May is Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and to celebrate, we are highlighting some of Spin’s leaders—exploring their heritage, what this month means to them, and their work and life experiences more broadly.
Spin has always had a strong connection to ANHPI communities, being based in San Francisco and founded by three ANHPI leaders. We are proud to celebrate that connection and the diversity within the ANHPI communities.
Sneha Rajagopal, Operations Manager
My name is Sneha Rajagopal. I have worked at Spin for a little over a year, and I am currently the Operations Manager for Ohio. I oversee four regions in the state (Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton) and I manage the teams who are responsible for ensuring Spin scooters are placed properly, redistributed throughout the cities as necessary, and are always in good working order.
Growing up, I was actually convinced that I did not want to work in transportation. My dad is a civil engineer and worked closely with the Ohio Department of Transportation. I didn’t find his work interesting at the time, but through my college and internship experiences I started to enjoy learning more about the transportation industry and operations management in particular. Fast forward years later and I’m right where I never thought I would be.
My parents immigrated from India in the late 1980s, and since I was born in the United States, I identify as Indian-American. Like many, it has been a lifelong journey for me to find the balance between the two cultures. Outside of work, I try to stay involved with my Indian identity by taking part in cultural activities in the community, like teaching Bollywood dance classes to kids around Columbus.
In my professional life, although I feel there is racial/ethnic diversity within my team, I do believe that female representation can be increased. I am one of very few females in the operations team, and it can be challenging at times. Having a balance of both male and female employees is important and can help to bring different perspectives to the table.
My advice for young Asian and Asian-American people starting their education or careers would be to remain confident in your abilities and not be afraid to speak up. When we are the minority, it can be easy to feel like our ideas or input will not be heard but it is important to share our thoughts as we may be bringing a unique perspective to the situation.
Miho Ishikura, Director of Engineering
I am Miho Ishikura and I am a director of engineering at Spin located in San Francisco, where I’ve worked for more than two years. Specifically, I guide our software engineering team working on Fleet Management.
I am really excited to be working in micromobility. To me, what’s important is how to make everybody’s life better, and solve it by technology. I think scooters—and micromobility in general—are essential to getting around in dense cities. I’m solving that city life. It’s fun. I love that we are introducing micromobility to this country, which is a challenge.
I am from a small village in Japan. I’m a farmer’s daughter. I grew up helping my family harvest. When I went to high school, I went to high school in the city and not in the village. That’s when I realized that the world is so much bigger. And I eventually went to college in Tokyo.
I am an Asian female leader in technology and inclusiveness is very important to me. I always want to lead by example because I am paving the way for the next generation. It’s very important to me to be self-aware. Approachability is very high on my list, especially as you are higher up in the organization. Without approachability, people may feel less comfortable sharing their views.
I think I can provide a different perspective than would be common in STEM, which is a very male-heavy sector. I have big shoes to fill. It’s part of the mission in my life to hold the door open. Can I do it perfectly? I don’t know. I fully intend to try.
I think I happen to be in this interesting spot, I have to exercise that. I definitely had imposter syndrome. Then I started to find my voice. I realized it’s totally ok to be different and to find my style of leadership. There may be some things I am not good at compared to other leaders, but I was able to make peace with that. That’s how I would want to work with my team; I don’t want anyone to change who they are. I want to find a place for them to thrive based on their strengths. I want them to find their own voices too.
Someone at a female leadership conference once gave me some advice: you have to be yourself and be authentic in the workplace to be sustainable. I was trying to fit in, wear a tech t-shirt, be the best at everything comparing myself to others. I stopped wearing the tech t-shirt; I graduated out of imposter syndrome.
To be more inclusive, we really have to be intentional. It has to be a part of goals to achieve, otherwise it is just something that is “nice to do.” It’s difficult and it’s not going to happen overnight. Retention, hiring, and promotion are important. I think we also need data. What do the statistics look like? What do compensation numbers look like? Measure and improve.
Nina Yang, Head of Payroll
My name is Nina Yang. I am the head of payroll at Spin, where I have worked for almost two years. I have also worked at manufacturing and other tech companies before my time at Spin.
Though I never thought about working in transportation growing up, I have always had a passion for travel. I think travel is the only thing that you buy that makes you richer. Whether you are going to a suburban area or the downtown of a big city, how you move around shapes your travel experience and how you experience the world around you.
I am from China. I grew up in Nanning and I moved to the U.S. 15 years ago. I believe that in a perfect world, someone’s identity should not impact their ability to succeed, and companies wouldn’t need to consider diversity when making decisions. However, we have a long way to go before we can be there. We have to admit it is not a perfect world and we need to focus on diversity until then. Companies need to provide more opportunities to AAPI and other minorities since diversity in the workplace means diversity of perspectives, ideas, and talents.
Growing up as an Asian who is also an introvert, I had difficulty speaking up and being my true self. On the other hand, as a woman who was born to a family living under China’s one-child policy, I felt the constant need to prove to my family that women can be better than men. The turning point for me was the day before I started high school. My family had just moved to a new city, and everything was new.
I will always remember how quiet the drive was on the way. My father and I did not say a word for the longest time. And when he did, it was rather abrupt. He talked about a dancer who never dared to dance on stage despite the fact that he had great interest and talent. So for years, he trained and trained but he never dared to let people see him. He trained and trained, but he never knew how good he was. My father asked: “Do you want to be that dancer?”
I know where he was going with this. My father was referring to me. I was an extremely shy child growing up who did not dare say a word when others were speaking. Yet, my father knew what I was capable of, even if I did not know at the time. I would find out later that, deep inside, I was a wildly imaginative little explorer of ideas. That day, I saw the look of recognition in his eyes and I knew that I could not let him down – I could no longer hide the talent of his little dancer.
Throughout high school, I became competitive and wanted to be the best at every aspect of my life. There were times that I failed, but those failures only sharpened my insatiable desire to succeed. The first time I stood in front of my fellow classmates to run for president was a debacle. Yet, I knew this was my dream and I want to follow my heart.
Today, I want to offer the same advice to younger AAPI students and professionals who are interested in working in start-ups: follow your heart and your dream. There's no prescribed path to being successful. At the end of the day, you will regret what you didn't do rather than what you did. If your heart longs for more opportunities to make bigger impacts, start-ups are for you. You’ll be able to do a lot of different things in different areas, and this is especially important in the early stage of your career. And remember, regardless of what you choose, just don't be afraid to be the true you.