Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Curious Monica: Season 3

Be True to Yourself and Follow Your Curiosity with Trung T. Tieu

Curious Monica – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

The Curious Monica podcast features candid conversations with innovators in thriving organizations across various industries. In each episode, host & founder of InnovatorsBox, Monica Kang interviews her friends in diverse fields about what they do and why they love what they do. If you’re curious too, you’ll gain incredible insight into the workplace patterns that can change the way you think about work, no matter what industry you’re in or who you are.

Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your preferred platform of choice!

Find your tribe and surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Growing up gay in a traditional Catholic, Asian household, Trung T. Tieu faced challenges in expressing his identity. It took time for him to come out to his family and loved ones. But once he did, he embraced his truth wholeheartedly. Throughout his career journey, Trung found alignment between his passion for representation and his interest in supply chain and business while actively participating in LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Networks (ERNs). Today, as the supplier diversity manager at Wells Fargo, Trung is a sought-after leader driving innovative approaches to diversity and inclusion in the supply chain. He emphasizes the importance of curiosity, open-mindedness, and authenticity in effecting positive change. This June, as we celebrate Pride Month, we are excited to explore Trung’s inspiring journey in supplier diversity and corporate leadership. He encourages everyone to embrace curiosity and authenticity, believing that we all have the power to make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others. Connect with Trung T. Tieu on LinkedIn and learn more about his work in Wells Fargo supplier diversity

TRUNG T. TIEU

Supplier Diversity Manager at Wells Fargo

Trung Tieu is a dedicated advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, focusing on diverse-owned enterprises. Since 2022, he has served as the Supplier Diversity Manager at Wells Fargo & Company, enhancing supplier development, category alignment, and diverse supplier inclusion. Previously, he boosted economic inclusion at PepsiCo, where he began his career overseeing innovation in the Quaker Foods & Snacks division. Trung is active on multiple boards, including the NYNJ Minority Supplier Development Council and as co-chair of the NGLCC Procurement Council. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he studied identity construction, and is a graduate of the UCLA Anderson School of Business LGBT Leadership Institute.

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Episode Shownotes

1. Title of the Episode:
Be True to Yourself and Follow Your Curiosity with Trung T. Tieu

2. Host:
Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox

3. Guest:
Trung T. Tieu, Supplier Diversity Manager at Wells Fargo


4. Key Topics Covered:

  • Leadership and identity in the LGBTQ community
  • Supplier diversity and its impact on minority-owned businesses
  • Navigating personal and professional growth in diverse environments
  • The importance of authenticity and community involvement


5. Highlights:

  • Trung discusses the influence of his upbringing and early challenges.
  • Insights into effective leadership and fostering inclusive environments.
  • Practical advice for entrepreneurs and businesses on navigating supplier diversity.


6. Quotes from the guest:

  • “The idea of success being what you define it as—not what someone else defines it as—is crucial.”
  • “You have to do what’s right for you, safety always comes first—both your psychological safety and your physical safety.”
  • “It’s not just about learning to network; it’s about building genuine connections that can stand the test of time.”

7. Some people suggested that we should learn from:

Bayard Rustin, Marsha P. Johnson, and George Takei for their leadership and advocacy within the LGBTQ community.


8. Contact Information for the guest:

Trung Tieu can be reached via LinkedIn for discussions on supplier diversity and leadership.


9. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

Monica reflects on the importance of owning your voice and the positive impact of supportive communities in personal and professional development.

10. Episode Length and Release Date:
Episode Length: Approximately 50 minutes
Release Date: June 18, 2024


00:00

Monica H. Kang
When I think about people who inspire and empower their people around them, Ive often wondered how do they find the source and energy to refuel them? I mean, they must also get burned out or tired, too. But for some reason, this particular guest and friend in particular seems to find that energy all the time. And so, hey, I thought I would invite him over here so I could ask him those questions and learn how he leads with intention and impact and thoughtfulness. Mi Trang thiu he is currently the supplier diversity manager at Wells Fargo and has been a passionate champion of diversity, inclusion, and diverse owned business enterprises for quite some time. But hes humbled to share how he got into this whole supplier diversity world and be the DEI advocate was not planned. 


00:56

Monica H. Kang
Now he might be the co chair of NGLCC, the national LGBT Chamber of Commerce Procurement Council, or also serving as the co chair of National Minority Supplier Diversity Council’s consumer products working group, and many other communities. When we take a closer look in his story, you’ll notice that he had a humble beginning, starting his chapter because of curiosity and finding a gap. You see, as you can imagine, growing up gay was not easy, and especially if you come from a culture and community where it was not really encouraged to be open about. So Trung had to find his own path. And when he finally came out and was open, he realized, I’m never going to go back and be in the closet, but how can I also help other people and fully honor my authentic voice today? 


01:52

Monica H. Kang
Not only is he a leading figure in the supplier diversity world, where you will see him at a conference floor greeting thousands of people, shaking hands and answering their questions with thoughtfulness, but also creating a lifestyle where he truly enjoys life with intention, as well as taking time to serve the community, to help empower the next LGBTQ audience to find their voice. So as we celebrate Pride month, I am so excited to have my friend Trung here to talk a little bit more about his journey and for me to nerd out and ask some questions how he got to be the leader and person he is today. I hope you’re ready to be inspired. Meet my friend Trung. So very excited to have my friend Trung here, who is tuning in from New York. 


