Giovanna Pang Garcia, author of Why Chinese Women are Not Broke, is a highly successful Chinese American businesswoman and renowned inspirational speaker. Despite not knowing how to speak English, Giovanna immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong all by herself when she was only sixteen years old! It was not an easy transition, and Giovanna’s early years were filled with trials and tribulations. In addition to having to overcome the language barrier, she faced discrimination, suffered from clinical depression, and found herself married and divorced by the time she was twenty. But thanks to her amazing work ethic, she never gave up.
Giovanna continually pushed herself to improve and learn from her mistakes. She learned from her past abusive relationships and eventually met a man who shared her values and life goals. They fell in love, got married, and now have beautiful little boy together.
In the business realm, Giovanna went on to start a computer hardware company with only 300 dollars and turned it into a multi-million dollar corporation by expanding the company into a many-faceted computer network and consulting corporation, which she then sold before she was forty to retire financially independent. Not being one to rest, Giovanna began teaching others how to achieve success in their own lives with her exceptional inspirational speaking ability.
Giovanna has made it her life’s mission to help others reach their dreams and goals by teaching them to remove the obstacles impeding their success and inspiring them to take action. Her philosophy for success and happiness draws upon a unique blend of Chinese core values and American ingenuity and creativity.
The manager was just embarrassed because I don’t speak English; I speak “Chinglish.”
ASIANCE: Tells us about emigrating from China. Why did you decided to leave and what types of discrimination did you face?
Giovanna: Before I was sixteen I realized that I couldn’t stay in Hong Kong any longer. My father was insistent on finding a husband for me, and I wasn’t about to let my parents choose my destiny. Instead, I convinced my father to send me to America to go to school. It was tough moving to America. I didn’t speak any English, and it was difficult living thousands of miles away from my nearest family member.
Like many immigrants, I experienced discrimination. One memory that stood out the most was when I was twenty years old, I got fired from a job. I was working at a hotel front desk, and the new general manager asked me to train a new employee for three days. Being the little worker bee that I am, I did what I was asked. Three days later, the manager called me into the office and fired me right on the spot. He said it was because no one could understand me. I was crushed. My first thought was, I am a foreigner; of course no one can understand me!
I was depressed. I sat home for a week, asking myself what kind of work I could do if my English was so poor that no one could understand me. Then I had an epiphany: If the hotel had such a problem communicating with me, why would they ask me to train the new employee? It wasn’t true at all that they couldn’t communicate with me. I trained the new employee, and she understood everything I told her. The manager was just embarrassed because I don’t speak English; I speak “Chinglish.”
It was at that point that I started to accept who I am. I knew I was never going to speak English perfectly. That was the reality of my situation, and I accepted it. I chose not to let it be a handicap, though. Instead, I branded it. I owned it. I decided to make my Chinglish work to my advantage. Speaking Chinglish became part of my identity. I used it as a calling card. With Chinglish, I can communicate more colorfully than a typical English speaker. It makes me stand out, and it makes people recognize me. Because I owned it and because I was no longer embarrassed about who I was, people accepted me and embraced me. Sure, there are always those here and there who turn up their nose when they hear me talk—like my old manager at the hotel—but there’s always going to be people like that, people who think you’re too tall, you’re too short, you’re too fat, you’re too thin, you’re too dumb, you’re too smart for your own good…. You’ll always be too something to some people, so forget them. They’re beyond your control.
ASIANCE: What is your education?
Giovanna: Living in the U.S. on my own since the age of sixteen… I had to earn a living at a very young age. I didn’t have the option to focus on an education. I finished high school and went right into the work force. I am self educated. I learn by taking classes and reading on my own.
ASIANCE: Where and how did you meet your husband?
Giovanna: Craig Garcia is my husband of sixteen years. We met at a restaurant and bar in Orange County, CA.. Craig walked up to me and said, ” Would you like to dance?” There were just something in his eyes that speaks to me and I answered “Yes.”
We got married, and it was horrible. He verbally and physically abused me, but I tolerated it and went along, thinking it was a normal part of marriage.
ASIANCE: You said that you had pasts abusive relationships.. Was that with men? How did you overcome? Explain.
