Oh my, how do I even begin this blog post? My hands still tingle while typing this out because of how excited I am of this new reality! Whenever I experience extreme stress–both positive and negative–any modicum of structure just flies out the window. But alas, one can only try!
Growing up, I’ve always been the kind of person who never spoke over anyone. I was too busy capturing my environment around me so that I could recreate these scenarios in such a vividly visual manner to channel into my creative juices. Whether that be through drawing, making videos, or creating stories, it wasn’t hard for me to describe or recall a memory in such great detail that I could take a storyboard and write an entire film to present to a studio. Granted, this drew me into the world of Hollywood–an alternative universe where I could tell stories, edit them, and induce profound emotional reactions from my audiences. However, my dad currently works for Hollywood; given this, I learned at a very young age that disabled women of color like me are heavily mistreated, if not erased entirely out of the equation. We are underpaid, under-credited, and under-used. To pursue my dreams as a filmmaker would be to waste my life away, they said. Is it truly worth getting my heart broken every single day while doing what I love and not being acknowledged by the world around me whatsoever? Truth is, I initially thought so, but my transition from my elementary-middle school to a new high school enabled me to snap back into reality: do not EVER conform to others’ sizes if that means to shrink.
My desires for a career path figuratively turned to any STEM field as I have older cousins that have studied engineering and pharmacy–the incentive to pursue the same categories of endeavors was very much so well-articulated. The first choice was pharmacy because enrolling in a pharmaceutical program was less expensive then medical school and ended much earlier while still being quite profitable and stable. I still wanted to nurture my love for getting my creative juices flowing (specifically in filmmaking), so double-majoring sounded like a good idea. Reality delivered the unpleasant news through a slow and painful insinuation that was realized with time and heightened awareness: Hollywood doesn’t cater to Asian-American disabled women like me very well. Most of the film classes I took throughout the years consisted of white boys and girls, while the films we analyzed comprised of little to no ethnic diversity, let alone LGBTQ+ and disabled representation. The tokenism, white savior complexes, stereotyping, “colorblind” casting, Magical Negro characterizations, and lack of accurate identity depiction in these movies were thoroughly unsettling. Is it really worth proceeding with this career in such a tarnished and tainted industry? I skipped filmmaking altogether, stopped taking more classes, and began brainstorming for pharmacy school.
Pharmaceuticals generally started losing appeal, especially as I grew more passionate about food and working with it in many different ways. After all, I started the blog in August of 2014! While I have known that there is a place and time for medication and medicine to remedy any health detriments and prevent any more (ESPECIALLY in this time). Once I began posting on my blog more frequently, immersing myself even more in the universe of healthy cooking and veganism, I realized that it was absolutely necessary for me to serve in this field. However, full-time dietetics, culinary school, and social media did not resonate with me. I would not work directly with food as a dietitian–only talk about it and recommend recipes. Studying in culinary school would mandate handling all kinds of ingredients that would make me uncomfortable, including alcohol. Lastly, being a full-time social media influencer? Too much screen time and validation from people that I do not know personally. Someway somehow, I came across Food Science and fell head-over-heels. Being part of the food industry to potentially improve its practices and relations with consumers sounded perfect. Upon graduating high school, I was set to embark on an entirely new chapter of my life at Cal Poly SLO for Food Science.
Fast forward to September 2016 on my first day stepping on campus, I was struck by the wave of prospective new adventures of all kinds to come.
- Freshman year in a nutshell: academics and work took over nearly my entire lifestyle and I found my social circle a little later than most, but one that I would stick to for the rest of my university experience. The courses were basic and boring, but I found solace in cooking vegan food and exploring new restaurants off-campus.
- Summary of sophomore year: difficulty in courses increased tremendously as the hardest biochemistry and organic chemistry courses needed to be passed. While I made it out in one piece, the endeavors were far from easy and stress free. Luckily, I took some of the best culinary courses I treasure to this day and became a Food Science club officer! In terms of my social circle, I LOVED being roommates with my best friends, one of them introducing me to my first boyfriend.
- A junior year rundown: honestly, my curriculum did not look too exciting. Food chemistry, some analysis courses, physics, and a couple of GEs were most definitely not worthy of emphasizing on. Living situation was much more subdued as I had only one roommate, though everything was peaceful. Sadly, my relationship ended before the end of the fall quarter. But hey, at least I had the best 21st birthday I could possibly imagine along with the rest of the year to restore my purpose, recalling my why.
