Anne Chow, senior vice president of AT&T's Premier Client Group, describes her childhood as "very, very traditional" for a second-generation daughter of Taiwanese immigrants.
Born in Missouri and raised in Holmdel, N.J., she was taught to play classical piano and was expected to excel at math and science. But during her 20-plus years at AT&T, No. 4 in The 2011 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity, Chow took a path less traveled by Asians, merging her technical skills and her passion for people.
She describes "sales" as an atypical profession for Asians, and for an introverted engineer like herself, initially, it went against her grain.
With master's degrees in business administration and electrical engineering, both from Cornell University, Chow pursued a telecommunications career that began with a college internship at Bellcore. In 1990, Chow joined AT&T, first taking on technical positions.
"Initially, [sales] was not something I wanted to do. It was something my mentors had advised me I really needed to do if I aspired to be an executive someday, so I did it and I fell in love with it," Chow says.
In 2004, Chow became the first Chinese-American officer at AT&T. Today she oversees a large sales organization with nearly $9 billion in revenue. To this day, her parents have "no understanding or appreciation" for her sales role.
"Their paradigm of a salesperson is a used-car salesman," she says with a smile. "It's not viewed as an honorable profession."
Her strong commitment to diversity evolved through work with AT&T's Asian-American employee group, where she is a member of the advisory council. In August, she was named to the Committee of 100, a national organization of prominent Chinese Americans. She is one of the founding board members of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund. Chow is also a board member and former national advisory council chairperson of the Asian American Justice Center.
"I strongly believe leadership involves serving and giving," she says.