“It was Tough Growing Up Bicultural”

by | Jul 24, 2017 | The Narrators

Meet the MY JOB Narrators

I love stories. The great thing about my job as project manager of the My Job project is getting to read all the background information that never made it into the book. The book process took so much time. So many hours of work and travel that finally ended up in this little package of all that labor, in the form of a book.

First the interview, recorded via a handheld device or a computer (sometimes both to ensure good quality). Then the transcription – that’s when Wendy Ledger came in to the picture, meticulously going over the recordings and writing down every word of the sometimes hours-long interview. Then the editing: each chapter could have been a book in itself, so choosing the most important parts to bring into the book were critical. Then edits from the publisher, and fact-checking. A significant process resulting in this labor of love (pun intended!).

I’m looking over the source materials and smiling along with the interview, looking for tidbits to share with you all. I’m re-visiting with Matt Severson, Google technologist and founder of The School Fund. I wonder how much he learned about himself while giving this interview. I wonder what he learned reading his own story in the book. What an experience it must be to self-observe yourself from afar and see your words and yourself from the outside in.



For Matt’s excerpt I’m sharing with you a tidbit about being bicultural in the United States, something I resonate with deeply, being half Hispanic and half White. Our roots contribute so much to our path in life. Take some time to ponder how Matt’s upbringing brought him to the juncture at which we met him in My Job.

Excerpt from Chapter 10, in Matt’s Own Voice


“My mom was very, very poor. She often went hungry for lunch. She walked to school, forty-five minutes to an hour each way. But, despite all of this, she wanted a better life for herself and her kids. She was the first member of her family to go to college and then on to a graduate school. We talk now about how there’s not enough women in computer science. I can only imagine then. She was probably like the only woman and the only Chinese woman. She taught herself English. I ran across her Chinese-to-English dictionary, where she had painstakingly gone and circled and underlined in red pen. She’s kind of like the rule-breaker in her family. And by that, I mean, she came out to the U.S. She went to grad school, married a white guy, and was very independent. She had ambitions to have her own career. I appreciate her slightly rebellious nature. My dad is a pretty classic engineer. I used to not like my food being hot, and so he made this little thing using a model airplane engine, and he attached a propeller to it and then put it on little stilts. We called it the food fan. We were always tinkering with stuff.

My mom would always come to my dad for help because he’s a very good programmer, and he was like, “ Who’s this annoying woman who keeps coming over here asking me for help?” But, after a few times, I think he found it endearing. So they went on their first date to Kentucky Fried Chicken. [Laughs.] It was tough growing up bicultural I remember my friends were like, “ What the hell are you doing? You have piano and violin and basketball and soccer and saxophone and swimming and tennis.” It was like fifty million things. I’m very fortunate and probably not grateful enough of all the experiences that I’ve had, all the millions of extracurriculars I did: swimming and tennis; basketball, soccer, and baseball; piano and violin, saxophone and trumpet and drums. I love the fact that I also have this other culture that is a part of me, and I think being Chinese is pretty cool. I have been to Taiwan. I’ve seen my roots. I have a Chinese family.”

Check out Matt’s chapter in MY JOB: Real People at Work Around the World, available both on Kindle and on paper. And, stay tuned to meet the next narrator, Pablo, in Chapter 11 . . .

Photographs courtesy of Suzanne Skees.

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Suzanne Skees, author of the three-volume MY JOB series on real people in remarkable jobs, believes in the power of our jobs over our identity and wellbeing and, conversely, our ability to change our world with the work of our minds and hands. She lives by the Pacific Ocean and spends as much time as possible listening to the surf, and to silence.



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