- Senior year synopsis: most of my time comprised of completing my senior year project, tackling on more independent projects, optimizing my performance in classes, extracurriculars, and work both on and off-campus, and preparing for internship searching. The pandemic hit us with a wicked blow, henceforth none of us got to walk together on the football field in our stoles and gowns nor toss our caps in the air. I spent my academic days at home studying, only to be struck with the phenomenal news that I would intern for Clara Foods over the summer. All the meanwhile, San Francisco’s weather was unforgiving, living independently was both fulfilling and frustrating, and my diploma came late in the mail. I didn’t graduate officially until December of 2020 because of some extra courses I postponed for my internship after the spring.
My food science internship in the Bay Area was thoroughly insightful of food production and testing in a start-up setting. The days comprised of constant lab work with hardly any opportunity for breaks in-between and often necessitated working longer than usual since there was always so much to complete. Moreover, my evenings consisted of school work as I wanted to graduate at the same time as the end of my internship. As exhausted as I was every night, I was incredibly fulfilled because I learned so much–truthfully, more than what any lecture could teach me. There was a lot of active operation and food handling, nothing that I found too difficult, but the temptation to rush through finishing every task was probably my biggest weakness throughout. Trust me when I say that it is much more optimal to take your time and ensure everything in a project is up to par with standards as opposed to completing the endeavor with some errors. Overall, my six-month experience at Clara Foods could not have been any better. I wholeheartedly miss everyone there and am forever grateful for how well they treated me and how wonderful the Bay Area is.
The last weeks of December and the entire month of January were the most painful time periods as of recently. Before the holidays, I submitted hundreds of applications to jobs every day and only received about just enough positive responses to count on one hand. Every other company did not reply or closed their doors in front of my face. The end of 2020 nor beginning of 2021 no longer looked so bright. While I was able to celebrate the holidays happily with my family and friends, the looming cloud of distress regarding job applications sat back and watched me from the very far corner in my head. It came out and threw its own party as soon as Christmas Day came to a close. The party became an entire retreat that resulted me in exhaustively crying myself to sleep every night and not wanting to leave the bed the next morning. Little did I know, around early mid-January, I received a response from Beyond Meat that mentioned wanting to move forward with my application in the interview process for their food technologist role! That momentous message was probably one of the only motivating factors that resonated with me in such an authentic way. My applications for other positions and companies were very much so crucial to me, but my pursuits towards these stemmed more so from desperation instead of passion.
Beyond Meat’s application process for interviewing with and presenting to the teams could not have been more rigorous and nerve-wracking; alas, I have never, ever worked harder in my life for just one presentation that I’d deliver for such an extended amount of time. After the actual presentation and interviews were finished, the agonizing waiting period commenced. I was ridden with fear because the consequences would either fly me over the moon or sink me to my grave. Three weeks of disorderly sleep, mental distress, and never-ending emotional instability flew by until they scheduled a call with me later around the end of the month. Indeed, this would determine my fate: receiving the key to my heaven or pushing me back to square one. On the day of the call, I set up my entire environment to prepare myself. A package of tissues on my desk, a sound-proofing scheme for my door, and no other distractions around me when the time for the phone call arrived. I tried my absolute best to hide the shakiness in my voice.
Low and behold, heaven wasn’t far away at all! The news were magnificent: I was officially a food technologist–no longer unemployed and job searching, attempting to settle for sub-par opportunities. Nothing contained my excitement enough to delay the news after the call. However, I abstained from announcing anything online until my official first day (again, another painful experience). OH BOY, the ecstasy when proclaiming the news to my friends and family was tremendous. Truth be told, it was fun when posting on Instagram and Linkedin, but the most valuable reactions came from my personal loved ones that I know more intimately.
It’s already been a little more than half a month of working and everything just makes sense while I am here. No insanely stressful days where I feel doubtful or uncertain of my abilities, no second thoughts about my passions, and absolutely no concerns regarding a lack of growth or expansion in food science. As much as I wish I could disclose all of what Beyond Meat has to offer and the current projects we have been pursuing, the “meat” of the inside business is hush hush, zippity zip. Perhaps the most challenging aspects of my food technologist position now are time management and adapting to a new schedule. The last time I abided by 5 A.M. mornings was approximately ten years ago. Waking up is much easier than the first few days, but snapping out of my slumber still mandates an alarm. Obviously, all the downsides are outweighed by the benefits by milestones. Everyone working there with me is SO friendly, warm, and knowledgeable, and, no surprise, I never go hungry. Seriously, I’m eating something from Beyond Meat every shift. Can’t complain at all!
Thank you all SO SO much for your patience–it has been a wild transition from student to intern to employee! Adored every step of the way and I cannot be more grateful for not only all the resources I’ve had, but for each lesson learned. Work hard, remain true to what you love, and understand that every door closed in your face signifies that life is creating space for the best possible outcome for YOU.