02:43

Monica H. Kang
We’re very excited to have so many topics to talk about as we celebrate Pride month. Don’t know how we already got to this time. As we celebrate this time. So first question. Trunk. I’m curious if you remember what you wanted to do as a child in the future. 


03:01

Trung T. Tieu
Well, it’s very silly, but I think growing up. I’ll start. When I was very young, my brother and I, thanks to PBS, we loved all the nature shows. So I distinctly remember he and I having the plan to have, like, animal sanctuary of some sort. That was one thing. And then as I grew up throughout high school, I thought I wanted to become a professional actor so that, you know, I did a little bit of acting in high school and a little bit in college as well. But I knew, like, if I really wanted to stick to something professional and probably wasn’t going to stay in acting, the field was far too competitive. Right. 


03:44

Monica H. Kang
Well, we are certainly glad we have many AAPI representatives in the acting career, but it certainly is competitive, and I do feel like you are still integrating those skills and passion later on in your many chapters, which we will get to. But first, bring us back to your very early childhood. I know you’re currently in New York, but you were not in New York before you grew. Grew up in Milwaukee that you are mentioning, and also before that, your family was in Vietnam. Tell me a little bit more how your childhood was. 


04:11

Trung T. Tieu
Like, sure. So, you know, I don’t remember much about how our family escaped, although annually, my family gets together on the anniversary of our escape and we retell the story. So my memories are honestly, you know, my parents and my sister’s memories of how we escaped and looking at the pictures and things like that. But, you know, we arrived in a suburb of Milwaukee called Carahe in 1975. We were probably one of three asian families in a predominantly polish suburb. And, you know, I think my parents were very, you know, a, they were very assimilated already. They had both, you know, they both spoke English fairly well and were, you know, very familiar with western culture. So that wasn’t, you know, any sort of hurdle for us more. 


05:05

Trung T. Tieu
It was just sort of having my brother and I focus on becoming as american as possible. I think my sister struggled with it more because they were older, and honestly, that sort of made me feel more distant to my asian heritage. Right. And I’m sure we’ll talk about this later, but when we talk about identities, a lot of times after growing up, I would focus on my lgbt identity versus my over my aged identity because I didn’t relate as much. Right. 


05:40

Monica H. Kang
No, thank you for sharing that. We’ll definitely explore that more. But piggyback on that. You then later on went to Chicago to start your career. Tell me a little bit more how your time was in Chicago. Super cold, but you’ve been there for a little bit, and you traveled a lot, too. Tell us a little bit about that work and your time there. 


05:58

Trung T. Tieu
Sure. I mean, when I first got out of college, a lot of what I was doing was sort of flailing around. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was temping for a while and ended up working through a friend at Quaker Oats. So that’s part of the larger PepsiCo set of brands based out of Chicago. And honestly, I didn’t even completely understand the role that I was in. It was called supply chain management, and I was doing a lot of project work in terms of helping brands get from ideation to full completion of a new project or a new flavor, those sorts of things. 


06:42

Trung T. Tieu
And that’s really where I learned a lot of the skills in the corporate world, because I was able to safely navigate, whether it was through my employee resource group work and leadership there or through the work that I was doing in my day job, to find out, like, how does a corporate, you know, how do the different corporate functions actually work together? And that really was my job, was to make sure that these different functions aligned and agreed on how these projects were going to go and be prioritized. Right. And how to set those resources aside. So I learned a lot just by being a fly on the wall in those meetings. 


07:23

Monica H. Kang
And I know Trung is sharing this with honesty, but also with humility, because for those who do know where Trung is now, he is definitely doing more of multi connecting and tasking and all of that. And I feel that as you’re sharing and reflecting back your time, even from your early childhood, that you are sharing the different skills and interests that you have connected and bridged. Tell me a little bit more. Then after that you went to New York, and as you were settling in New York, how was that different than your previous times, whether in Chicago and other places? 


07:58

Trung T. Tieu
Sure. It was definitely more focused. Right. You know, for those that don’t know, my coming to New York actually stemmed from becoming a supplier diversity manager. So I was in supply chain management, and through my interactions as a employee resource group leader, I was speaking at multiple conferences on lgbt issues. And during one of those conferences, the founders of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell, approached me and asked me, you know, hey, I see that you’re working for Pepsico. You know, do you have a supplier diversity program? And I said, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but let me find out for you. And, you know, as is the way of many of our supplier diversity programs, it’s like a well kept secret from our own employees. 


08:51

Trung T. Tieu
And so I went back, talked to my supplier diversity team, and they said, you know, we would love for you to, you know, meet with the NGLCC and find out more about them, find out when they’re ready to certification. And so I sort of became an ambassador for a couple years. 


09:08

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


09:09

Trung T. Tieu
Without being an official supplier diversity manager. And then when this role came to be and I was able to apply for it was the perfect transition from connecting the different functions of PepsiCo to now connecting those functions with suppliers. Back to your question about how was it different? A lot of it was, you know, a getting used to sort of the energy of New York and then also being that much closer, as we jokingly say, to the mothership. Right. The CEO is there. There’s a lot of leadership that was, you know, based out of New York, where you sort of had to think differently in terms of how you were presenting yourself, how you were presenting your ideas. And I learned a lot just through observing my peers that were very successful in doing that. Right. 


