“What Asian are you?”
This is a question that Kevin Truong gets asked often by other Asians. He knows they are asking about where his parents are from.
When non-Asian Americans ask where he is from, Truong knows they are asking about his hometown.
For Truong, these question speak to broader stereotypes that group all Asian-looking people in one category. Asians combat this stereotype by asking what culture the individual belongs to, Truong said.
Truong is Vietnamese. With nothing in their pockets, his parents fled the Vietnam War to the United States.
Truong grew up with English as his first language even though his parents would converse with each other in Vietnamese.
“As much as they hated it, they wanted me to stay away from Vietnamese because they knew the opportunities that English could bring rather than Vietnamese, so that was one of their main goals,” Truong said.
From the beginning, Truong recognized that he was culturally different. His early schools put him in mostly “English as a second language” classes because they assumed Vietnamese was his first language.
He came home from eating “greasy” U.S. food at school to eating Vietnamese soups, fresh vegetables and lots of rice at home.
“It was just always different coming home from an American lunch to a Vietnamese dinner,” Truong said.
His parents also practiced Buddhism. Truong observed his parents upholding traditions such as bringing food to a deceased person to honor their afterlife. Despite their traditions, they let Truong choose his own spiritual preference.
Truong was exposed to Vietnamese and U.S. culture throughout his life.
“I see it as a strength because I mean it gives me a different background,” he said.
Truong studied business marketing at the university level and plans to go into sports marketing. He believes that his background in marketing, sports management, and statistics sets him up for changing a culture within the field.
“For some marketers their biggest mistake is that they assume that all Asian people are the same, which is far from the truth,” Truong said.
From Truong’s first-hand experiences of being categorized as one “Asian” ethnicity, he strives to market to the demographic in a real, non-limiting way.
Truong believes that he has certain traits that will set him up for a successful career including flexibility and a passion for people.
“It comes easy to me because I’m a very talkative person,” Truong said. “I like to talk to people, get to know people. I’m not a person who thinks they are right all the time.”
Truong’s cultural background allows him to have an open mind, different from those who believe they always see the right way.
“Those people in sports marketing are not going to go very far,” Truong said. “You’re going to start low. You’re going to have to work your ass off.”
Dean Klinkerman is friends with Kevin and also works in sports marketing.
It was just always different coming home from an American lunch to a Vietnamese dinner.Kevin Truong
“As he furthers his academic learning, he will be able to advance the area of sports that is already taking of and in high demand: Sports data analytics,” Klinkerman said. “His understanding of statistics is very high, and being able to use that in sports marketing is fairly rare.”
Beyond Truong’s expertise within the field, his cultural background is also a strength.
“With him being of Vietnamese descent, I think he sees things a little differently when it comes to how people approach him,” Klinkerman said. “Growing up in a predominantly white area, I am sure he had his troubles of being from minority descent. That being said, Kevin has always been tough minded, and willing to overcome obstacles — whether that be from people having preconceived notions about him or his background, which serves him well when the cards are against him. His background is a huge part of who he is, and it’s awesome to watch him embrace it.”
Truong is inspired by his father and rejects the common misconceptions surrounding immigrants. I think Kevin will make a difference in sports marketing because of his academic frame of work.
Kevin has always been tough minded, and willing to overcome obstacles.Dean Klinkerman
“There’s a lot of debate about immigrant workers and how they don’t do much,” Truong said. “I have a biased view because my dad is the one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen.”
In turn, his dad has always instilled this value in him.
“I enjoy working my ass off,” Truong said. “It’s what I’ve been raised on.”