Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Neo4j

Aloha, my name is Keoni Gaspar. I am a Senior Business Development Manager here at Neo4j and lead the US Business/Sales Development team. I have been a leader at Neo4j for over four years now, and have been in the tech industry for over 20 years leading previous sales teams. Like most sales professionals, I had to work hard to become successful, though my story starts at a young age from the islands of Hawaii.

Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Neo4j

I was born and raised in Kona, Hawaii (the “Big Island”). My parents worked for the brick-and-mortar sector, an industry in which most islanders find themselves in. On the islands, you are very limited to resources, as well as career paths.

My parents decided to be the first family to get off the rock and give their children something different. This was not an easy choice and one that took months of deliberation. Weighing the advantages and realities in the ’80s were different than they would be today. The decision to leave came with both sacrifice and greatness. We moved to the Bay Area, in the heart of Silicon Valley, and my parents got jobs in the tech industry.

My siblings and I had to adjust to mainland life at the ages of seven and nine. The biggest challenges for us Polynesian kids included learning proper English, dressing the part of mainland kids, and fitting into a society of children who were perfect strangers to me. I eventually learned English and found a group of friends after six months of speech classes.

We ended up moving to a farming community in the suburbs of the South Bay, and I became a troubled kid who was ashamed of being an Asian Pacific Islander. The community around me in high school was predominantly white, and I was among the less than one percent of students of color who had to adjust. I ended up hanging out with a lot of juvenile delinquents.

As a troubled Asian Poly kid, I hated school and everyone around me. I suffered from a lot of depression because I wasn’t part of the “normal” crowd. After barely graduating from high school, I settled into my career and eventually turned my insecurities into ammunition to prove to everyone that I could make it.

I graduated college at the top of my class and became a director at my first full-time job. Eventually, I got into tech sales and became the top sales rep in all of my positions, leading a few teams to success. I now work at a leading database company that is changing the way the world looks at data.

I have learned that the differences that define my past and identity as an Asian Pacific Islander have made me a much better and prouder person today. Looking back on your past experiences, it’s clear that you grow and mature with the current time and adjust to the situations that are given to you. It is the very essence of someone’s well-being to learn and grow from their mistakes, as well as adapt to the environments they’re thrown into.

I’m proud to be an Asian Pacific Islander, and I carry my heritage and roots with me. Applying this to my social life and professional career has given me an advantage. I’ve used my personal experience to enhance the professional aspects of my work and well-being as an employee of Neo4j.

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