Newfront Hawaiian Lu’au Celebrates and Shares AANHPI Culture

The rooftop at Newfront’s San Mateo headquarters was converted into a slice of paradise on August 23, 2023, as nearly 100 employees came together for a Hawaiian Lu’au to celebrate and empower the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community.

Newfront’s Work, Love, Play ethos was on full display for the afternoon event organized by the Amplify employee resource group (ERG). A panel of Newfront AANHPI leaders kicked off the event, sharing personal and professional stories about their cultural backgrounds and journeys into leadership.

“Having the panel provided insight, not just to Amplify members, but also to our allies about our experiences and ways that we can all support each other,” said lu’au attendee Alaine Gallanosa, Senior Client Representative in Employee Benefits and a founding Amplify member.

“Love” and “Play” also took center stage for a hula lesson taught by Producer Emily Sugars, a lifelong hula dancer who is of Native Hawaiian descent, accompanied on vocals and ukelele by Account Manager Generalist Nina Teu, who is of Tongan descent. The two Amplify board members took the opportunity to share more about their own Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander cultures, as Newfronters offered an outpouring of support for the communities affected by the recent wildfires on Maui.

“It was amazing to gather everyone to the office to celebrate the Amplify ERG,” Michael Ching, Operations Specialist in Employee Benefits. “As an Asian American, I could relate to everyone’s experiences and stories. The Amplify ERG was able to bring more awareness to the Asian culture and everyone had fun.”

Uplifting and Supporting the AANHPI Community

Amplify is among seven employee resource groups at Newfront, which is dedicated to driving change in the insurance industry by challenging traditional ways of working and embracing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).

Amplify launched last year with a mission to amplify the voices of Newfront’s AANHPI colleagues and allies by uplifting and supporting one another, sharing experiences to showcase our diverse cultures, and creating a sense of belonging that encourages inclusivity.

“Sharing stories has always been an important focus for Amplify,” said Heidi Clubb, co-founder and co-lead of Amplify, and Senior Account Manager in the Property and Casualty division. With more than 50 distinct ethnicities encompassing the AANHPI diaspora, it might seem difficult to find a common thread among Amplify members. “It’s our stories that bring us together,” Heidi explained.

Amplify member Cathy Walker, Client Services Director in Employee Benefits, echoed Heidi’s comments. “The event gave us an opportunity to share and listen to the stories of our journeys – our challenges and achievements,” she said. “It was an eye-opener for many and it is reassuring to know that I am not the only one who ‘stayed in my lane’ for the majority of my career. So much has changed since I started working 35 years ago – and I am so fortunate to have witnessed so much change.”

Below are some reflections from the AANHPI leaders who shared their own stories as panelists at the Amplify Lu’au:

Sem Gee
Vice President of Employee Benefits and Senior Technical Consulting Lead

“It was a great experience to be part of a panel that was composed of women, to hear each other’s journeys to get where we are, and to see others’ interest in our perspectives.

“Belonging had always been in the back of my mind growing up – not quite fully Chinese because I wasn’t fluent when speaking with elders and not quite fully American because of who I was. It was comforting to hear that I was not alone in this struggle.

“My biggest takeaway is that it’s up to each individual to try to understand other’s perspectives, support them where you can and speak out regardless of color, ethnicity, gender, etc. One little nudge or comment from you could impact an individual in amazing ways.”

AJ Seo
Vice President of Sales Force Engineering

“Sharing our stories and learnings with those who are part of the AANHPI Newfront community is very bonding. It is important to have pride in our experiences and to let others know how we got to where we are today.

“When we don’t see ourselves in senior leadership positions, we subconsciously create beliefs that it’s not possible or that AANHPI voices are not important. All the panelists who spoke are in senior leadership positions from all over the company. By representing at this level, we represent that AANHPI have a place at the table, and this alone makes change.”

Emily Sugars
Senior Vice President, Manager, Producer and EB Channel Partnerships Lead, Amplify Board Member

“The Amplify Lu’au buzzed with energy, and I felt privileged to share my Hawaiian culture with the greater Newfront community.

“It was an honor to sit alongside an incredible group of women. Sharing our stories and wisdom within the AANHPI community created awareness of our struggles, but also brought together our strengths and similarities. It’s crucial to take pride in our experiences and demonstrate how we’ve reached our current positions.

“Many have described me as embodying ‘aloha’ and kindness, qualities I cherish. Yet, as a woman and a Hawaiian woman, I’ve overcome obstacles to reach a senior leadership role in the business world. My journey has been marked by many challenges and also successes, and I hope it serves as motivation and inspiration to others.

“It is so critical that we continue to perpetuate the belief that career progression and leadership is attainable and that AANHPI voices matter. It was an honor to sit with AJ, Sem and Winnie, who just by sharing their stories are driving meaningful change.”

Winnie Van
Chief Legal Strategist, Amplify Executive Sponsor

“I felt a record level of collective energy and fun at the Amplify Lu’au!

“At our speakers’ prep sessions and during the panel, my affinity for AJ, Emily and Sem grew deeper after hearing their cultural backgrounds, personal journeys and self-reflections on overcoming challenges on their way to success. The collective energy continued to amplify in speaking with a wide array of Newfronters afterward, many of us knowing each other just from a Zoom tile or a title, but now we were connecting over spam musubi, shaved ice and hula lessons making these connections memorably special and fun.

“Thank you, Amplify, for the impeccable creativity and your synchronous collaboration in creating a Newfront-pink paradise where we played, got curious, and genuinely connected to each other. This amplifying event made me even more proud being your Executive Sponsor.”

How Amplify is Supporting Maui

If you would like to support the fundraisers shared at Newfront’s Hawaiian Lu’au, they include:

The Author
Mai Ling Slaughter

With a background in journalism and health care marketing, Mai Ling specializes in communications and outreach as Senior Marketing Manager of Newfront’s Wholesale Benefits Division, Advanced Professionals Insurance & Benefit Solutions. Mai Ling is also lead of the Amplify AAPI Employee Resource Group at Newfront.

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