a hard as a play in order to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Luckily, I was raised with parents who instilled in me the values of exploration and gratitude. I was fortunate that I had supportive immigrant Chinese parents. My father and mother pushed me every day to see the world with an open mind, try everything at least once before judging it, and never forget that each healthy day of existence is a gift and should be filled with love and laughter.
ALIST Magazine: What are some things that you can’t leave the house without?
Judy: Unfortunately, the two things I can’t ever leave the house with are my Blackberry and my iPhone. The Blackberry is my connection to my work life, which I’m practically married to! I take great pride in my work-product and professional relationships. My iPhone is my connection to all that is fun: family, friends and NAAAP of course!!
ALIST Magazine: How has diversity changed in the last ten years?
Judy: I think the importance of diversity in the workplace has been the biggest change in the last ten years that I have witnessed. Everyone is now aware of what diversity is, and that knowledge has played a powerful role in the Fortune 500 world. I work for clients every day that now actual require that we staff women, minorities and LGBT individuals on our cases. There are now diversity groups within companies, which assist employees with relevant struggles to each particular group. Whether one views this type of acknowledgement as a positive or a negative, at least there is a discussion about diversity, whereas before, it was nonexistent.
ALIST Magazine: Name 3 people you admire and why.
Judy: My biggest idols growing up were Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan. I was a competitive figure skater since the age of four and retired before I left for college. All I wanted to be was an Olympic Gold Medalist like Kristi Yamaguchi. I practiced every morning at 5:30 a.m. before school, and also after school. Kristi was one of the nicest celebrities I knew as a child. Michelle Kwan was close to my age at the time, and her grace on the ice was unparalleled. Her dedication to the sport was a shining example of how hard-work pays off, and her sportsmanship taught me the importance of humility in the face of adversity. I also admire Hillary Clinton, as she is living my ultimate dream: to potentially be the first woman President of the United States. It’s such an amazing and exciting time in politics, and I hope to see history made again in my lifetime.
ALIST Magazine: Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
Judy: My parents have been the biggest influence in my life. I would not be the happy person I am today without the values and upbringing they provided me. Coming from first generation immigrant parents, but raised in American schools allowed me to identify cultural differences early on in my life. Unlike some of the other Chinese families I was raised with, my parents wanted me to live the American dream and take advantage of all the opportunities they didn’t have as children, but to still remember my Asian heritage. Though school and education were important, my parents also taught me that social skills and understanding people were equally important. Both my parents worked when I was younger, and I saw the dedicated work ethic they both possessed. To this day, I work hard every day at everything I do because it’s a value I grew up observing from my parents. I’m blessed that I have watched my family love and care for each other through the best and worst of times. My father has always told me that his only goal in life was to make my mother and I laugh, and he does that every day. It’s this ever present love of life and all that it has to offer that I hope to transfer to my children and grandchildren.
ALIST Magazine: What traditions have been passed down in your family?
Judy: I feel honored that I have the Asian culture as my backbone. My mother has regularly taught me about our traditions, and I learn new things every day from her, whether it be old superstitions or holidays I didn’t realize existed. One fun tradition is that my parents and I celebrate our Chinese birthdays, which taught me how to read the Lunar Calendar (though not very well), and American birthdays. During Chinese New Year, we usually have a huge family feast, wear new clothes, pray to our ancestors, and clean our homes from top to bottom. My favorite New Year tradition is eating dumplings on New Year Day. My aunts and uncles stuff the dumplings with symbolic items, and you eat the dumplings to find the surprise and potentially what your new year holds for you: good fortune, love, family. I’m not sure if every family does that, or if it’s just mine, but it’s a fun way to kick off the new year!
ALIST Magazine: What are you reading lately?
Judy: Every day I read the New York Times and some law articles on Above the Law for fun. Book wise, I’m reading the Divergent Trilogy for pure entertainment. I love reading books before watching movies.