Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month
Learn more about inspirational stories of those Making Modern History at Taco Bell and beyond.
At Taco Bell, we believe that no matter where or who you are, you will always have a seat at the table to pursue your passions and drive a positive impact. We also believe that we have people within our Taco Bell family who are doing just that; Making Modern History and will one day be part of the stories we tell for many years to come.
The month of May celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. This month was specifically chosen to honor the first known Japanese immigrant to the U.S. (May 1843), as well as to acknowledge the tremendous contribution Chinese immigrants made in completing the transcontinental railroad (May 1869).
AAPI is a wide-ranging term used to describe all cultures across the continent of Asia and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia – representing approximately 50 ethnic groups and 100 languages. There is incredible depth and richness of diversity found within the AAPI community, and this month is devoted to recognizing and elevating their cultural influence.
To honor this month and lead with action-oriented allyship, we’re amplifying the voices of those in the AAPI community who are growing their careers at Taco Bell.
While we’re telling their stories today, throughout the year, we will continue sharing how our Taco Bell employees across all groups make Modern History; the sharing and celebrating doesn’t stop here.
Birju A., VP of Technology at the Restaurant Support Center (RSC)
Birju was born in India and emigrated to Los Angeles, California at a young age.
"[This] is a fairly common story of parents moving to America for the hope of a better life not for them but for their children. I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, with working parents who instilled in me and my sister the importance of family, respect, work ethic, and education. I look back now and it surprises me how diverse the community was, if I recall my friends and I were a true melting pot of ethnicities and backgrounds!”
As he got older, he went to UC Irvine (UCI) for an undergrad degree in pre-med and switched to a computer focus along the way. After he graduated and a few years in Technology consulting, he went back to UCI for an MBA, spent a decade in the pharmaceutical industry, and then the last 5+ years at Taco Bell Corp.
If you’re wondering what brought Birju to where he is today, it was his first experience with someone full-heartedly trusting him to do the job and do it well.
“I joined a pharmaceutical company right out of business school. It was my first time in the industry, but I liked the Technology leadership team and the culture they were building there. First week in, the Chief Information Officer [CIO] hands me a failing technology project to manage and complete in a specific timeframe. I knew how to code and connect things together but had never been a project manager. To this day, that was when I was the most unsure of my abilities in my career,” he said.
It was that moment where he realized that he needed to lean into his confidence, skills, support from peers and curious mindset to successfully bring a project from start to finish.
“The experience gave me confidence in facing any challenge and was a healthy reminder to always have a curious mindset... and the importance of a strong, supportive and collaborative culture in the workplace – coming from the top.”
Throughout his time at The Bell, he took that experience and ran with it. His day-to-day includes leading efforts to grow Taco Bell’s digital footprint, simplifying operations as well as volunteering his time to driving impact in the Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (EI&B) space.
Birju was one of the first members of the cross-functional group that connects various departments to Taco Bell’s EI&B initiatives. As part of that group, he sponsored the Employee Resource Group (ERG) centered around celebrating, recognizing, and empowering the Asian community – Live Más CREAsians.
“I’m so proud of Live Más CREAsians’ impact at Taco Bell; bringing awareness to the breadth of Asian cultures, impact of Asians on American history through stories from our very own RSC employees, and difficult topics such as the increase in Asian-American violence across America. It’s been a privilege and honor to be associated with Live Más CREAsians but all the credit goes to the founding members (Ratika G., Vivian T., Malia A., Ed L.) and the current officers (Katie E., Dan P., James L., Kim W., John N.) in continuing the momentum, and all the committee chairs, members, advocates, and CTO, Steve Plank (our Executive Sponsor)!”
And when he thinks about what advice he could give to aspiring leaders in underrepresented communities, he recommends staying authentic and leading in your own way.
“This is one of the reasons why I love the culture at Taco Bell and Yum! Brands, authenticity is celebrated. I’m of Southeast Asian descent and I grew up in a very reserved cultural environment, speak respectfully and with thoughtfulness, don’t yell or bring too much attention to yourself. I’ve tried being the opposite and failed miserably because it wasn’t me. At some point, I realized being myself was a strength for me and in how I lead.”
Not only that, but he recommends seeking out an advocate, champion, mentor, and someone that has influence and who will always have your back.
“In my career, I’ve been fortunate to have built relationships with a handful of advocates and mentors who have helped guide my career and personal life, along with being a friend. Many times, you won’t know who the individual will be, sometimes it will surprise you, and other times it’ll become obvious.”
He doesn’t plan on stopping his momentum anytime soon. For Birju, it’s the next adventure that motivates him to keep going. Whether professionally or personally, he believes that there’s always something around the corner.
“Adventures have unknowns, surprises, ups, and downs, that’s what excites me most. Reaching the end or achieving an accomplishment is certainly great but it’s the adventure before the end that I enjoy. Right now, Taco Bell’s digital growth is an exciting adventure we are on right now, while personally I feel like I’m on an adventure with no end raising a 5-year-old and a 3.5-year-old with my wife!”