10:03

Trung T. Tieu
So I was able to say, okay, well, this may have worked with some of the leaders in Chicago, but it’s a very different set of priorities and needs that this group of executives in New York really focuses on. So that was really a big shift for me. 


10:21

Monica H. Kang
That’s really inspiring, and I love that you really proactively reached out and organically, other people noticed you and said, what about this? And you’re like, sure. Well, let me claim it. One of the things that I’m hearing that is super inspiring is just like, how you’ve had the drive to pave that path and to revisit kind of our initial conversation with the identity of LGBTQ. We’ll be remiss to kind of address the elephant in the room that, unfortunately, many of those in the offices, no matter where they work, do not feel seen or feel that they can speak about who they fully are. Tell me a little bit more how you felt throughout your different careers and what helped, you know, that you can be fully. You sure? 


11:08

Trung T. Tieu
I think a lot of it has to do with how I approached coming out in general. I think it’s no secret in my family that when I came out, it was a big emotional experience for my family. Right. And so a lot of that has to do with my upbringing. You know, my parents are Catholic. You know, we have sort of the asian heritage and vietnamese background of being very close and, you know, tight with our families. And so my approach to coming out was really just sort of saying it was all or nothing, right. So I just put it all out there and said, this is, you know how it is. I’m, you know, I moved out, but it wasn’t like I was running away necessarily. 


11:48

Trung T. Tieu
I was just moving from a suburb to downtown Milwaukee, so it wasn’t that far away, but I was the first person in my family to do that. Right. So it was an odd thing for my mom to get her brain around in terms of, why would you move out? Like, you’re not getting married yet, you can still live here for free and all those sorts of things. And so going back to this idea of, like, how did I approach coming out? Once that happened, I just refused to go back. Right. And for me, I’d already struggled for so long, you know, internally and with my family issues and thinking about how they would deal with that. That once that door was open for me, I just. I didn’t want to go back. 


12:34

Trung T. Tieu
I realized how much energy I was spending making up stories, you know, trying to explain where I was or what I was doing or what my interests were. And that just was so exhausting that it just wasn’t worth it for me anymore. And I really early on was relegated to the idea that if I wasn’t able to find jobs that were going to pay well being out, then so be it. But I wasn’t going to go back and be in the closet. 


13:07

Monica H. Kang
No. Thank you for sharing that. For folks who are probably listening like, Frank, I wish I can be like you. It’s not easy. What advice would you share? And I know it’s different for every person folks are listening worldwide. So culturally, contexts are also very different for those outside of America or even in certain states of America where it has legal bounds. 


13:29

Trung T. Tieu
So the advice is always going to be, you know, you have to do what’s right for you. You know, safety always comes first. Right. And that is both your own psychological safety and your own personal safety, physical safety, and determining what you can do to set yourself on the right path. Right. And so, you know, maybe it’s coming out to a few people that you can trust. And I’m a planner, so I think I had so many different contingency plans that if anything, quote unquote, went wrong or whatever, I would always tell myself, well, at least I can do x, y or z, right? I’d always be able to at least fall back on a friend, a family member, a place, something where, you know, and I know I totally understand the privilege that puts me in. 


14:22

Trung T. Tieu
But that was my thinking when it came to coming out, because I just. I realized that I had to have some sort of option, otherwise it was just gonna break me. 


14:37

Monica H. Kang
And to build on that, I know that’s only just part of your picture. I mean, part of it is that you are very driven and talented at connecting different people, bringing out the best in others. I mean, that in itself is multitude of different skill sets. And so I’m curious, like, as a leader, what helps you not only to, as you said, continue to make sure you show up, find places that you can be your authentic self, but how you continue to hone these different skills to bring out the best in you as a leader. 


15:08

Trung T. Tieu
So I think that’s an interesting question, and thank you for the compliment. I don’t see myself as that driven, honestly. I just love the energy other people promote, and I think one of the skills is surrounding myself with people that provide that positive energy. Right. And I think that really has helped me succeed versus, you know, finding myself in sort of the depths of despair around people that are very negative. And in terms of honing my skills on leadership, a lot of it has been observational. Right. I have seen so many of my peers succeed, and listening to the way that they approach problems that they face or the challenges they’re facing and having those discussions and understanding different tools that they’re using to really address, you know, those challenges has been key to me, you know, adding more tools to my toolbox, honestly. 


16:08

Trung T. Tieu
Right. And some things I find work really well for a while and then not. Right. So that’s. That’s one of the things that I definitely feel I have to always work at is observing who I’m admiring in. In the present. Right. Who do I feel is very successful right now, and why do I feel that way? And then picking up those skills are the things that I think that I can do. Right. There are certain things that I just don’t have the knack for as a person that other people just thrive on. And so I will step back and assess myself and say, is this really something that I can take on, or is it something that I can start working on, right. In terms of a leadership style? 


