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Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Commerce team member Xuanhua Zhu.

In 2021, President Joe Biden proclaimed May as AANHPI Month, or Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Month, although we will still refer to it as AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) month as it is more commonly known as.

AAPI Heritage Month represents an ideal opportunity to honor their contributions to society — and according to Xuanhua Zhu, an IT manager for Commerce Bank in Kansas City, it’s also an occasion to learn more about each other. “It’s a great time to share stories — personal stories about the communities and cultures we come from,” she says.

“The hope is that it helps us all feel more comfortable with each other so everyone can be the best version of themselves.”

Zhu’s own story is one that involves significant life changes. When she moved with her husband from China in the early 1990s, she didn’t just switch countries; she also pursued an entirely new career path. “I got a bachelor’s degree in journalism in China, and I had a career producing documentaries at TV stations in large cities,” she says. “But I had always been interested in science, so after we came to America, I went back to school.”

Zhu earned a master’s degree in computer science and began working in software development and technical management. “I loved computer science from the beginning, and that’s how I got started,” she says.

After working in the healthcare, telecom and consumer electronics industries, Zhu found her way to Commerce, starting as an IT technical team manager in May 2015. Today, she oversees two teams. “One team does content management platform development — for example, we work behind the scenes on commercebank.com and several other websites for the bank,” she says. “The other team handles development work for our customer relationship management software, which we use for commercial banking clients.”

Geeta Buddharaju — an IT senior manager at Commerce who has known Zhu since she started at the bank and is now her supervisor — says Zhu is an ideal fit for her role. “Her accountability and sense of ownership is outstanding,” Buddharaju says. “She’s very reliable and follows through on everything she does. She knows how to get things done, doesn’t hesitate to learn new things, and is open to taking on additional responsibilities.”

As Zhu reflects on AAPI Heritage Month, she says she is grateful for her work environment at Commerce. “People respect each other here, no matter who they are or where they come from,” she says.

“There is a diversity of mindsets here that helps me feel very comfortable and confident, and I can express myself fully. My perspective is valued. It’s a fantastic work culture here, and I’m grateful for it.”

Zhu says that when she came to the U.S., she didn’t know what to expect in terms of the difference in cultures. “That uncertainty can make you feel nervous,” she adds. “But so many people here embrace different cultures and are open-minded. People have good curiosity; they want to learn where I’m from and want to know my heritage, traditions and background. And that has made me even more eager to learn about this country and other people’s heritage here.”

As Zhu notes, it’s important for people to respect each other’s uniqueness and backgrounds. “Everyone brings their own strengths to their work and their communities,” she says. “We are all better able to work together when we understand each other’s worlds better. It helps us empathize with and support each other. When that happens, we deliver better results, too.”

That mindset of collaboration, she says, is always present in her work at Commerce. “People here are very friendly and respectful, and I love the sense of teamwork here,” Zhu says.

“There’s a focus on teamwork and communication here at Commerce. We’re very goal-driven, and we work in partnership toward those goals.”

One of the values Zhu brings to her work is that of a strong work ethic, which is something her parents instilled in her as she grew up in Tianjin, a metropolis about 80 miles southeast of Beijing. “My mother is an accountant, and my father is a scientist; they had a strong influence on me,” she says. “They taught me the value of hard work and persistence, and not being afraid of change.”

As a team leader at Commerce, Zhu also enjoys helping others grow. “I love to see people succeed,” she says.

“I’m supportive of my team members and I try to help them advance their careers within Commerce.”

Buddharaju says this is a quality she has noticed about Zhu over the years. “Xuanhua watches out for other people,” she says. “She takes the time to get to know people and build relationships. She’s the kind of person everyone enjoys working with.”


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