AAPI Heritage Month Employee Feature: Kia Thao, Benefits Specialist

by Sam Perley

Throughout the month of May, Hornets.com will be highlighting employees across different departments within the organization in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Describe what you do with the Charlotte Hornets organization.

“I am the Benefits Specialist and a part of the Human Resources Department. I help assist and manage health and welfare benefits, 401(k), wellness, leave of absences, and workers compensation. I work with team members, benefit brokers, benefit providers, and 401(k) providers. My goal is to keep all members of the HSE family informed and educated on all things benefits.”

What experience has had the most significant impact on your career in sports?

“Well, I just started my career in sports this January, so I am still new to HSE and the sports industry. However, Charlotte is where I developed a love for both basketball and football. One of the reasons why I wanted to be a part of HSE was because I wanted to be a part of a team that I cheered for.”

“I consider myself fortunate to be a part of the HSE family because not everyone gets to join ‘the Charlotte Hornets!’ This is what I consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’d like to say my husband is super jealous because he’s a sports fanatic! Charlotte is what I consider home, and I wanted to be part of an organization that not only feels like a family, but is community-focused.”

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?

“Awareness. Recognition.”

“Being a member of the AAPI community, more specifically the Hmong community, I still have so much to learn, not only about Hmong history and culture, but about other AAPI communities. I appreciate that, during the month of May, the AAPI community is reminded of our history, accomplishments, current and future goals, and that, we too belong and deserve to strive for the ‘American Dream.’”

How do you see yourself as an example in the AAPI community?

“I’m definitely not an activist and I am sure I’ll never be, but I’d like to say taking baby steps in educating myself and those around me is a step forward. Working for HSE – which has such a huge presence in Charlotte and throughout the Carolinas – joining the AAPI Employee Resource Group, and being a part of this Employee Spotlight is already a step forward for me. My belief is that, regardless of your position in the community, you can make a difference, big or small. Everyone has to start somewhere.”

Who are the most influential AAPI role models in your life?

“This is a tough question to answer, and I feel like I’m supposed to name an individual who is well-known. I know that I’d like to educate myself more on AAPI individuals that have paved the way for the next generation. On a personal note, I would say my family. I’m not going to pinpoint anyone specific because I’ve looked up to different family members in different points of my life for guidance.”

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