AEO Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month: Tracy S., Director – Planning

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 Tracy S., Director – Planning. Tracy spent most of her summers with family in Japan. Keep reading for more on how Tracy’s heritage and identity have shaped her experiences and led to her being an advocate for inclusion.

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

I’ve been with AEO for 18 years (soon to be 19 years in July!). I’m currently the Director of Merchandise Planning for OFFLINE.  

Tell us about your personal background. How and where did you grow up?

I grew up in York, Pennsylvania, but spent most of my summers in Fukushima, Japan with my mother’s family. As a child I remember constantly tugging on my mother’s arm asking her “What did they say?,” because I didn’t understand the language.  It wasn’t until I was in sixth grade that I decided to learn Japanese and could finally stop bothering my mother to be my interpreter!

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 knew I wanted to be in retail after taking a retail management class in college.  I found consumer behavior fascinating and was very lucky to find a position that paired my love of retail with my love of numbers!  Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to have mentors and managers who have helped and inspired me.

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

My mother maintained many Japanese customs and traditions in our house. I was self-conscious about being different and questioned if kids would want to be friends with me. As a child my lunch from home was in a bento box filled with rice, tempura and vegetables.  I know, sounds delicious but all I wanted was the peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the cool lunch box that everyone else had!

Experiences like that have made me an advocate for inclusion. Regardless of background, I never want anyone to feel like they don’t belong. 

Do you have any favorite cultural traditions?
My favorite memories of the time I spent in Japan are with my grandmother.  We traveled throughout the country together to visit friends and family.  She was a retired high school teacher and stressed the importance of education and to never stop learning.