To observe Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a guest speaker told her audience to choose opportunities to mentor and to learn about our colleagues. Lt. Col. Hyo Jin Cho, a supply branch chief for the National Guard Bureau, spoke to an audience, last week at the Community Center. 

As a pre-teen, she moved with her family from South Korea to near Baltimore. 

“I didn’t speak English, and gained weight from the American food that was new to me. That, and my adjustment to American culture led to low self-esteem,” she said. 

“We all have biases,” she said, adding that she remembers, from when she was an eighth-grader, telling her white friends she didn’t want to go to a certain high school because it had too many black people. 

“Sometimes, you never know if someone is going to have a negative stereotype about you or someone else, for any reason … sexual orientation, race, religion, gender,” she said. “One thing for sure, though, through actions and dialog, we can change negative stereotypes.” 

Addressing current and future leaders in the crowd, Cho said, “No matter who you are or where you come from, as long as you show you really care about and learn about each Soldier and member of your team, they will rise up to the occasion when called upon. 

“Learn about each other and appreciate what everyone brings to the table,” she said. “To become a good leader, take time and get to know your team members who all come from different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs. We have to appreciate those differences and take time to learn those differences.” 

Cho talked of her own workplace that consists of military, contractors, females, males, prior-military and no military experience. 

“We are truly efficient and effective because of our diversity,” she said. 

In giving three pieces of advice to the audience, Cho said: 

“First, be cognizant of your biases – we all have them. You’d be amazed at how many similarities we have. Whether they look like you, act like you, talk like you, we’re all part of the team,” she said. 

Secondly, mentor someone and find many mentors, even if it means getting out of a comfort zone. Mentoring provides a huge benefit, but, she said mentoring doesn’t happen often enough. “However, it shouldn’t be an option for leaders,” she said. “I am here, today, because of great mentors in my life.” 

Lastly, Cho advised that people know that everyone brings something to the table, no matter the situation.