Introducing Heinz Yu and reflecting on being Filipino-American

Heinz Yu

Heinz Yu, manager of the Windows Services Group at UC Irvine and 25-year veteran of UC Tech, spoke with the UC IT blog team recently about his work and experiences as an immigrant from the Philippines. He reached out to us to share kudos regarding members of his team, whom we covered in a recent issue. We then turned the tables and began discussing his background. We hope you enjoy highlights of our conversation and that you reach out for an interview or share your news with our team as well. Please contact us any time.

Tell us more about your heritage and early career

I am Filipino-American in two ways. My great grandfather, an American born in the late 1800s from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, served in the US army in the Philippines in World War I. He married my great grandmother when he retired from active duty in Manila.  In the 1980’s, my mom learned that she could then also become an US citizen as well.  When I turned 20, she recommended that I follow in her footsteps and come to the US so that I could become a US citizen as well. The only stipulation was that I would have to do this right away in order to still be considered a child under US immigration law, which makes the process much easier.

When I moved to America, my first work experience was in retail, with The Wherehouse and, later, Circuit City. Working for these companies was incredibly lucky for me two reasons: (1) I was able to totally immerse myself in American culture and therefore gain confidence in both speaking English and interacting with American people, who had been so foreign to me; and (2) I learned valuable skills in customer service that I carry with me today. These skills include active listening, knowing my product, and resolving conflict.

I attribute my own values to my parents, who were both raised in the Philippines, but who come from diverse cultures and races. They valued challenging work and respecting elders, and these are two values that I strive to put into practice in everything I do.

What do you find meaningful about your work today?

In my work, one of my objectives is to motivate, inspire and grow members of my team. As their manager, I am their mentor, and work to make them feel heard and safe.  I am proud to say that everyone in my team trusts each other.  This means that they feel open to sharing any concerns they may have with me and other members of the team.

The Windows Services group focuses on delivering solutions leveraging Microsoft technologies and is currently composed of nine Windows System administrators.   My team is currently migrating 7,500 mailboxes from a legacy mail system to Microsoft’s and Google’s cloud mail service, moving user files from our on-premises file servers to Microsoft’s OneDrive, and increasing the security posture in Active Directory.  For the e-mail and file migration projects, my team ensures there is no data loss and nor sub-standard user experience after the migration.  Because of those guiding principles, the checklists are comprehensive and constant check-ins are necessary to ensure success.

What is your professional training?

I received my Bachelor of Science (BS) in computer science from De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines. While I learned how to solve problems in a logical manner and exercise critical thinking, it was at UC Irvine that I learned how to respond to the technical challenges of a work environment.

On the technical side, UC Irvine opens the door to its community to take advantage of a number of training programs. In 2016, I received a certificate from the Division of Continuing Education in Cyber Security, based on a 2-year course (15 units, with 14 hours a week of work).  In addition to the training that has been available to me, I have always had supervisors that encouraged me to take leadership courses and to attend workshops and conferences. They sent me the important message, “This is your responsibility, and this is how I am supporting you to go and take advantage of these opportunities” This culture has been critical to my career progression and job satisfaction, and I work to be the same with those on my team.

This is your responsibility, and this is how I am supporting you to go and take advantage of these opportunities.

Heinz Yu’s managers

What do you do outside work?

I start each day by meditating for 20 minutes. I also do journaling. This is especially important to me because it removes the ruminations of my mind, freeing me from worries and keeping me positive. It also allows me to stay focused on what I can control and what is important. Each day, I set out to accomplish three important things. In this way, I know what I must do during the day. I have come to understand that we cannot do everything, but, with at least three things, I can move the needle forward.

I have devoted almost 20 years of my life practicing the Japanese martial art of Aikido and hold a second-degree black belt.  This has a considerable influence on me and my approach to life and work. Aikido is the practice of understanding the energies that surround us and learning to face and redirect negativity. It is easy to be triggered through negative events in life or at work, so, through Aikido, one is trained to evaluate and solve problems with a clear head.  I stopped practicing Aikido during Covid because I wanted to see what was out there in terms of other martial arts. I do not know what is next, but, for the moment, my current hobbies have expanded to include automotive mechanics. For the moment, I spend time modifying and working on my Toyota FJ Cruiser, photography, and playing the guitar.

You first approached us about the veterans on your team. Can you share more about them?

There are three veterans in my team of nine people, one each from the army, air force, and marines, so we have an extremely high number on a percentage basis (33%). It is fascinating for me to see how the military has shaped them and how they apply their skills. All three of them talk about core values within their branch (e.g., the US Marine Corps have honor, courage, and commitment), and I believe this provides a strong foundation to their approach to work and makes them easy to work with. There is a level of consistency and predictability to their working style, which I appreciate.

Are there any events and/or news/resources you care to share with us today?

  1. Filipino heritage – When people ask about learning more about Filipino culture, I say, “Eat with me,” and I take them out for food. And, as for the dish that is the most nostalgic to me, it is Sisig, which consists of chopped pig head, served on a sizzling hot plate with garlic and onions. Sisig is eaten over rice and is delicious! It looks like well-seasoned, ground beef. Eating this dish brings back fond memories of time with friends in college in Manila, when I had it for the first time.  For those who would like to try Filipino cuisine, you can stop by Grill City in Irvine and Pinoy Pam’s Best in Lake Forest.
  2. Technical skills – My Microsoft Customer Success Account Manager provides a monthly list of workshops that my team can take advantage of.   
  3. Leadership skills – I subscribe to the Harvard Business Review and attend leadership conferences (UC’s People Management Conference and the UC Management Skills Assessment Program).   Also, my director provides recommended reading, one of which is “The Goal” – by Eliyahu Goldratt.

Addendum: Heinz Yu shares more about how he incorporates meditation into his work day and how he manages his time on a given day.

Heinz Yu’s in his office, starting his work day and sharing how he does that.

Editor’s note: Learn more about Heinz Yu here:

Heinz Yu on LinkedIn