Kahea Chang Shares Significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Allyship
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and throughout the month Centene is shining the spotlight on AAPI employees and leaders. Kahea Chang joined Centene in 2020 as an intern and is now a Talent and Organizational Development Partner. He is also a member of three Centene Employee Inclusion Groups (EIG) — CENVET, MOSAIC, and cPRIDE. In the following Q&A, Kahea describes his role supporting Centene team members and shares his thoughts on allyship and the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Q. Tell us about your background and your current role as Talent Management Specialist.
A. My background has always focused on people and individual development. I completed my master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and I am pursuing a doctoral degree in the same field at Saint Louis University. Throughout my career journey, I have weaved in various applied experiences throughout the human resources (HR) realm — ranging from talent attraction, learning & development, and organizational development.
I partner with businesses, people leaders, and HR Business Partners in my current role to identify improvement areas to support the best practice implementation of our talent processes, including performance management, career development, coaching and mentoring, assessments, and engagement strategies. I collaborate to assess organizational needs and proactively identify areas of risk and develop unique solutions to face those challenges.
Q. What is the most meaningful part of your job?
A. The most meaningful part of my job is collaboration with others. A large part of my job is to assist organizational leaders supporting the talented people working at Centene. I must collaborate effectively with a variety of internal experts to deliver solutions best suited to the unique challenges that teams face. There is never a dull moment and no two days are the same. I get to meet so many different people from all over the business, which I feel really broadens my perspective and pushes me to always think differently.
Q. Who influenced you most during your career and why?
A. I have been so lucky to have had so many amazing mentors and leaders. I have compiled what I like to call my own internal "Board of Directors," who use their personal experience to advise me on the implications of my choices on my overall career. I use this group as a sounding board to identify current opportunities, clarify my career goals, and brainstorm a plan of action to achieve those aspirations.
A very notable member of this group is my advisor from my doctoral program. Early on, I struggled with feelings that I did not fit expectations and did not have the necessary skills to succeed. He helped me see that technical skills are only part of success and that hard work and a strong internal ambition really matter. As I dedicated myself to those areas, I found my expertise improved. He has been a phenomenal addition to the group because he brings a more academic perspective to my career, representing all the knowledge I have accumulated and reminding me of all that I am capable of doing, based on my training and preparation.
I would also like to call out my first People Leader when I joined Centene as an intern. She helped me position development as the utmost priority in all I do. Whether it be experiential, by collaborating on projects and learning from others, or simply administrative, just knowing HOW to do things, she helped me feel like I was always growing. Her personal experience, as well as seeing alternative paths of her colleagues, helped ground me in the implications of certain circumstances down the road.
Q. How do you feel about Centene’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?
A. I have appreciated Centene’s commitment to transparency regarding DEI practices. Knowing that there are advocates throughout the organization working to improve the individual experience means a lot to me. I have experienced firsthand how active our DEI partners are in all aspects of the employee experience. This has been impactful to see that they are being intentional from the beginning to be inclusive in how programs are created, rather than a quick review at the end prior to launch. It is a true testament that DEI is a priority as leaders are looking to integrate inclusive practices.
Q. Tell us about why you became involved with CENVET, MOSAIC, and cPRIDE?
A. I have always felt a strong desire to connect and try to understand the perspectives of others. I joined the EIGs at Centene to facilitate those kinds of conversations where the purpose is understanding, sharing, and coming together. The groups have helped me find that there is so much support and content out there for someone to access to aid in personal and collective journeys.
Q. What is the importance of allyship to you, and how can employees be better allies?
A. By nature, I am a very reserved and generally shy person. Allyship is important to me because it has at times been a voice for me when I was unable to speak for myself and has helped me find my own voice over time. I think it is critical for allies who have a voice to speak out for those who may not be able to do so for themselves and create the conversation so that they may be able to contribute in their own ways.
Q. What are your thoughts on the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
A. It is a unique time where we can come together to find a shared experience that many face in their lives but also highlight what makes us unique. When taken in such broad strokes, it is easy to feel like just another person in a sea of others. Months like this give us the opportunity to see how special and unique our stories are while connecting us with a broader network of people who understand and may have similar journeys.