NAME: Ken Lew
NSIN AFFILIATION: NSIN Hacks Winner; X-Force Fellow 21’; Vector and Foundry Alum
AFFILIATION: PhD student, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service Cybercorp Recipient
Q: What inspired you to explore the national security community? Do you have a connection to the military or government service?
When I made the decision to hang up my uniform after 8 years of service in the United States Army, I knew that I would need to find ways to serve. As I was doing my graduate school at the University of Washington, I was exposed to NSIN and its mission. It all started with a hackathon organized by NSIN Hacks and I immediately saw the potential and the need for talents in every area in the DoD. This is when I realized that I can continue to serve my country in a different capacity that would allow me to use my technical knowledge as well as honing in on my passion to become an entrepreneur.
Q: Is it important for you to recognize Asian American and Pacific Islanders Month and can you tell us why or why not?
It is a celebration and a reminder to all of us that Asian American and Pacific Islanders have contributed in many ways in shaping American culture and society. As a first-generation immigrant in the United States, I am proud of my Chinese heritage. I am blessed and grateful to be here to commemorate those that have migrated here as early as 1843.
Q: Who inspired you growing up and how has it shaped your journey in the past, present, and future?
I am inspired by a specific group of people: The Chinese American. I have always been attracted to the history of Chinese Americans. As I was born and raised in Malaysia, I was also a fourth-generation Chinese descent immigrant. Now being a first-generation immigrant in the United States, I can somehow relate to the first wave of Chinese immigration from the very beginning. While it was a very different time, I admire their grit and tenacity to improve their lives despite meeting many challenges. It reminds me to be resilient and keep pushing forward!
Q: As a person of Asia Pacific descent, how is the national security community different for you?
No difference! In my 8 years of service in the military, I was being treated with respect and now, the military is like a family to me. As far as my involvement with NSIN, I have nothing but amazing experiences working with everyone that I have crossed paths with. Most importantly, I did not feel at any point that I was being treated differently because of my descent. To me, I tend to focus on the mission/task ahead and when you work with a group of people that goes through challenges alongside you, you make connections and friendship.
Q: What legacy do you want to leave for the next generation of professionals in the defense innovation ecosystem?
What is important to me is relationships and humility. In this domain, you work with a lot of talented folks as well as people from all walks of lives. That is what makes an organization like NSIN special. Therefore, it is crucial to stay humble and always be listening to what others have to say. Take the time to know people whether it is your teammates, mentor or staff within NSIN. While one can be highly technical, it is the connections and relationships that would bring you further in life.