16:53

Trung T. Tieu
But I do have to say, like, this whole lifelong learning perspective came from my mom. Right. This is something that she’s always been doing throughout her life. And having lived through that experience, I definitely see, like, oh, no matter where I am, I try to take away something as a learning. Right. Like even a tv show, all of your podcasts that I’ve listened to. Right. What else can I do to take something away from myself and apply it to myself? And part of being a good leader is to also transfer that to someone else to say, oh, I heard this really great podcast. Have you thought about doing something like this? So those are the sorts of things that I think have helped me develop my leadership skills. 


17:41

Monica H. Kang
Mm mm. No, that’s really powerful. I’m curious to piggyback on, you know, how important it is to surround ourselves with inspiring people. Looking back at all your chapters in your life so far, who would be some, you know, individuals that you would want to thank and, you know, feel appreciated that helped made a difference in your life, whether professionally and personally. Overall, sure. 


18:03

Trung T. Tieu
I mean, it goes without saying, my mom, I think, you know, there’s a whole, like, our saga. I could explain how my mom really helped us get out of Vietnam. Right. Like, it wasn’t for my mom, we wouldn’t have made it out of the country. Right. And so looking at the things that she was able to do in terms of her tenacity, and she really was a bridge builder. She had made so many connections in her work in Vietnam that paved the way for a much easier way for us to leave the country. Have sponsors, you know, have, you know, neighbors that were. That were able to help us. 


18:46

Trung T. Tieu
And, you know, that’s really where I got a lot of those skills from, is observing her and seeing, like, regardless of how long it had been, you know, of her talking to a friend or whatever, those connections stayed. Right. And they were so valuable in so many ways, personally and then also, you know, in her life and in so many other ways. And also probably one of my professors, right. His name is Barry Brummott. When I first came out, he was very instrumental in shaping the way that I thought about what success looked like. Right. And that, you know, helped me model this idea of, you know, success is what you define it as and not what else someone else does. Right. And so that really. 


19:31

Trung T. Tieu
And I have to remind myself a lot about that, but, you know, because it’s so easy to compare yourself to other people, but ultimately, it is what you choose to make a goal and go after it that marks your own success. Right. And, you know, for all the accolades that other people get or you may even get, it’s really about what you set out to do and whether or not you accomplish it. And even if you didn’t accomplish it, what you learned along the way. Briley. 


20:02

Monica H. Kang
So meaningful. No, thank you for saying that. And I know, one of the many things that you also look out for is not only success in your professional life, but personal life as well. How do you make sure you balance both of those and make sure that you’re happy and also spend time with your family? 


20:17

Trung T. Tieu
Oh. So I would say that I have made a very intentional sort of bridging of my personal and professional life. I think many people already know my husband, right. And I try to make sure that he’s exposed to the work that I do as much as possible so that he understands it. So that when I come home and I’m discussing this or that or just talking about a day venting or being excited, he understands, and vice versa. When I’m at work, my colleagues, my peers all ask about Henry and all ask, you know, how are things going? How’s vacation? Those sorts of things where I don’t have to separate it as much because I feel like when I was doing that in the past, it made for less fruitful conversations and every day. It’s odd. 


21:14

Trung T. Tieu
It was almost like I was in the closet about, like, my personal life, which I wasn’t, but it was just that I never found time to talk about it with my coworkers in the past. And once I started to, I just felt a much richer connection with my peers and also, obviously, my husband, because he really gets what I do and why I do it. 


21:36

Monica H. Kang
Yeah. Yeah. I’m kira strong, if you’re open to sharing your love story and how you two met. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know both of them personally as well. So this is a personal fun time, but I have to just say, do a shout out, because I think one of the things I’ve also admired trying, as I’ve hinted, is the balance of both, and I’ve actually sought out love advice from them. So they have met my husband before he was my husband, one of the very early friends, and got to celebrate my personal wedding chapter with my husband, too, and appreciated all the wisdom they shared. 


22:12

Monica H. Kang
And so I’m curious if you’re willing to share, because I think it would be part of an inspiration for others to know that, hey, it’s not just about all the accolades in the work success, but it’s how you make time for your personal. I know you worked really hard to make sure that was possible as well. 


22:25

Trung T. Tieu
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, and I’ll provide the abbreviated version. Right. I think Henry and I met on a dating app, and, you know, we met in person, conveniently enough, as part of an NGLCC conference, because he was looking at Seattle at the time. 


22:39

Monica H. Kang
Shout out to NGLCC. Yes. 


22:44

Trung T. Tieu
And it just worked out so well. And I wrote him a handwritten letter on the plane ride back from Seattle and invited him to join me on vacation in London. And so from there, everything just sort of blossomed. And within a few months, he picked up his life and moved out to Chicago with me. And it’s been a wonderful adventure since then. And we continue to best friends, partners in so many different ways. And just so what’s the right word? I would say amplifying in terms of our love. Right. So what we’ve always found ourselves doing is being really honest. And a lot of times I think our friends probably think we over communicate, but, you know, it’s every little thing, like, you know, for any random reason, I’ll say, like, I love you. Right? 


23:45

Trung T. Tieu
There’s no need for, like, oh, you brought me something. I’m saying I love you. I can just come home and say, I love you. And we’re very motivated by our closeness physically. Right. So we walk hand in hand all the time. Right. It doesn’t matter where we are, we will do it. And it just keeps that connection. Right. 


