Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month: Three Innovators Transforming the Tech Industry

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, learn more about the accomplishments of 3 individuals from the AAPI community that have demonstrated long and successful careers in technology.
AAPI Heritage blog

Welcome to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Each May, we acknowledge the accomplishments and celebrate the contributions of the AAPI community in the United States.

Why celebrate AAPI heritage in May? The month was chosen in conjunction with the arrival of the first known Japanese immigrant to the U.S. in May 1843, and to honor the completion of the transcontinental railroad in May 1869, which was finished with the help of up to 20,000 workers from China.

To commemorate AAPI Heritage Month, CompTIA’s Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community plans to use AAPI Heritage Month as a platform to highlight the extraordinary technological innovations that come from the AAPI community. Our goal is to shine a spotlight on several individuals who have demonstrated long and successful careers in technology and to encourage others to pursue careers in the tech industry. With that in mind, here are three individuals that have inspired me in my career:

Ajay Bhatt, Universal Serial Bus (USB) Technology

If you’ve plugged in a mouse, a phone charger or a portable data storage drive in the last decade, you’re probably familiar with universal serial bus (USB) technology. But did you know that USB technology was created in the 1990s by Indian-American Ajay Bhatt, Intel’s chief systems technologist.

Today, USB is used in more than 10 billion devices globally and allows a multitude of devices including keyboards, mouse, printers and more to connect to computers more easily, without requiring a different, disparate connectors. The USB serves as a “translator” for various devices that need to connect to a computer, providing a universal solution that is far more user friendly than previous formats.

Intel, who owns all patents to the technology as the first backer of Bhatt’s USB idea, from the beginning, decided to make it open and royalty free for everyone.

Reshma Saujani, Girls Who Code

Reshma Saujani is an American attorney, activist, and politician. She is also the first Indian-American women to run for U.S. Congress in 2009.

While campaigning for Congress, Reshma became aware of the increasing gender disparity in computing classes when she visited local schools. The gender gap in computing has been increasing—in 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women, today it’s 24%. The biggest drop off of girls in computing is between the ages of 13 and 17.

AS a result, Reshma founded Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization that’s on a mission to close the gender gap in tech. The company’s goal is to close this gap in new entry-level tech jobs by 2030 through its program offerings, including summer immersion programs, clubs, college loops, online resources, campaigns, and advocacy work in the U.S. and around the world.

Eric Yuan, Zoom Video Conferencing Platform

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many businesses and organizations turned to video conferencing tools like Zoom to conduct work meetings, attend classes virtually, and stay in touch with friends and family. Due to quarantines and other restrictions, much of the world quickly went virtual and started working remotely.

Zoom was one company that benefitted greatly and joined the lexicon of some of the most well-known tech companies. Zoom was founded in 2011 by Eric Yuan, who was born in China and moved to Silicon Valley in 1997. Yuan was inspired by a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend during their college days in China during the 1980s. They were separated by a 10-hour train ride, and he thought “how fantastic it would be if there was a device where he could click a button and see/talk to her,” which moved him to want to create a smartphone-friendly video conferencing platform. When Cisco turned down his idea, he left Cisco to start Zoom. In 2021, Zoom reported more than 500,000 customers with 10+ employees, and more than $4 billion in sales, up 55% from the previous year.

Do you admire any other AAPI individuals for their contributions and leadership in the technology industry? Join me in CompTIA’s Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community and we can continue the conversation!

Fiona Ho is senior director of human resources at Sophos and an executive council member of CompTIA’s Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community.

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