How CMT’s Asian American and Pacific Islander ERG builds community through culture and cuisine

May 22, 2023

CMT values diversity and inclusivity. At the heart of CMT’s commitment to creating an inclusive work environment are its Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) — employee-led communities that bring together people from different backgrounds to share experiences, support each other, and promote diversity.

Today, we’re featuring the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) ERG.

With a membership that spans a wide range of Asian cultures and Pacific Islander traditions, the AAPI ERG at CMT shares values through their diversified backgrounds. Through its events, discussions, and initiatives, the group fosters a sense of belonging among AAPI employees, while also educating the broader CMT community about the rich and varied cultures of Asia and the Pacific.

To learn more about the AAPI ERG, we caught up with Isaku Kamada, Chairman of AAPI ERG.

Our conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

CMT: What is your role in the ERG?

Isaku: I am the chairperson and founder of the AAPI ERG. It started with some casual conversations with Steve Graham, our Diversity Director, and we really wanted to create a space for the AAPI community and it was almost exactly a year ago that we had this conversation. We wanted more AAPI representation within CMT and it’s been a great first year sharing AAPI culture.

CMT: How many members are in the ERG?

Isaku: There are 13 members in the ERG right now. We are actively reminding everyone that the ERG exists and this month has been helpful in spreading the word about us.

AAPI Heritage Month has been a great way to increase the activities and events we’ve had. We are currently planning an event to celebrate and honor AAPI culture and history.

CMT: What is the mission of the AAPI ERG?

Isaku: The mission goes back to the core idea of what an ERG is, an employee resource group. This is one more source of information, support, community, and a place for conversation for those in the AAPI community at CMT.

Where it’s possible and appropriate, we love to host events and share some of what the ERG is about with other CMTers. It’s great to introduce others into the Asian and Pacific Island culture so we do what we can in the office to share that.

This year we have thought a lot about where we want to take this ERG and hopefully can build partnerships with the greater Boston AAPI community. We want to support local AAPI businesses through our cultural events. It’s important to me that people feel the support at CMT and we can build a strong community to support each other.

CMT: What events does the AAPI ERG host?

Isaku: There are a lot of cultural nuances and differences that we have within the Asian community at CMT but one thing that bonds us all together is our love of delicious food. Food has been a great way to bond and learn about each other’s cultures within the ERG. Because of our common love for food and trying different cuisine, we’ve hosted lunches that feature a specific country in Asia.

We had a big celebration for the Lunar New Year. We ordered from a local Taiwanese restaurant (Mu Lan) and hosted a celebration in the office for everyone to come and enjoy. It was a great way to celebrate the exciting holiday and share a bit of Asian culture with other CMTers.

AAPI includes a lot of different people and cultures. Within the Asian community, we have very different holidays and customs. We want to be able to do a little bit to represent each of the cultures represented at CMT. The opportunity for everyone to share their own food culture was a great way we were able to connect and bond with each other in our first meeting.

We discussed what cultures we identify with and what our favorite food dishes are to eat when going home for the holidays or when we’re with family. A good portion of this community has families abroad. During the holidays, it can be hard to go all the way back to the home country, given the distance. A lot of us have built communities locally. I really appreciate the level of diversity even within the AAPI community that we have at CMT.

We also all have different upbringings. Some of us grew up in Asia, and others like myself grew up in America — I grew up in Seattle to Japanese parents. So, everyone has a unique family situation, and that also ties us together. And we plan on hosting many more events and showcasing each culture throughout the year.

CMT: What is your favorite part about being in the ERG?

Isaku: It gives the AAPI community another opportunity and space to celebrate the small and big wins within our organization. Whether it’s new employees who join our group, when we pull off an event, or bring smiles to more people in the company, all of those things mean so much to me. Having that avenue for the celebration of all the little things the AAPI community does at CMT brings me a lot of joy.

CMT: Where would you like to see the ERG go within the next year?

Isaku: The CMT community overall is very warm and welcoming and we want to create that within our ERG. We would love to recruit more members and have frequent meetings.

CMT is an international business and has had massive growth in our Asian market so I want to make sure there is AAPI representation both internally and externally as we expand our reach and make drivers safer around the world.

Because we have employees and customers all over the world, it’s great to have a group that understands where each other is coming from and what their stories might be. I think the more we can share that, the more outreach we can have, and we can highlight the members of our AAPI community. Overall, we want to continue to grow and get the word out about the awesome work our AAPI CMTers are doing.