Drawing A Path To My Career As A Filipina-American

I remember in elementary school, my teacher had us draw a picture of what we would want to be when we grow up. My classmates each drew what they aspired to be; firefighter, basketball player, chef, teacher, scientist, and doctor. I, on the other hand, drew tiny vignettes of what I had in mind: artist, dentist, businesswoman, veterinarian, fashion designer. Growing up, I was always dreaming of different professions, the list went on and it was ever-changing. In retrospect, I felt as if at that moment our fate would be permanently decided once we drew something, and we wouldn’t have the chance to change our minds later. 

Being a Filipina-American professional in the print industry has made me realize that I don’t see many colleagues who fit that same description. There were times I have felt out of place as the only Filipino in the room, or even as the only woman in the room, but I had to shake it off and let my confidence in my work lead me. It is important for me to represent women whose voices are often drowned out, like in many other male-dominated industries. It’s also important for me to represent the portion of Filipino-Americans who are pressured into other careers to be considered successful. 

Growing up as a Filipina-American has played a role in shaping the woman I am today. I place my gratitude towards my parents because they are the reason why I had the support, education, and opportunities growing up. My parents were born and raised in the Philippines. They left all that they knew, their family and friends, and immigrated to the United States when my father joined the U.S. Navy. They came to The States to chase the sought-after “American Dream” that they heard so much about.

Going to school and doing well was our only “job” for my older sister and me. My parents could not stress enough about the importance of education. When I heard about other kids getting money for an “A” on a test, I have to admit that I was jealous when I first learned about that. In our house, that was definitely a foreign concept to us because that was simply the expectation, especially from my mom, who was a school teacher in the Philippines. Sure, they were strict on things like curfews, how we spent money, and dating, but that’s because they wanted my older sister and me to have an education without any distractions. They still let us hang out with friends, go to the mall and movies, as long as we maintained our grades. I appreciate my parents, because yes, like any concerned parent, they had big dreams for my sister and me and pushed us to succeed, but they never pressured us into careers we would be unhappy with. As long as we finished school and pursued what made us happy, that’s all that mattered.

My parents also supported my interest to learn more about our Filipino roots. Besides speaking Kapampangan (one of the many languages of the Philippines) at home, and eating flavorful homemade food like savory chicken adobo with steaming white rice, I still had a lot to learn about Filipino culture. I stayed connected to my culture by joining Filipino clubs and organizations throughout grade school and college. One of my favorite things about the Filipino clubs was performing Filipino folk dances and sharing the rich history behind them. For example, the most popular dance is called Tinikling, which is an intricately choreographed dance that involves two people tapping and sliding bamboo poles on the ground and against each other in coordination with one or more barefooted dancers who hop in between the poles. It’s always an exciting and fun dance, and to be able to share Filipino culture in this way was something I was very proud of as a Filipina-American.

When I reflect on the drawing assignment about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wasn’t thinking about what would be the right job for me based on my ethnic background or gender. I just dreamt of what I was interested in. The one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still feel like I am “growing up,” no matter what age I am. My list might be a little more refined now, as I continue to learn more about the print industry and hone in on things I’m passionate about every day: communication, building relationships, and looking at things with a creative eye. 

I am thankful for the support of my family, friends, and the entire Snowball team. The family and friends that I keep in my circle are the ones who I know will always have my back. Snowball Print Marketing is a company that I am grateful to be a part of. They are truly unique because not only are they awesome in the print marketing industry, but beyond work, they celebrate women, diversity, charities, and sustainability. I feel right at home knowing that I’ve surrounded myself with great mentors, who continue to guide me in my professional development.

So, maybe it’s been a long time since you last thought about what you wanted to be when you “grow up” but I invite you to take a deeper look into your own passions. It would be an interesting assignment, to draw a picture of how you see yourself in the next year, five, or ten. I promise, you’re allowed to change your mind at any point, and you’re allowed to draw several tiny vignettes like I did when I was younger, because you don’t have to be just one thing. The point is to visualize your own version of happiness and to take the steps you need to achieve it.

By: Shantelle David