Chih Wei Chen developed his work ethic helping out in his family’s Chinese restaurants. His family immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan when Chen was 12 years old in pursuit of the American dream.
Like many immigrant families, they achieved that dream by opening a business and doing the hard work required to make it successful. Everybody pitched in.
“I worked in the kitchen doing food preparation,” says Chen, assistant vice president and branch manager at $6 billion asset Tinker Federal Credit Union, Oklahoma City. “I worked as a cashier, a waiter, and I even did a little bit of cooking.”
The lessons learned from that experience helped him with the rest of his journey as an immigrant.
“My parents taught me the value of hard work, no matter what your job is,” Chen says. “Even if it’s not your career path, it pays to do the job the right way. Somebody can recognize your work and put in a good word for you to help you move forward.”
Chen has indeed moved forward. Although, he didn’t speak English when he arrived in the U.S., he mastered the language as he assimilated to his new culture, eventually graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma.
In 2009, Tinker Federal hired him as a floating teller. The credit union’s work culture immediately appealed to Chen.
“They put members ahead of corporate priorities,” he says. “The management team cares about employees and wants to see them do well.”
That commitment to employees is exemplified through Tinker Federal’s Leadership, Education, Achievement, and Development (LEAD) program, a six- to nine-month training and development initiative that prepares employees for entry-level leadership roles in the credit union’s branch and lending operations.
Chen participated in the LEAD program as he moved up the ladder within the organization. “I really learned how the whole credit union operates and I got to know a lot of people throughout the organization,” he says.
He also attended Southwest CUNA Management School in Fort Worth, Texas.
“The credit union has invested in me,” Chen says. “I want to remember everything I’ve learned and return that value to show my appreciation.”
Tinker Federal continued to recognize Chen’s with his promotion to assistant vice president in April.
Chen says designations such as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month are a valuable way to recognize the efforts of new citizens who achieve the American dream.
“It’s good that we recognize Asian culture because we’re known for being hard working and honest, and I’m proud to be part of that heritage,” he says.
His message for newcomers to this country applies to any aspiring leader: “Work hard and don't be afraid of a challenge. The more you do, the more experience you'll gain and the more knowledge you'll have. So when an issue comes up, you’ll have the experience and the knowledge to solve it.”