Many of us think the New Year starts on January 1st, but did you know that there are a variety of other New Year celebrations? The lunar calendar is based on the moon cycles, giving way to the Lunar New Year celebration! Though generally associated with Chinese culture, multiple countries celebrate Lunar New Year, including Korea, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and there are many ways to celebrate. The holiday has different names in other countries: Tết in Vietnam, Seollal in Korea, and Kongsi Raya in Malaysia. For our first Consultant Spotlight of the year, two of our consultants, Rosie Tang and Robert Kuang, share their stories, their Lunar New Year celebrations, and what about SEI keeps them here.
Tell us your story.
Rosie: I was born in China and came to Atlanta when I was around 4 or 5 years old. I’ve lived around Atlanta, went to college here, and then left to work in Wisconsin and Santa Monica. I came back to Atlanta to get my master’s degree in Public Health at Emory and then worked in the healthcare space in both consulting and hospital settings — so you could say that healthcare is my bread and butter. I came to SEI almost two years ago to expand my skills and knowledge of other industries. It has been great to see the fluidity and flexibility of our company, especially since I came in around the tail-end of the pandemic in 2021.
Robert: I grew up in Wuhan, where my parents were professors. When my mom went to the United States to get her master’s degree, she was able to solicit help from an Illinois congressman and petitioned the Chinese embassy to let me come join her. I was about 8 years old when I arrived. My mom wanted to integrate me into American culture. I didn’t know any English at the time, and she refused to speak Chinese to me. It was sink or swim, but luckily, I was able to pick it up quickly. I went to college for Civil Engineering and managed various projects around the Chicagoland area. The Chicago skyline is close to my heart and is something I’m especially proud of since I can see my impact. After some time, I decided to pivot my career and get my MBA. I wanted to have the startup experience, so I co-founded two companies upon leaving school. During that chaotic time, I met fellow SEI colleague Rob Ficker, who referred me to SEI.
How were you immersed in your culture growing up, and how do you continue to engage with it now?
Rosie: I came to Atlanta around the time it hosted the Olympics. That caused the city to boom with new people from all cultures, including Chinese people. There was a small but close-knit Asian community where I grew up. My parents made sure to get me involved in the community by attending Chinese school and taking dance classes. The dance company I was part of is owned by a Chinese couple that came to America as part of a professional ballet company! Being part of that dance company allowed me to see how diversity grew in Atlanta and our community.
Attending Chinese school allowed me to mingle with other Chinese nationals and create an extended family, especially since many of our family members were back home in China. My parents would have me visit my family in China during summer breaks, which allowed me to immerse myself in my culture and bring that back to America from a young age. With the world opening up again, and China specifically, I hope to travel back and connect with family.
Robert: Nowadays, I celebrate a couple of the holidays, including the Lunar New Year and the Moon Festival (also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival), which takes place later in the year. I remember making dumplings for the Lunar New Year feast when I was younger. While it’s more difficult for the family to get together as we are spread across the globe, I’ve kept the dumpling-eating tradition alive. It’s a sign of luck; the more dumplings you eat, the more luck you have for the rest of the year!
What celebrations and traditions make the Lunar New Year special to you?
Rosie: Every year, a close friend books a restaurant and gathers family and friends. With four generations of people celebrating, we value the time we spend together during this annual tradition. With full bellies, we go back home and continue the tradition of making dumplings with my family. We also give out the red envelopes with money to the children, and they seem to be getting more in their envelopes than I did when I was a kid!
Robert: My celebrations have changed a lot since I was younger. Instead of making dumplings from scratch, I tend to order them to ensure that we keep up with the tradition. Only my aunt and uncle are in the Chicagoland area, so I try to visit them for the holidays whenever possible. My aunt still carries on the tradition of making everything from scratch. She’s an amazing cook, and authentic homemade dumplings are always a treat.
What would you like your fellow SEIers to know about Lunar New Year and how to celebrate?
Rosie: You can think of Lunar New Year as a mix of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Thanksgiving. It’s a multi-day occasion with a different activity each day, such as visiting your in-laws, visiting your parents, lighting lanterns, and much more. It’s all about gathering and bringing people together.
Robert: I would love to see more people celebrate it! Even seeing Jason Michelli, Chicago’s Managing Director, calling it out last year made me feel an appreciation for my culture. I also want people to put their own spin on Lunar New Year and celebrate it however they want, as long as they are respectful. You can really make the holiday your own.
Rosie, what are you excited about for your SEI journey in 2023?
I want to tap into the relationships I’ve built over the past couple of years. At SEI, I see so many stellar people at various levels, and everybody shares the values of being humble, smart, and hungry. They are people you can lean on when you need a hand.
I’m also excited to see how SEI continues to grow as a community, as we do care about the small things. We show appreciation for all events, not just holidays. Even though my birthday fell during my maternity leave this year, SEI showed their appreciation for me and the work that I do. It’s nice to be at a workplace where they are so thoughtful, and I would love to see that continue to grow in 2023.
Robert, you’ve been at SEI for more than three years now. What about SEI keeps you here?
Being part of SEI allows me to see companies grow and gives me the chance to help them solve their problems. It also allows me to be part of the changes made within the company, and it doesn’t feel like there’s a limited runway when it comes to expressing wants, needs, and hopes for SEI. The flexibility of our model means that we have the malleability to make any situation better. The transparency we have with each other is incomparable; we can truly talk openly and honestly. I’m excited to see new talent join and grow at SEI, and I’m thankful to be part of that journey.