24:09

Monica H. Kang
No, thank you for sharing that. I think it’s so important because often when we think about the workplace and as a leader, we, to your point, we don’t get to talk enough about actually the other half that sometimes influences even more to be who we are. And so thank you for letting us celebrate you and Henry and sharing that story. I know it would inspire others as they, whether they are in a relationship or not yet, and looking for that, to know that it is possible going back to then kind of going back to the workplace, one of the things that you shared is just how you made those transition to gradually open up as a leader. 


24:46

Monica H. Kang
I do want to make sure we talk a little bit more about supplier diversity because there’s probably still a lot of folks there who are saying, like, this is the first time I’m hearing, what is this thing? What is the supply chain world? So break us down a little bit and introduce us also to the world now at Wellspargo, where you are currently at as well. 


25:02

Trung T. Tieu
Sure. Starting with the world of supply diversity. Right? 


25:06

Monica H. Kang
So it’s a huge world. 


25:08

Trung T. Tieu
It is a huge world. Right. And it started really, I think it’s in the 1960s or seventies where there was a realization by the presidential administration at the time that there was a huge disparity in terms of, you know, businesses owned by minorities, and you know, the. The standard businesses that were out there, and so they made an intentional effort to bring contracts to bear that focused on minority owned businesses. Right. And so fast forward, at the time, it was focused on ethnic minorities, and now we are working not only in the government sector, but also in the corporate sector to make sure that companies are intentional about purchasing from companies that are LGBT owned, women owned, ethnic minority owned, veteran owned, disabled owned, as well. So that we are bridging that gap in terms of that disparity. 


26:11

Trung T. Tieu
And there are lots of studies out there that go to explain how and why this has happened, but it is a great testament to the way that the United States focuses on, you know, those positive things. Right. We realize that the pie isn’t limited. It’s just, it can grow. And that’s what we want to do. We want to make sure that we’re growing the pie. So that’s, you know, the supplier diversity world is really focused on bridging our buyers to, you know, our company’s buyers to the diverse owned businesses that are out there. Right. And so most of the Fortune 500 companies have these programs. Wells Fargo has had it for, I want to say, over 30 years now. I want to say we’re not 33, and we’ll fact check that later. 


27:03

Monica H. Kang
Thank you. I know it’s been around for a while, and I think that speaks to leadership of Wells Fargo and its commitment. 


27:08

Trung T. Tieu
Absolutely. 


27:09

Monica H. Kang
And for those who are less familiar with what a buyer would do, could you explain a little bit more? 


27:14

Trung T. Tieu
Sure. I mean, this is one of those things. 


27:16

Monica H. Kang
What would they buy? 


27:17

Trung T. Tieu
Right? So, interesting, right? I mean, even when I first started in. In the role, I didn’t realize what that happened, you know, what was happening in the buying world. But it’s everything from, you know, depending on the company, it could be, when I was working at Pepsi, it could be like, sugar bottles, aluminum, you know, paper board, all the way through services to trucks and facilities and, you know, construction and those sorts of things. So anything that a company needs to run its business, so it could be a service, it could be an actual good, gets purchased somehow. Right? So internal buyers are the ones that are having to make those decisions and say, like, okay, so we need all these office supplies. Who are we going to buy it from? Right. 


28:07

Trung T. Tieu
And so our role as supply diversity managers, or professionals, rather, is to make sure that we’re having the conversations with those team members to say, great, we want to do what’s right for the business in terms of economics, efficiency, those sorts of things. And then also we want to make sure that we’re doing what’s right for our company in terms of our brand equity. Right. Are we making sure that we’re buying from the communities that we serve? Quite candidly, right. If we are in these neighborhoods, if we’re in these communities, are we making sure that we are doing right by our neighbors and being good stewards to that? And then as the companies get bigger, you want to make sure that you’re buying at scale and you’re trying to help those companies that are diverse owned to grow and scale with you. 


28:58

Trung T. Tieu
And so those are some of the other opportunities that supplier diversity programs provide, which are these capacity building programs that say, okay, great, so, you know, you made it past the $100,000 contract. We want to get you to a million dollars. Here are the other things that you need to be able to do right. And so that’s a lot of what Wells Fargo’s work has been to drive those opportunities to attend things like the tuck school of business. Those sorts of opportunities. 


29:27

Monica H. Kang
Absolutely. I feel like folks who might be listening, like, okay, cool trunk, Monica. Like, I feel like this might be my new career and job. So, like, let’s prep them. What skills and experience are important for the folks who saying that they want to find a new career in supplier diversity? 


29:42

Trung T. Tieu
I think there are two routes, right. One is from sort of the diversity angle. So a lot of professionals I’ve seen have come from the maybe HR diversity side to really understand the value that diversity brings to a company. And then the other side can be from the procurement side. Right. Meaning the buyer side and understanding. Like, these are the sorts of things that the company needs. How do I put a supplier diversity lens on this and. And really help drive metrics that are useful for the company. Right. And so either those paths work really well. I happen to come in sort of through that supply chain buying angle, but also had my employee resource group and diversity hat on as well. Not that I was doing professionally, but, you know, that sort of dovetailed into the role that I have now. 


