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Mike Han

Senior Account Director, Accenture Interactive

I’ve always been a human of varied interests and passions, navigating life and collecting experiences based on what’s piquing my curiosity at the moment (e.g. my college thesis was about Halal Carts! I interned at the Bronx Zoo!- flamingos are not kind), and certainly my career hasn’t been spared from this guiding ideology. 

I have spent the past ten years in the Advertising and Communications space, partnering with brands, big and small, to deliver meaningful and effective customer experiences through the intersection of creativity, data and technology. 

My goal is to lead with empathy, candor and levity and foster safe, equitable spaces for the teams I work on or lead. I believe in using my agency to give voice and platform to those who would not otherwise have it, and am particularly interested in dialogues around Queer and BIPOC experiences (particularly AAPI ones) in the Advertising Industry, which has been a historically cis-gendered, heterosexual White space. When possible, I also try to work/support non-profits and start-ups launch/refine their brands and businesses.

When I’m not doing the above, I am a big fan of yoga, Orange Theory, my plants, aquascaping, bad horror movies, daydreaming about getting a dog (but never pulling the trigger) and keeping pace with the cultural zeitgeist (via Tiktok, exclusively).

I am currently a Senior Account Director at Accenture Interactive, formerly of Ogilvy, Deloitte Digital and RAPP. I graduated from NYU with BA in Metropolitan Studies and social entrepreneurship.

Finish this sentence: I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for ________________.

My Dad – he came to this country almost 50 years ago, starting as a busboy to owning one of the most successful Chinese restaurants in New York – while putting five kids through school. He’s just turned 75, still goes to work, sees friends regularly, and spends an inordinate amount of time on TikTok – an icon!

Resumes highlight professional and educational achievements. Which one of your life or personal experiences deserves to be on your resume?

The decision to finally find (and see) a therapist.

I had such an ego about it for so long, and after starting – I wondered why I waited 31 years to find one (yes, I strongly believe we should all be assigned one at birth). Therapy has helped me be more positive, quiet my inner-critic/imposter syndrome and improve my sense of self-worth.

What qualities do you look for when hiring someone on your team? What qualities do you avoid?

While I can teach and train how to do work-related skills, I can’t teach certain soft skills (I call them ‘secret sauce’ skills).

Are you a nice person? Do you possess some level of empathy? Are you curious? A sense of humor is good too.

I have trouble being around people who aren’t flexible, have intense egos, and don’t seem to be aware of/care for those around them. We spend so much time together at work that you should at least surround yourself with good people. I think this comes across in the quality of the work you produce as well.

I take great care with those I manage/work with to ensure I build a space where they feel like they can safely express their opinions/thoughts. Which sounds simple, but shockingly isn’t done often enough”

Is there a time when you were told to change yourself, or hide some aspect of yourself to be accepted or successful in a situation? How did you react?

I began my career in a prestigious rotational program for which I am so, so grateful for – the people (both friends and mentors) and the experiences it afforded me literally provided me with career rocket fuel.

There was SUCH an emphasis placed on networking – putting time on senior leaders’ calendars to get coffee, treating them with reverence because they were senior. I did it because it felt obligatory – that I would somehow be lacking in my career if I didn’t, and in these conversations, I felt so robotic and artificial. In approaching connections as ‘work’ ones versus ‘human’ ones, these conversations felt forced, and I didn’t feel like I was coming off as my best, most authentic self… On the flip side, the people I met organically – through happy hours, projects, and through friends of friends – proved to be the strongest, most meaningful relationships I have.

Which three books, podcasts, or news sources do you think everyone should read? Why?

“The Velvet Rage” by Alan Downs – I think a lot of folks who know this book will roll their eyes because everyone in the gay community has seemingly read it, BUT it really did help me as a young gay man understand how a lot of the angst, ego, and insecurity I was feeling at work (and life) was related to growing up in a hetero-normative society.

“Minor Feelings” by Cathy Park Hong – As a complement to The Velvet Rage, this book contextualized my otherness as American Born Chinese in ways I had never ever considered; particularly relevant to growing up under the radar and white-adjacent only to feel displaced in the context of anti-Asian Hate/CoVid and the role AAPI play in US Race Relations.

And literally anything Brene Brown has written (I particularly liked “Dare to Lead”) because she is a literal queen. But she also taught me, a deeply feelings-driven person, how to use these feelings as a tool in connecting with people and having hard, candid conversations.

Diversity, equity and inclusion is front and center right now. How do you express your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in your personal and professional life?

Generally training myself (and others) to ask why – and challenging existing conventions/processes… which has been hard but relevant since so many of the structures around us are inherently racist and inequitable.

Further, I take great care with those I manage/work with to ensure I build a space where they feel like they can safely express their opinions/thoughts. Which sounds simple, but shockingly isn’t done often enough. I once asked a junior person I was beginning to manage what he wanted to learn – and he responded with, “no one’s ever asked me that before.”

What do you find most frustrating about corporate DEI initiatives and what’s one tangible step every employer should take to help build a more representative organization?

The realization that corporate DEI initiatives often (not always) tacitly serve the higher power of capitalism was a big realization for me over the past few years.

I don’t think they should be done away with altogether. It’s good for people to get involved and for companies to continue offering DEI programs, but for employees, it’s important to remember these aren’t permanent fixes to what seems like an unending issue.

I think to avoid the Lip Service of corporate DEI, companies should be brave – empower their employees who are speaking out against inequities versus trying to silence them. Give them resources and access to people who have the power to impact change at an institutional level.  And…  most importantly, compensate them (with money) for doing this extra work.

If you’re asking/expecting/using BIPOC employees to lead and push DEI agenda items without compensating them– that’s just further perpetuating the issue at hand.

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Mike Han
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