Cooking to connect with her heritage: How Jen Young cured homesickness in a new place

Jen Young

For Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we celebrate all of the rich culture, traditions, and history of Asians and Pacific Islanders. This year, our employee resource group Asians@ chose the theme Roots: Growing Your Story. This month’s theme is about “origins” — the idea that where we came from is part of what makes us who we are now. We spoke with Dropboxers about what this theme means to them.

Q: What is your name, what office do you work out of, and how long have you been at Dropbox?

A: My name is Jen Young. I’ve been with HelloSign for two years and with Dropbox since the acquisition earlier this year.

Q: What’s your current role in helping make the world work better?

A: I’m currently a software engineer, where we’re simplifying work by changing the way you sign, send, and manage all the important documents in your life.

Q: In your time at Dropbox, what’s something you’ve accomplished that you’re proud of?

A: Previously at HelloSign, I was the senior API support engineer, making sure our API customers were set up for success when integrating our product into their platforms.

As an engineer, I find great pleasure in working on tickets that benefit my previous department, Customer Operations, in some way. I have personal experience working in the ticket queue all day so I enjoy building features that make their day-to-day just a little more seamless. For refunds, the customer support team would have to check and determine eligibility, refund the customer, soft cancel the subscription, hard cancel the subscription, then finally add a note to the account about the refund and the amount. These manual processes may not seem like much on their own, but they’re always described as “death by a thousand paper cuts” so every little bit helps. I was happy to build a button that takes care of all those steps for them with one click. Either it refunds the customer and cancels the subscription, or it just throws an error saying that the customer isn’t eligible. This means the support team can continue making our customers awesome!

Q: What does this year’s theme, Roots: Growing Your Story, mean to you?

A: “Roots” is actually the theme of one of my tattoos. I wanted to show the importance of the places that raised me, so it’s a group of flowers and plants that represent Irvine, Berkeley, and Oakland. I’m a huge advocate of understanding where someone’s come from, and for me, I feel like it’s really shaped my perspective on the world.

Jen’s tattoo

Q: In light of our theme, tell us about your current journey and how you’re forming your identity.

A: I’m a second generation Taiwanese American raised in Irvine, CA, which has a pretty solid Asian American population. So, growing up, I never really experienced feeling like an “other.” No one made comments about the food I ate, told me that I spoke English well, or asked me where I’m really from (those comments didn’t come until much later in life and I’m still stunned every time it comes up). I moved to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) and found myself homesick almost immediately. I disliked everything about living in Northern California — my friends weren’t here, the food wasn’t up to par, and my mom’s cooking wasn’t available anymore. It took some time, but it became clear that I was longing for the food, not the wide open streets of suburbia. Ever the diligent student, I taught myself how to cook. Cooking allows me to connect with my heritage and home, allowing me to re-discover that cake my grandma made once when I was a kid or recreate my mom’s comfort food. And nearly 13 years later, I don’t miss home anymore because I can just make it for dinner!

From left to right: Dumpling night, pineapple cakes, and a joint feast with friends: Taiwanese braised pork with rice, sous vide steak, and roasted veggies

Q: Are there any Asian or Pacific Islander leaders or role models that you look up to? How have they shaped who you are today?

A: I’ve got freckles! I love them now, but I hated them for the longest time. My mom always pointed them out, telling me I needed to get them removed. Lucy Liu also has freckles, and she’s such a strong woman who’s really a trailblazer for Asian American women. It’s helped me be more comfortable in my own skin.

From left to right: Jen and her mom, Jen

Q: What topic or topics do you feel are top of mind for you and the Asian community that you belong to and why?

A: Most of my community consists of second generationers like myself so we’ve all been straddling the line between Asian and American. It feels about time for Asian Americans to start telling their stories beyond the stereotypes — good or bad. We’re excited to have more representation in movies and TV, but it’s really just the beginning.

Q: And lastly, what are you most excited for with this year’s APIHM at Dropbox?

A: I’m excited to be part of an Asians@ group and Dropbox as a whole!

Jen in the ball pit at the Color Factory




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