30:41

Monica H. Kang
You came from the perfect bridge between the two worlds that are very important. What other skills would you say is key? I feel like one, just to shout out, is networking people skills? Because when you see trunk at a conference or any of these so far, diversity professionals, they are bombarded by people. And to make sure that you can smile and actually genuinely care, but make sense and make strategic decisions, that’s a whole other skillset. So I think you definitely need to be comfortable with a lot of people I would say yes. Curious to hear your thoughts. 


31:10

Trung T. Tieu
Yeah, I think one of the skills that you really have to have is an open mind to learning both about the things that you’re buying and how you can buy them. Right. In terms of, like, do you want to buy this locally, regionally, or nationally? That’s a strategic thing. And then you also can make an argument for or against that, as well as being open to understanding what companies have to offer. Right. So learning about all these different, diverse owned businesses that approach you at these conferences, that’s where you can’t turn off the need to understand or learn, because that’s really what’s gonna make you successful. Because even if you don’t think that there’s something that’s applicable right now, understanding the broader opportunities in the landscape may come back to you two years later. 


32:10

Trung T. Tieu
And you can think, and this has happened to many of us, right, in the supplier diversity world, where we met with the supplier, we didn’t have an opportunity for them. We didn’t understand how they could necessarily work with us directly. And then something changes in the world, and we said, yes, now we need you. Right. Or, like, I’m glad that I see you every year, even though I don’t think that I necessarily can use you in the current state of affairs with the company, but getting an update from them and learning just also how they’re getting through the challenges of their business is honestly a huge inspiration, but also makes me think about, like, okay, so then how do I apply this to my work? Right? 


32:50

Trung T. Tieu
Like, oh, well, they had this challenge, and they thought about meeting with so and so, and this made them, you know, more savvy about that particular area, and now I use the same application internally. Right. 


33:08

Monica H. Kang
Very true. Curious. Also, on the flip side, what advice you will share, because I know there might be a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners as well. It’s like, great. Like, I never knew about Siltmor University. I want to be part of it, want to be able to provide that service for other corporations. What advice would you have to share? And I know you’ve given many, but for those who might be learning for the first time, what would you advise? 


33:28

Trung T. Tieu
Yeah, I mean, some of the low hanging fruit I always provide in terms of advice is once you get certified, make sure that everyone knows that you’re certified. Right. So that means. 


33:39

Monica H. Kang
And to certify, not just to interrupt, explain a little bit more what that means for folks who are not familiar with that. 


33:45

Trung T. Tieu
Sure. So there are third party organizations that make sure that a company is 51% owned, operated, and controlled or managed by said diverse group. So it could be women, etcetera. You know, you. You fill out an application, you have a quick interview around sort of how you came up with your company, how do you run your business, etcetera? And then you get vetted, and then you get your certification. And that protects companies from inadvertently working with a company that claimed that they were diverse but aren’t. So a certification really provides those bona fides around whether or not a company truly is who they say they are, both in terms of the business and then also in terms of the diversity type. Right. So there are third party organizations and governmental agencies that provide that. 


34:35

Trung T. Tieu
And when you do get certified, what you want to make sure you’re doing is letting everyone know that you are so making sure that it’s on your capability statement that you are certified by whatever organization that is in your signature line, on your emails, that is on your website. And pro tip here is go through your Rolodex, I guess. Sorry, your sales person. Sorry, I’m so old. 


35:04

Monica H. Kang
Whatever contact list you use, go through. 


35:06

Trung T. Tieu
Your contact list and cross reference the big companies in terms of whether or not they have a supplier diversity program. So if they’re a Fortune 500 company, they almost always do. And then you can work with your certifying agency to look, oh, who’s sponsoring what event? And then do a little bit of detective work. And if you already are working with those companies, notify them. Right. Let them know you got certified, because then you come out as making someone in that company a hero, because now you’re a diverse own business that they’re already working with, and hooray. Now we get to make sure that we are including your spend in our program. And that’s really a valuable tip, because oftentimes, supplier diversity managers, we don’t automatically get notified when a company that we’re working with becomes certified. 


36:05

Trung T. Tieu
We do our darndest to keep up with it. But when someone comes to me and says, oh, by the way, I’ve been working with you and I just got certified, then I get to go and look like a hero, because then, you know, I get to say, like, hey, here’s another company that we’re working with that is, that went ahead and got certified, and now we get to share that success story as well. 


36:29

Monica H. Kang
Love that. Love that. Thank you for the practical and specific tips that we can all take and appreciate it, because I know whether they are listening from both angles, even from the supply diversity manager side, it’s helpful for them to know what to prepare and what they can give back as well. And so appreciate that. Of course, as you’re sharing all of this, the other thing as a leader is how in the world are you managing your time and energy? Because there is only something called 24 hours. And as you’re listening, you’re probably wondering, wait, how does CHUNg do all of this and have personal time? You know, he does like to go to theaters, so I know he has a personal fun time, so he does rest. But trunk, tell us your tricks and tips. 


37:06

Monica H. Kang
How do you manage your time and energy to make sure you have time for work fun and play fun? 