Giovanna: In my senior year in high school, I met a boy who told me he loved me and wanted to take care of me. No one had ever told me before: “I love you, and I want to take care of you for the rest of your life.” I knew my parents and family back in Hong Kong loved me, but they would never actually say it in words. That’s not the Chinese way. My parents wanted to raise a humble child, and showing too much praise and affection was not the way to go about doing it in their minds. So when this young man told me that he loved me, I fell hook, line, and sinker.
We got married, and it was horrible. He verbally and physically abused me, but I tolerated it and went along, thinking it was a normal part of marriage. Corporal punishment was common with my parents and teachers back home, so why should I question similar treatment from my husband? How was I supposed to know?
I had to learn the hard way. My marriage and our “love” felt wrong to me, but it wasn’t until I learned about his one and a half years affair during our two years marriage that I decided to leave him. I felt very strongly that cheating was wrong, and that’s where I drew the line. At the time, my ex-husband really did a number on my self esteem. However, looking back I would say, “Thank God, he cheated!” Because that was the wakeup call I needed.
ASIANCE: What are your top five tips for success?
Giovanna: 1, Having a breakthrough to success requires some discomfort. Learn to get comfortable with the un comfortable.
2, Integrity is more valuable than GOLD. Make sure that you have plenty of it and surround yourself with those who have enough of their own.
3, The ability to connect and communicate effectively allows you to open more doors.
4, Find your purpose within your passion (Example: If you love movies but can’t act, maybe you can write or produce). Your success sweet spot is where your passion overlaps with your work.
5, Success is like farming. It takes patience, perseverance and dedication. There is no overnight success, but instead there is overnight harvesting of success.
ASIANCE: What are the top three most important secrets you take with you from China/Your Chinese heritage? What are the top three most important secrets you take with you from your American experience?
Giovanna: The secrets to success are having the right combination of characteristics from two different worlds. The balance of Asian core values and American freedom and ingenuity that is the key to success. The blend of the two cultures! For example: Discipline vs. Freedom, Humbleness vs. Assertiveness, Conformity vs. Individuality and Innovation…etc.
All of the amazing women in the book had encounter these challenges on their journey to success. However, each of them has figured out how to find the balance and maintain a creative tension between these opposing ideals and went on to achieving greatness in their fields.
I believe every reader of the book will walk away with these secrets and become more successful in life.
ASIANCE: What advice would you give women who want to balance a career and family?
Giovanna: Have a realistic expectation – Be very clear of what career and family means to you. What does it look like and what are the requirement from you? Evaluate and make adjustment accordingly.
Be present – When you are at work don’t feel guilty about not being at home. When you at home don’t feel guilty about not being at work. Be effective at your role wherever you are.
Superheroes need help too – You don’t need to do everything by yourself. Ask for help!
ASIANCE: What 3 women, which you wrote about in your book, inspired you the most? I know they are all inspirational but did any 3 stick out in your mind and/or strike a chord with you?
Giovanna: All of the women are inspiring in their own way. A different story comes to the forefront at different times….depending on what was going on. For example, just the other day someone was talking about how hopeless life is because of the odds that are against her. And that reminded me of Dr. Dawn from CA. She was born in prison and separated from her parents for most of her childhood, yet earned a Ph.D. and is now a successful doctor.
A newly single parent expressed the fear of her dream profession as now unreachable. And that reminded me of Betty from NY. She raised four children by herself, worked her way through college by cleaning bathrooms, and went on to become a best-selling author.
When I hear of a glass ceiling discussion, I immediately think about my conversations with Wan Ling Martello, senior vice president and CFO of Wal-Mart International (A company with $100 billion revenue). Doreen Woo Ho, president of United Commercial Bank. Congresswoman Judy Chu. Heather Fong the first Asian woman police chief and many more. The point is, all of the women shared their stories because they want you to know that no matter how bad things might seem…you can overcome. And no matter how high up you want to reach… it is possible.
ASIANCE: Is there anyone who you would like to meet that you haven’t yet?
Giovanna: My childhood role model Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher. She was and still is the only woman to held this post.
ASIANCE: What is up next for you? Would you ever get involved in politics?
Giovanna: Since winning the Asian Heritage Award, I have been very busy with speaking engagements and promotional work. I am thinking about a few ideas for my next book. Once I got it narrow down, I will begin the research process and then writing.
I have never thought of myself as a person of politics. However, I learned that life has a way of unfolding itself and I don’t have all the answers.