TAF Lens: Paying access and privilege forward

Written By:
Steven Kwan
Senior Software Engineer, Zillow


I believe access is a privilege and that it is not a right. Access was a privilege that was given to me by the communities that I grew up in.  These communities understood that their access was a privilege and recognized they had a responsibility to pay that privilege forward.

When my parents immigrated to the United States to start their family, they used their privilege to allowed my siblings and I to flourish in our studies and surrounded us in a community that allowed us to pursue what we were passionate about.  My teachers used their privilege to allow us to be extraordinary. The Technology Access Foundation used their privilege to create a community that allowed my peers and I to be vulnerable and raw with our insecurities as we dove into the STEM fields where we saw fewer folks that looked like us as we looked further up the leadership.

“I recognize today that I now also have the privilege of creating access as well in my professional community.”

As I grew over the years from the modest TAF classrooms to now an eight year career as a Senior Software Engineer, I have become ever more sensitive on how much access I was given and how much advocacy I was privileged to have because of my communities.  And whilst I am humbled regularly by this thought, I recognize today that I now also have the privilege of creating access as well in my professional community.

One of my privileges is my understanding of how to navigate leadership in my company. I know how to recognize, challenge, and change practices that stem from unconscious bias. I see that the relationships and reputation that I have honed over the last eight years gets me a seat at the table and gets me the audience that is necessary for me to advocate for the many that are still unrepresented and still don’t have a voice.

I see that throughout those communities that I had growing up, had it not been for people who had this privilege of creating access with their access, I would not have gotten to where I am today.  I believe strongly that as my peers and I from our low income, first generation, predominately people of color communities find ourselves in positions of rank and power, it is now our responsibility to continue paying it forward.  For me that means if I want to see a world where people of color, LGBTQ+ people, all genders, and all abilities have the right, and not the privilege, to pursue their best selves, I need to advocate and also encourage others to advocate as well. Otherwise, the cycle of inequity will remain a part of life.

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