37:12

Trung T. Tieu
Yeah. So for sure, like I said, I’m a planner, so my outlook calendar is color coded. It is. You know, I, you know, if it’s related to one part of the business, it’s gonna have one color. If it is personal, it’ll be green. I do schedule. I might even over schedule, but I do schedule things like, this is my gym time, you know, the time that I’m gonna be doing, you know, travel to a social dinner versus something else. Right. And so for me, I do make a point of scheduling as much as possible to keep me on track as well. So even when I get an email that I need to respond to or that I need to think about and respond to, I’ll drag and drop that into my calendar. 


38:04

Trung T. Tieu
And, you know, as the subject line, just say, like, this needs to be done by whatever or work on this email. Right. So then I at least have, you know, a clear set of things that I’ll be doing, and it just becomes my to do list. And I try not to go crazy about that. But a lot of times, you know, if there’s an email with a due date, I’ll just drag it into my calendar and say, this is the day that and time that I’m going to work on it. And sometimes I have to move it around, but it keeps me focused in terms of what the next thing is. And then I’m a huge fan of onenote. 


38:39

Trung T. Tieu
And every week I just drag and drop my to do list from the week before, delete whatever I already got done, and move on in the next set of things, right. So then even there, I can drag emails into onenote and say, like, oh, yeah, I need to focus on this, and I’ll use the little hyperlink so I’m not constantly losing whatever hundredth email I got from someone. Right. And it’s right there in that list. So that’s what I try to do to stay focused on that. And then in terms of social time, my weekends are my weekends as much as possible. And I try to recharge as much as through going to theater. I can’t tell you how much museums are a huge recharge for me. 


39:27

Trung T. Tieu
I love going in the Met and any of the other museums that are in New York that I can run away to for a while. And of course, just going out for long walks. Henry is a huge walker all over New York and we love to explore new neighborhoods all the time. And I lean on him for those sorts of experiences too. 


39:52

Monica H. Kang
I love that. Thank you so much for sharing. I know you also travel a lot. Do you have any travel tips and hacks that you’ll share for those who are trying to figure out how to manage their travel and self care? 


40:03

Trung T. Tieu
Sure. I know this sounds weird, but if you’re a museum person, I learned that there is a museum in Minneapolis called the Walker Art center that if you get a certain level of membership, you have reciprocal to like 3000 museums. So every time. 


40:24

Monica H. Kang
How? 


40:25

Trung T. Tieu
Because is it the membership? Yeah, because it’s the membership. So there are two different, like sets of museums that they have reciprocal anywhere around the states. Okay, when I go to a new city, right, I’ll always look on the list of reciprocal museums to see, oh, is this a place I haven’t been to before? And of course, because it’s a surplus, you can just walk in, right. And you don’t get museum headache and you don’t feel guilty that you spent however much the entrance fee would have been and you didn’t spend as much time. So even if I only have an hour, I’ll just pop in and see what they have, you know, to offer. So that’s one of the things I definitely try to do to keep me motivated around. 


41:06

Trung T. Tieu
Like, okay, maybe the city isn’t as glamorous as Xyz City, but maybe there’s something else here that I don’t know about that. And of course, finding great restaurants, right. Food is always. Food is always the answer when it comes to exploring a city. 


41:23

Monica H. Kang
Absolutely. What are some museums that you recently went to that was surprisingly good that you want to do a shout out, huh? 


41:30

Trung T. Tieu
I mean, in New York there are several that I didn’t realize were even there, like the Museum of the city of New York and the Museum of the Moving Image, which was fascinating because it runs the gamut of history from like, not kaleidoscopes, but those little sort of a hand crank. 


41:49

Monica H. Kang
Yes, yes. 


41:50

Trung T. Tieu
You know, mobile, sort of. 


41:53

Monica H. Kang
Yeah. 


41:54

Trung T. Tieu
Movies all the way through, like, the digital video game stuff, which is a really cool way to do it. And they have an excellent Muppet show exhibit that’s permanently there, which I love, which is, you know, from when I grew up in terms of other cities that I explored, you know, when were in Houston, what their art museum was really surprising to me. I didn’t. I didn’t realize how big it was going to be, and I really liked it. And you’ll find a lot of little gems, too. For instance, the. I think it’s the. Now I’m thinking Samuel Clemens, but his real name is. It’ll come to me. He wrote all those. Mark Twain. Mark Twain’s house is one of the museums that you can visit, which is really great. Yeah, it’s in Connecticut. 


42:46

Monica H. Kang
Very cool. Well, we’ll definitely have to put that in the show notes to make sure that other folks can get a chance to visit. I certainly want to make sure I visit. Check out some new places next time. 


42:54

Trung T. Tieu
Yeah. 


42:55

Monica H. Kang
Well, thank you so much, trung. We covered so many different realms. One of the questions I loved asking our guests as we continue to celebrate these different months is helping us be exposed more to different leaders of the different circuits. So as we celebrate Pride month, we definitely want to make sure we learn from more LGBTQ leaders, to make sure we’re learning from diverse voices. If you had to shout out three different leaders who happen to be coming from an LGBTQ background, who would they be? And I would love to get those names later so that way we can put it in the show notes and shout out for them. 


