Hi. This is Mark, former McKinsey consultant and current VP Operations of Sendbird, as you may remember. My family and friends call me Sang-hee, Lee.
Over the past ten years, I have been using the name Mark Lee. Finally, I will revert my legal name back to the name of Sang-hee today on April 20th, 2020. First of all, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Sendbird’s colleagues for supporting and cheering on this decision and to the friends here in the San Francisco Bay area who warmly welcomed me since I landed here from South Korea for the first time in May 2017.
I would not have been able to make this decision without your warm and cheering support because I needed more courage than I initially thought to make this decision. I am still a bit hesitant to worry about how people might find it inconvenient to remember and pronounce my name while feeling foreign and disengaged. But now, I’m trying to take a step forward.
In 2015, when I first named myself Mark Lee and started working at Sendbird, many companies in Korea began to use English names like a trend. We hoped that English names may ease the vertical hierarchical corporate environment in Korea while creating more horizontal relationships between people. However, I have learned that enabling horizontal relationships comes from respect and appreciation for people and self-reflective leadership that constantly looks back on his or herself.
When I first stepped on U.S. soil in May 2017, even the smallest daily routine was a challenge to me; one example of the troubles I faced included even just pronouncing my legal name, Lee Sang-hee, to the employees of the Social Security Administration Office. So, I thought using the name of a native American speaker, Mark Lee, would be a little less heterogeneous and allow me to assimilate into American society quicker. Maybe I was right at some point.
However, I was wrong about one big thing. I underestimated this society’s deep understanding of and willingness to embrace diversity. The San Francisco Bay Area region of California, represented by Silicon Valley, is a society in which diversity has become a constant source of growth in the history of immigration more than anywhere else in the United States. I was the only one who didn’t know the fact that those who live here would accept me for who I am, even if I didn’t pretend to be someone else for their convenience.
My name is 尙熹, 李 (Sanghee, Lee) in Chinese characters, and it means “not yet successful, but will be shining someday”. As I grew up, I never liked my name. I may have wanted to blame my name after being frustrated from missing so many goals in my life no matter how I tried because of a small part of me that maybe believed that people become exactly like how they are named. Now in 2020, looking back at things retrospectively, I am certain that I have received many gifts from people, teachers, mentors and friends that I had never imagined before, and that I have grown a lot.
I’m not sure why this became the subject matter of my blog post, but I feel quite relieved now. I am excited to finally be myself. Thank you, everyone, This is Sanghee.