Tell us about your backgrounD
I actually don’t have any memories of Thailand. I was born in the refugee camp and soon after as a newborn, my family immigrated to the United States in 1980. However, a little over a year before I was born, my parents had my brother and had been living in the refugee camp for a couple of years.
What was the biggest reason your family wanted to move to the US?
My mom, dad, brother, and I immigrated to the US In 1980 on a very long flight to Los Angeles. We were soon placed in Missouri and lived there for a year. My family moved to the US as refugees who were seeking asylum from civil disruption caused by a combination of both The Vietnam War and The Secret War in Laos. Their dreams were to seek better quality life opportunities, education, and stability.
What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?
It’s a reminder that there are many cultures and backgrounds that make up the greatness of our community, some as close as our backyard. There’s a large population of Lao Americans living in the Acadiana region of Louisiana, and each year the annual Laotian New Year Festival is one of the largest of its size in the country. It’s gained national recognition and takes place in Iberia Parish. This is an indication that there are many hidden gems in terms of people and culture no matter how big or small a place may seem.
Tell me about what inspired you to pursue a career in infrastructure and environmental
Fun Fact about myself: I worked in the aerospace industry in California. After moving back to Louisiana, I was offered a job at Cardno ATC [an Atlas legacy company] working in the Construction Materials Testing side. I went from having knowledge about manufacturing products to send to outer space to learning there were different types of soils and requirements for roadways. Yes — two total opposite industries of work!
What is your favorite Atlas project that you have worked on?
When I first got hired, I worked in the field office, in a trailer on the job site. It was a Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development project where they were building new bridges and roadways. It was interesting to see all the different aspects that went into this project from engineering, construction, and inspections. I was able to go on site at times to see what they were working on.
Tell us a story about how you’ve helped your community
My local Lao community has a non-profit called the Wat Thammarattanaram Youth & Sports Foundation. Their goal is to provide accessible opportunities for Lao children to experience fun and enriching activities to create a better quality of life for them. They also raise funds to build outdoor equipment and playgrounds at the local Lao Buddhist temple. In the last several years, my family has supported their cause, and my kids are avid users of the space dedicated to encouraging outdoor play and fun at the temple.
Share a piece of career advice.
Always be willing to learn new things and adapt to change in order to be successful. You’ll be glad you did, it pays dividends.