43:26

Trung T. Tieu
So. Bayard Rustin, for sure. Right? I don’t know if you’ve seen that film, but amazing. I think there’s so many interesting facts about him, and I think he just demonstrates incredible leadership, even through adversity. And, of course, it’s intersectional, so that’s always amazing. I would also probably shout out Marsha P. Johnson, also a trans leader, that did not get enough credit, you know, during the Stonewall riots. And I would say in terms of modern. I mean, I’ll just say it. I think George Takei. Right. I think he has done a lot to bring forward both the perspective of, you know, Asian Americans and then also as an LGBT out actor, I think that’s really important. And I wish he had to come out earlier when I was younger, and I might have pursued acting a little bit more actively. 


44:25

Monica H. Kang
Well, it’s not too late. I don’t know. Next time we see trunk on screen. We’ll be like, we knew it back then, way back in 2024. 


44:31

Trung T. Tieu
That’s right. 


44:33

Monica H. Kang
No trunk. So appreciate it. Do you also have any advice for those who want to be a better ally to LGBTQ? Maybe they’re at the beginning or they’re starting to learn. Where would you recommend? 


44:43

Trung T. Tieu
Well, I mean, absolutely. Get yourself educated. Join your employee resource groups if you have them. We need all the allies that we can get in terms of our employers, our employees, to really understand our perspective and be a listener. And then once you get educated, go out and vote and make sure that you’re thinking about how you can stand up for lgbt people even when they’re not there, because you know what? They might actually be in the room. And that’s where we really need allyship. And that is, it can be something as simple as, you know, that joke doesn’t really land for me. I’m not really comfortable with that to, you know, pulling someone aside later and saying, like, you know what? That I don’t think that’s appropriate. 


45:35

Trung T. Tieu
So that you’re not necessarily putting anyone on the spot, but also just being able to safely comment that, like, that’s not appropriate anymore. Right. And sometimes people just don’t know what they don’t know, and that’s okay. It’s our job as allies and as people that are educated to do what we can in the moment. 


45:57

Monica H. Kang
I appreciate it very much, trung. We’ll make sure that we’re able to dive into that. And, folks, again, remember the show notes. Find it. The blogs on the podcast page at Innovators box. If you can’t find it, always shoot an [email protected]. We’re very excited to make sure we continue our learning. Trunk. You shared so much different wisdom and insights today. Two final questions. One, any final words of wisdom you want to share with our listeners and where, no matter where they are in the journey as an innovator and how they can continue to thrive? 


46:26

Trung T. Tieu
Sure. You know, what has always been successful for me, and I think I’ve observed other people, is this sort of test and learn methodology, and it can be trying something brand new. I mean, you’re already on the path there, right? As an entrepreneur, you are already testing. But don’t forget to learn, right? Anything, you know, whether it’s a failure, whether it’s a hiccup, whether it’s whatever. There’s something to learn there, and that’s really going to be valuable to you. Right? Something I’ve done in the past, and I’m going to try to redo more of this year is, you know, sort of capturing quarterly, like, okay, what was the big aha from this quarter? Like, what really went well? What didn’t go well? What can I learn from that? 


47:17

Trung T. Tieu
And that is something that I think all of you do already, and you just need to hone that in terms of, you know, making it a regular habit. 


47:28

Monica H. Kang
Last but not least, what is the best way folks can stay in touch with you? 


47:32

Trung T. Tieu
Absolutely. LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the easiest way to get a hold of me. I’m pretty active on there as well. So those of you that are sort of following what’s going on in his world, what else can I learn about supplier diversity? Connecting to me through LinkedIn means that you could also see who my peers are and what they’re doing, including those that are in Wells Fargo. So for sure. 


47:57

Monica H. Kang
And you can just shout out that this is where you found him. So that way he will have the contacts of how you found him. Well, Trung, thank you so much. This was such a pleasure and joy to have you folks again. We’ll be back again with another inspiring story, but please make sure to follow up and we will see you soon. Have a great one, and we’ll talk soon. Thank you. Bye. Thank you so much again, Trung, for sharing your wonderful journey and inspiring chapters with us. It’s such a reminder that sometimes when we see somebody on paper or the news or even on stage, we’re like, oh, my gosh, how did they get there? And Trung reminds us that it starts with owning your voice, believing in yourself, finding the people who support you and believe in you. 


48:50

Monica H. Kang
Trung, we’re so grateful you’re here and we are looking forward to the chapters and journey you continue on. And of course, we are going to continue to celebrate Pride Month with new stories and innovators who are making a difference in community, who are happen to be LGBTQ. So join us next week for another inspiring story as we celebrate Pride month. This is your host, Monica King, and you are listening to curious Monica. Thank you and have a great day. Thank you so much for tuning in to another episode at Curious Monica. I’m your host and executive director of the show, Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox and little love shout out to our team who made this show possible for you today. 


49:40

Monica H. Kang
From innovatorsBox Studios Audio engineering and producing Sam Lehmart, Audio engineering assistants Ravi Lad, website and marketing support Kree Pandey, Graphic support Lea Orsini, Christine Eribal. Original Music by InnovatorsBox Studios and executive producer producing, writing and editing and interviewing and all that jazz buying me, Monica Kang. I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation. Please send us a note for any feedback and suggestions and questions that you have at [email protected]. Have a wonderful day and see you soon. 

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