Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians by Jane Hyun

I read this book because I’ve heard about it, but in the past, I leaned towards denying the existence of bamboo ceilings without looking into the issue further. I thought that sort of ceiling is for “the weak” and if you are good enough, you will reach the top no problem. Now I see why people think this kind of ceiling exists and how my previous response is both typical in the asian culture (do hard work and you’ll get recognized), and the same excuse used by many to deny opportunities to the minority. I took it for granted that foreigners find it hard to fit in and to thrive in a local company. I didn’t even see that as an issue. I think that is still true for the most part of the world, but since countries like the US and the UK (or at least London) label themselves as a multi-ethnic and immigration country, having a dominant culture stream becomes an issue in business. 

Unfortunately, after the first few sections, the rest of the book turned into a “how-to” book with exercises, which I don’t feel like doing at the moment. The main benefit of this book is to bring the subconscious to the surface. E.g. Asians like to choose careers like doctors, engineers, and lawyers, but why fundamentally? In the past, I thought it’s because those professions make good money, but now I see that it’s because those professions are more “technical” unlike many people-facing jobs, which require the minority to mingle and to hang out well with the majority. 

One thing I found was the lack of books that go the other way around. E.g. for people born in the US or the UK and coming to say Japan or China to do business. There’s “the Culture Map” but that’s pretty much it. I guess the reasons behind it are: 1. There are too few of those people, and even if they do go to a foreign country, most will not try to or be forced to “fit in”. 2. There are more business opportunities elsewhere anyway that are more familiar and more friendly towards the traditional US or UK culture. 3. Most parts of the world are not as open to immigration.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book since there are more efficient ways to learn about the bamboo ceiling itself without all those “so how do I really choose my career?” exercises.