Anthony (Ton) Luk, Manager in our San Francisco office and co-lead of L.E.K.’s Mosaic program, tells us about his experiences growing up as a first generation Filipino and Chinese American and what APAHM (Asian Pacific American Heritage Month) means to him.
What does APAHM mean to you?
Honestly, it’s a concept that I am still getting to know. As a first generation Asian American, it’s almost like some of your identity or heritage gets covered up. For example, take my name, Anthony ― my parents gave me this name specifically to better assimilate with Westernized and white culture instead of giving me a more traditional Filipino name. For a long time, I’ve been guarded about who I am and what my background is because growing up it was something that I was singled out and picked on for. Now, for me, APAHM is starting more and more to become a reflection of where my family came from and the great sacrifices that those before me took for me to be able to live, eat and breathe in the U.S. In addition, I’m learning that my background can be one of my principal strengths, used to bond and connect with others, and I am hoping that sharing the struggles I’ve faced with my own identity will allow others to become more open as well.
Does your family have traditions that are important to you?
Two stand out to me, and they are a blend of each side of my family. First, from the Filipino side, we always do something called “making mano” when we greet our elders ― it’s a hand gesture where you take a knee and touch the backside of the hand of the elder to your forehead as a sign of respect. Every time I go back to the Philippines and greet my grandmother, I take a knee in front of her and do this, and then give her a hug. It’s a super-formal handshake equivalent, and if I ever forgot to do it, absolutely everyone would know, and my mom would probably elbow me in the ribs or slap me on the back of the head to make me do it. Second, from the Hong Kong side of the family, I do not call my brothers by their first names (Jon and Tim); I call them by the Cantonese names for “oldest brother” (Goh) and “middle brother” (Egoh). It’s so ingrained in me that I forget that I say it, and people often ask me, “Wait, what did you just say? Who are you talking about?” Sadly, there’s no downward version of it for the youngest brother, so I’m just Ton to them!
Can you share with us your career path at L.E.K. and how your identity played a role in it?
Growing up, my parents emphasized that they moved to the U.S. to create a better life for my brothers and me, and that they were going to make sure I would work hard and do my very best not to let them down on my journey toward “success.” One of the reasons I was originally attracted to L.E.K. was because I perceived that it rewarded those who work hard; but because of my upbringing, it took me some time to understand how to set effective boundaries! Everyone must find their own sense of balance to create long-term sustainability. Now that I am in a managerial role, some of my biggest goals at L.E.K. include helping my teams find balance, creating work-life balance for myself, and helping others realize that sustainability and success are not opposing forces ― they go hand in hand.
In addition, now that my parents have retired and moved back to the Philippines, I don’t feel as much connection to a specific “home” anymore... home potentially being the Philippines, San Francisco or Atlanta where I grew up. I’m still searching for “home,” and part of the benefit of working at L.E.K. is that it has allowed me to live and work in such wonderful and different places. I began my career in Chicago, moved to New York to experience the big city, swapped to London, took a sabbatical to South Africa and now live in San Francisco. I don’t take any of this for granted and know that this broad array of experiences, unique working styles of each office, and cultures has shaped who I am today. Not many companies will let you move around this much, and if you are interested in trying out a different office or city, I wholeheartedly advocate for you to take advantage of these great opportunities!