Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 3 seconds

I was 4 years old, when my parents fled communist North Vietnam on a US landing craft going to South Vietnam. In 1970, I received a four-year scholarship from US AID and received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Accounting and Finance) from the University of California, Berkeley in 1974, but was required to return to South Vietnam after graduation. 

Life became very dangerous when South Vietnam fell to the communists on April 30, 1975, and my wife and I fled for our lives. Four harrowing years later, we were approved for asylum and resettlement in the U.S. 

I re-started my career with a part-time job tutoring math to Upward Bound students at the Multnomah Library in downtown Portland. I then got a full-time position as a low-level accountant with Johnstone Supply, a Portland Oregon-based distributor of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment. 

I worked my way up, was promoted to Controller, and eventually 5 years later, appointed Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Finance.  My wife Cathy worked for U.S. Bank, then Standard Insurance, and became an accounting manager.

In 2017, my wife and I established a Library Endowment Fund at the Pacific University, Forest Grove Campus.

I owe my success to the incredible support I received from people in the United States. Equity, diversity and inclusion are incredibly important values that must be brought to the forefront in the workplace and in society. Here are some of the most effective ideas for leaders to achieve this:

  1. The CEO must be front and center and always on. The CEO must show up at every meeting and training session and exemplify the diversity and inclusion values of the organization… Don’t outsource this job exclusively to HR.
  1. The company must include and commit to diversity and inclusion among the dedicated goals of the organization, expressly called out in its mission statement, and reflected in every decision and action.
  1. Everyone must champion these values.  Executives, managers and all employees must talk the talk and walk the walk. When top executives make business decisions, they must ask themselves if they have brought the company closer to the “diversity and inclusion” goals through their actions. Feedback and discussion must be encouraged and used to ensure relentless improvement is achieved.
  1. Cultural diversity needs to be acknowledged, championed and showcased constantly.  Encourage everyone to get to know all the other employees.  Feature new employees and those with diverse cultural backgrounds in the organizations’ newsletters and social media with their pictures, experience, special talents, skills, hobbies.  Celebrate diverse cultural backgrounds and lifestyles with active participation.
  1. Celebrate all cultural days, holidays, or big sporting events to encourage and inspire inclusion, foster learning, acknowledgment, and appreciation of cultural differences.
  1. Mix up all organization teams to include members of different ethnicity, background, and gender, whether these are sports teams, presentation teams, problem-solving teams...  Allow teams to trade members freely when the need arises.

Tim Tran and his wife Cathy are now retired and live outside Portland Oregon. his book, American Dreamer—How I Escaped Communist Vietnam and Built a Successful Life in America (Pacific University Press, June 2020), offers a detailed account of the events in his early life, college years at the University of California in Berkeley, his return to South Vietnam, being suspected by the government as a spy, fleeing with his family in an overcrowded boat to Malaysia, spending months in a refugee camp, and finally being approved for asylum in the US, where he started from an entry-level position and worked his way up to CFO of Johnstone Supply.

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