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“What does it mean to be you with us?" – Jessica’s story

Product Sr. Analyst, Enterprise Technology

My earliest memories were the rhythmic crash of ocean waves meeting the shore, the salty fog rolling in just thick enough to make the water and the sky blend together. I was born in Half Moon Bay, a beautiful and vibrant harbor town in California

I grew up in a traditional family in the sense of two supportive, intelligent, working parents raising two kids. My dad grew up in China and immigrated to the U.S. alone at the age of 16 with nothing. He studied software engineering in undergrad, where he met my mom, and went on to earn his MBA. My mom grew up in a small town in rural northern Minnesota and became an occupational therapist. Both of my parents were the first generation in their families to pursue higher education; I was the luckiest kid to grow up with two of the greatest examples of grit and perseverance. I was taught that with enough discipline and hard work, any achievement is within grasp.

Our house in Half Moon Bay was just minutes away from the ocean, which was really fun. No chance of getting a random foot of snow in April! Our family moved to Minnesota when I was five, to a rural part of Hugo. The school district I grew up in was not the most diverse. Which, when you’re a kid and all you want to do is fit in and look like everyone else, was hard at times.

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I found joy in the stacks of books taller than me that I’d bring home from the local library every week, letting my mind escape to worlds different than my own. Music was also a huge theme throughout my early life. I started playing piano at the age of five and have performed in hundreds of recitals over the years. My proudest piano accomplishment was graduating from the highest level of the Suzuki method and playing in the statewide recital. I spent most of my time in high school looking forward to going off to college; it helped keep my head up and eyes on the future.

Because I had taken so many AP courses in high school, my last year counted as my first year of college. Which was great for the wallet but gave me one less year to “figure it all out.” During my freshman “Welcome Week,” I immediately connected with a student group, the Business Association of Multicultural Students (BAM). Admittedly, maybe I was initially drawn to the cool shirts, and pens I wasn't about to pay $10 for at the bookstore for- but after a few minutes of conversation knew I found a community of incredible peers, and a sense of belonging on campus. I ended up serving on the board of BAM for a couple years.

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Engaging with Securian Financial during college

Securian Financial happened to be one of our gold sponsors and always had highly engaged associates working with our group, whether it was hosting us in the office for an onsite visit, practicing mock interviews before the big career fairs, or simply presenting on Securian and available opportunities.

Meeting people who were excelling in their careers and thinking I could do the same was powerful. Also, seeing that Securian was serious about creating a pipeline for diverse talent to come into the company was impressive. I totally credit BAM, and Securian’s sponsorship of the group as the reason I ended up at Securian!

I graduated in 2020 from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management with a major in Management Information Systems. Graduation fell several months after everything was locked down for COVID. I wrapped up what should have been the most fun and exciting weeks of my senior year from my one-bedroom apartment. Being stuck in 550-square-feet with no regular interaction with anyone was tough. I had poured so much energy and hard work into my studies, pulled so many all-nighters, for the years leading up to and throughout college and all the fanfare was gone in a whisper. I never got to wave to my parents from the graduation stage or throw my cap in the air, but hey, at least I saw my name on a PowerPoint slide deck that I clicked through in my room! Despite the lack of closure to a huge chapter of my life, I was so grateful that I, my family, and my friends remained healthy.

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Joining the workforce

Before joining full-time, I had interned at Securian the previous summer. In hindsight I am thankful that I had the opportunity to get a sense of the culture and what in-office life was like. Today, I find myself on the Investments Team as a Senior Product Analyst and work primarily on technology solutions for Securian Asset Management. My team is the coolest — I feel beyond lucky to have coworkers that inspire me to be better, to keep learning and growing, and that genuinely care for each other in and out of work.

When I first started, the job was fully remote; to prepare for my first day at work I converted my kitchen table into my workspace. There was no option to come into the office unless you were in an essential position. I didn’t get to meet my team or my boss in person until over a year later. I first met my team volunteering at a food packing event—of course requiring masks and hairnets. When you only see people from the neck up every day, it was a challenge to guess who was who! By late summer of 2021, the first wave of employees started coming back on a hybrid schedule. I volunteered to be a part of the first wave because I’m a huge people person and it felt challenging to be isolated.

Throughout the pandemic, it was hurtful to see how some blamed Chinese people for the virus. Negative stereotypes were reinforced at the highest level in the U.S. But I’m half Chinese and half white, and I’m always straddling the fence. Growing up, I was too Chinese for the white kids. There was a very small demographic of Asian students in my high school and there was plenty of teasing. On the other hand, I’ve been to China twice to visit family and stick out like a sore thumb. There I’m white. It’s like not belonging to any community; that was difficult to grow up with.

Finding a sense of belonging

As an Asian woman at Securian Financial, associate resource groups — particularly Securian Multicultural Network (SMN) have given me a sense of belonging. I’ve been involved with the group for more than two years and have been on a couple pillars on the leadership committee. Support from a network outside of my immediate team has been so impactful. It’s been great to find that connection with people that has been missing because of the pandemic, and witness and play a small part in our company’s commitment to increasing diversity to better reflect our community and customers we serve. There’s so much to be learned from people of different walks of life, different religious backgrounds, and different cultures than our own.

As an Asian woman at Securian Financial, associate resource groups – particularly Securian Multicultural Network (SMN) have given me a sense of belonging.

Sometimes it’s hard not to judge myself. This industry is not the most diverse, and sometimes being the only woman and person of color in the room becomes an issue of insecurity. At times, I self-impose barriers by questioning “do I even belong here?” I’m almost three years into my career and have felt those layers of insecurity start to peel away. I remind myself that there are no boxes related to my physical appearance that need to be checked in order to have a seat at the table. “Be You. With Us.” celebrates our authentic selves and reinforces that our differences make us great. 

Be you. With us.

At Securian Financial, we want all our associates – current and future – to bring us their ideas, their passion and their most authentic selves.

Build your career here!

Meet our colleagues

As our organization works to create a culture of inclusivity and belonging we’ve launched a series of stories sharing what it means to be you with us at Securian.

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Jessica Li is a Securian Financial employee and therefore has a financial connection to Securian Financial. Her statement was given freely.

DOFU 6-2023