AEO Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month: David Z. – Chief Digital Officer

May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. At AEO, we are taking this time to reflect on the significance of the AAPI community as we seek to amplify their voices, stories and contributions.

Meet David Z. – Chief Digital Officer at AEO! David was born in China and shares more on his family, culture and career journey below.

How long have you been with AEO? What is your current role and can you tell us a little about what you do?

I’m now in my second year at AEO, and in my role as Chief Digital Officer, my teams and I have responsibility for our customer-facing digital experiences. These include our websites, app, emails and beyond. A significant part of our business happens online, and our goal is to ensure that our online channel is a vessel that sets the right context for, and brings to life, the beautiful products that our design, merchant, and operations teams work hard to create.

Tell us about your personal background. Where did you grow up?

I was born in China and raised in Brooklyn. My parents immigrated to the US in the late 80s. It was a difficult journey – they landed at JFK with two ratty suitcases, a seven-year-old son, and the courage to start over. Limited by their lack of English, they took what jobs they could find. They were outrageously overworked and underpaid, but they never brought any bitterness home.

Tell us about your career journey. What were the most important moments? When you started out, did you think you’d be doing what you’re doing today?

I started my working life as a consultant at Bain many years ago, and while I had no idea at the time where that would take me, I was lucky to discover early on my interest in consumer businesses. I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and human behavior, the factors that drive people’s decision making, and I found that one of the best places to explore that interest was in consumer and retail. My favorite projects at Bain were all in consumer, and after I finished the associate consultant program there, I decided to take a job at Limited Brands where I worked on product commercialization for Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. It was a lot of fun. I went to grad school after that, then spent most of the next decade in ecommerce. That journey eventually brought me to AEO.

How has your identity shaped your experiences, both in and out of the workplace?

That’s an interesting question. As much identity shapes our experiences, I think it’s just as true that experiences shape our identity. Who I am today is a reflection of the experiences I had growing up in that little house in Brooklyn and the things my parents taught me there – about courage, sacrifice, optimism, creativity, and hard work.

Do you have any favorite cultural traditions?

Spending time with family is an important part of Chinese culture and tradition, and I’m very lucky to be able to see my parents and my grandma (who’s going to be 97 this year!) pretty often.

How do you celebrate your heritage at work?

Chinese food! Actually, Asian food in general. My team at this point probably knows how much I like Asian food. Every time I come to visit the team in our Pittsburgh offices, I literally get the exact same Chinese dish for lunch every day (beef with tomatoes over rice, from a place called Mad Noodles). It’s amazing!