Willis Chang’s Asian American heritage provided an example for his success. His personal experiences taught him how embracing his strengths cultivates it.
As a college student, Chang interned in the marketing and accounting departments at a Los Angeles-area credit union, marking his first exposure to the movement’s cooperative, value-based principles.
His second experience with cooperative financial services with $5.4 billion asset Kinecta Federal Credit Union, Manhattan Beach, Calif., where he’s an enterprise architect, affected him more profoundly.
“I love the concept of people helping people,” Chang says. “Even if I’m not directly helping the member, I’m helping the people who help the member.”
He also abides by another credit union value: collaboration. “Collaboration is embedded into what I do every day.”
Chang leads Kinecta Federal’s partnership with Constellation, a credit union service organization (CUSO) providing an open digital banking platform and other services. He works with fintechs and the CUSO’s other credit union investors developing platform content and arriving at common solutions.
“Engaging with fintechs and working with other credit unions to create value is really exciting,” Chang says. “We’re building capabilities and realizing cost savings we couldn’t achieve on our own. It’s very rewarding.”
Chang was born in Hawaii where his parents had immigrated from Taiwan in the late ‘70s. Chang describes his parents as “very hard working” who instilled “a model minority stereotype” that provided a path for success in the U.S.
His father currently runs one of the largest Asian food distributors in Hawaii.
That example served Willis well as he moved to the mainland to pursue college and a career. Chang describes himself as “willing and able, calm and ready to diffuse a situation, (hopefully) intelligent, well mannered.”
“Because I am a second-generation Asian American Pacific Islander, I feel like my accent-less English has helped me avoid some obstacles. All of that combined has helped cultivate a successful career within IT,” he says.
At the same time, he concedes stereotypes carry certain limitations and acknowledges the need to navigate them.
“At some point in one’s career, certain ‘model minority’ traits need to be revisited and adapted to better fit the role while still remaining true to oneself,” Chang says. “It’s more important now than ever for Asian Americans to be seen as leaders, not just as doers. I’d like my children to grow up believing they can achieve the highest levels of success in whatever profession they select.
“They should reach for the stars.”
Chang says the recent focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is important for credit unions because it focuses on people and, ultimately, better member service. “Kinecta’s senior IT leadership is diverse both in terms of racial and gender composition and is led by a female CIO from Canada.
“These diverse perspectives and collective experiences lead to the best solutions and outcomes,” he says. “We want our employee base and senior leadership to reflect the communities we serve to better meet their financial needs.”
Undoubtedly, Chang’s personal and professional experiences will forge a path for his children’s future success.