Jie-ZhengBy Patricia Kaowthumrong

When Jie “Jay” Zheng relocated to Colorado more than a decade ago to work at Broomfield-based StorageTek, he realized that local professionals, especially Asian Americans, could benefit from an organization that offered leadership development resources and networking opportunities.

In 2006, Zheng founded the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP), a group that provides leadership development, networking and community service opportunities to Asian-American professionals and students in the metro Denver area.

“When I first established NAAAP Colorado, I had a vision, but what has happened since has far exceeded my expectations,” said Zheng, who served as the organization’s founding president and board member. “I’m so proud of all the past and current members of NAAAP Colorado that have made the organization great.”

Zheng came to the United States from China to attend the University of Rochester, where he received a master’s in polymer chemistry and business administration. After obtaining his degrees, he worked at Xerox as a senior project engineer and business development manager before moving to Colorado.

“He has dedicated countless hours to serve the community and Asian-American professionals,” said Tim Higashide, Zheng’s mentee and colleague at NAAAP, who nominated Zheng for the Asian American Hero award. “While prioritizing family matters, he spent his personal time and resources to give more opportunities to Asian-American professionals, said Higashide, current NAAAP Colorado president. “He connects people and organizations to bring the community together with a vision for the future and attention to the present.”

Zheng’s accomplishments at NAAAP include the successful hosting of the three-day NAAAP National Convention in Denver in 2009 and the increased exposure of Asian-American professionals to corporations such as MillerCoors, Prudential and Macy’s, according to Higashide.

While Zheng is the busy owner of Volcano Asian Cuisine, he makes time to volunteer with the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, support the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference and help educate local elementary schools about Chinese and Japanese cultures. Through his restaurant, he has supported numerous community events and fundraisers.

Zheng says the experiences of “culture shocks” he encountered as a graduate student were obstacles, but they were also valuable lessons that helped him become a more competent leader. He developed an ability to leverage his cultural background, understand cultural differences and share his experiences with different generations.

Zheng’s most important values are respect, and business and cultural competency. He advises younger generations to seek these values as well.

“Younger generations typically have the advantage to absorb multicultural values and apply them to their lives and careers in the future,” Zheng says. “As we continue to be a global economy, those cross-cultural competencies are extremely important.”