Representation Matters: Celebrating Sharon Plasser

May 25, 2021 Jacquana Beckwith

Acuity Brands is proud to celebrate and recognize our top talent. In May, we are profiling Asian American leaders lighting the way for our associates, customers, and communities. We sat down with them to find out about their professional motivation and get a glimpse of who they are outside of the workplace.

"As an Asian American immigrant, every day feels like AAPI Heritage Month. I'm here and have the opportunities I have because other trailblazers – immigrants, people of color, women – paved the way for me."

Sharon Plasser joined Acuity in December 2020 as VP, Product Management for ABL Tech. There are two things that she is most grateful for in her career: impacting and learning. What's most rewarding to her is that her team's work contributes to the business' success. She loves that no two days are the same and that she also gets to continuously learn. As a leader, she also loves playing a part in the professional and personal growth of others.

When Sharon is not working, you might find her doing outdoor activities with friends and family. She even thought about becoming a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) or Outward Bound instructor! Her love of the outdoors is evident, as she has recently been looking into a camper van. "Being able to visit beautiful places off the beaten path and sleep in a bed is ridiculous and liberating all at once."

Sharon's native language is Mandarin; however, when she and her family moved to the US, she quickly forgot the language due to lack of use. Something she still excels at, however, is pattern recognition. As a child, she used to do brain teasers, pattern games, and puzzles for fun. "I can only imagine how many tv shows, movies, and book endings I accidentally ruined for my brother because I guessed the end halfway through. Fortunately, he still likes me."

Speaking of family, Sharon and her husband recently gained a new niece who lives in Austria, a place they can't wait to travel to eventually, in addition to Taiwan, to visit her family. Not being able to see family during the pandemic has been challenging, but Sharon is profoundly grateful for the time she has spent with her loved ones (at home and virtually). Usually, Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival are the two most important traditions that she celebrates. They both involve getting together with family and friends, reflecting on the past year, giving thanks, and copious amounts of delicious food. Although the celebrations will look a little different this year, there are other ways to acknowledge AAPI month. "This is a great time to think about how Asian and Pacific Americans have contributed to art, music, science, mathematics, and literature."

When it comes to raising awareness about important issues that impact the global Asian community, Sharon, explained that there is no such thing as a unified "Asian-American" identity. "Asian-Americans and Pacific-Americans encompass a large set of ethnic identities with their own cultures, histories, experiences, and struggles. Even South Asian Americans and East Asian Americans have distinctly different experiences in America. Systemic bias, racism, poverty, and violence are intersectional and complex, and it takes a tremendous amount of conscious effort to unwind implicit prejudices. For more about the important issues that impact the AAPI community, read and listen, be responsible for getting informed."

Want to learn other tidbits about Sharon? Check out more from her interview below!

How has the pandemic impacted you (personally and/or professionally)? What have you learned during this time? 

The past year has been a time of tremendous loss, pain, and cruelty, but it has also been a story of resilience, perseverance, and kindness. Besides the extra weight I've put on since the pandemic began, I'm profoundly grateful for the time I've been able to spend with the people I care about (at home and virtually). I'm thankful for the healthcare professionals and scientists who've worked tirelessly to combat this pandemic and for the retail, manufacturing, supply chain, transportation, and logistics people who continue to grease the wheels of global commerce. I am also thankful for advances in technology that have allowed us to keep in touch and work remotely. Progress does not happen overnight, but it starts somewhere. I'll keep working at being the best version of myself that I can be and helping others around me do the same.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why? 

Time control. Being able to slow, rewind, fast forward, and pause time. What's not to like? (I have no desire for time travel because who needs paradoxes? 😊.)

Who is at your dream dinner party (living or not)? Why? What are you serving? 

Marie Curie, Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Chien-Shiung Wu, Epictetus, Bertrand Russell, Ada Palmer, Winston Churchill. A chemist, an astronomer, a pragmatist, a physicist, a stoic, a humanist, a historian, a politician, what could possibly go wrong? All kidding aside, each of these individuals has very strong personal beliefs that shape how they view and interact with the world, and it would make for some interesting conversation. (If we assume we could bypass the difficulties of language, culture, and gender, of course.) I would probably forget about dinner because I'd be too distracted by the conversation. When we all finally remembered to be hungry, we'd have to order dinner from any place that delivered, so we'd end up eating a random assortment that will probably include pizza, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Burmese, and Orren's Hummus. Did Winston bring enough drinks for everyone? I hope someone brought dessert.

Do you have a favorite podcast? 

I enjoy the mix of pop culture, irreverent banter, and news that happens on Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway. Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal is a close second because the economy is everything (not just the stock market).

 

What are some resources that you'd like people to be aware of? 

For those of you who are interested in learning more about how to help address the rise in Asian-directed violence: https://standwithasianamericans.com

For those of you interested in learning more about the Asian American and Pacific American experience: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/asian-american

 

The model minority myth is harmful. To learn more about it: 

The Model Minority Myth

The Year We Weaponized The Model Minority Myth

The model minority myth hides the racist and sexist violence experienced by Asian women

'Model Minority' Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians And Blacks

 

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