How finding time for cooking and culture helps forge better connections at work

Elastic is committed to providing a flexible, balanced home life for our Elasticians. It’s in our Source Code. And part of that Source Code — Home, Dinner — has helped Kathy Chen, visual designer on our in-house design team, to reconnect with her mother’s cooking and her Chinese culture.

“When I was a kid my mom used to make dumplings for my packed lunch,” says Kathy. “Other kids would make fun of it. At the time I was embarrassed, but now I appreciate how much effort she put into giving me those tastes of my heritage.”

Kathy Chen

Kathy Chen

During the pandemic, Kathy realized that she was missing her mother’s cooking. So, she started experimenting in the kitchen with ingredients that she was familiar with from childhood.

“I think as a result of all the tumultuous events of the last 12 months, I turned to food for comfort,” says Kathy. “The Home, Dinner part of our Source Code, and the shut-it-down days that Elastic has provided during the pandemic, have really given me the time to explore cooking.”

Having extra time to care for herself and cook has given Kathy an opportunity to return to some of her roots. “My mom immigrated from southern China in the late 90s, and I’ve always been caught a bit between two cultures. That being the case, I didn’t want to be seen as somehow different from others, because that was a bad thing. It was something you’d get bullied for. My concept of fitting in was rejecting everything that made me different. Getting into cooking traditional Chinese food has brought me a bit closer to my heritage.”

Kathy has used some of her paid time off to go back home and cook with her mother.

“One dish we made was ‘Ang Ku Kueh.’ It’s a rice cake that’s usually made in either a peach or turtle-shaped mold. Peach symbolizes good fortune, and the turtle symbolizes longevity. It’s a unifying dish, similar to dumplings, since it requires everyone getting involved.”

Kathy’s Ang Ku Kueh.

Kathy’s Ang Ku Kueh.

For Kathy, cooking has been a great way to connect with her team at work as well. “Elastic’s distributed culture often inspires Elasticians to find creative ways to connect virtually with colleagues. I feel very lucky to have a manager who is Taiwanese and two colleagues who are Asian American. My manager and I often swap photos of homemade dishes over Slack like dumplings, pork buns, and scallion pancakes, but also croissants, pretzels, and bread. I’ve also shared a few things in the bread Slack channel. Sharing my cooking and baking successes (and failures) has been a great way to find common ground with my team and beyond.”

Kathy goes on to say that there’s a general appreciation and celebration of different cultures and backgrounds at Elastic.

“I see so many people in our fun Slack channels sharing food and asking questions about the culture around what’s being shared. People are curious and accepting. Sharing Chinese food with others at Elastic has been a gateway into thinking more about my heritage, and being proud of it.”

“It’s also opened others up to talking about more serious topics, like the recent violence against Asian Americans. I'm proud that I can teach my friends here at Elastic who didn’t grow up in a Chinese household about all these exciting ingredients and dishes, and share a bit of my Asian heritage. It really makes me feel like I can bring my authentic self to work.”

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