In their own words: Maggie Chan Jones on AAPI Month
As we celebrate Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month during May, the USTA also celebrates those in the AAPI community whose dedication to the sport as USTA volunteers helps to keep our game growing strong. With more than 350 national volunteers from all 17 USTA sections, it would be difficult to recognize every AAPI leader here. But we’re thrilled to highlight these volunteer leaders—in their own words—whose contributions, influence and enthusiasm continue to push this organization and this sport forward. Here, we highlight Maggie Chan Jones, who is a Director at Large on the USTA National Board of Directors.
The first time I held a tennis racquet was when I was 16, in high school. I saw a flier about an after-school program for tennis. I had played a lot of badminton growing up, and I’ve always loved racquet sports. Tennis, though, has turned into a passion for me.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong, then came to New York at age 14. Those first few years, with English as a second language and being thousands of miles away from my friends and family, it was tough for me to integrate into American culture, but when I discovered tennis, that really helped me. I played my senior year in high school and met a group of girls and my coach who were just wonderful. Then I continued to play recreationally in college and afterward. Now, I play on four different USTA League teams.
Throughout my adult life, tennis has played a big role for me and helped me in many ways.
My husband and I have both worked in the technology industry, and we’ve moved five times around the country for our jobs. Each time, though, tennis would help me settle into the area and get to know people, including at our current home in Connecticut.
In 2018, after spending more than 20 years in the tech industry, primarily in big tech, I founded a company called Tenshey Inc., whose mission is to advance diversity in the workplace. Throughout my career, I didn’t really see a lot of women or ethnic minorities in leadership roles. And that was the reason I wanted to make it a mission of mine—to help increase the number of women and diverse leaders. (“Tenshi” means “angel” in Japanese.)
[Editor’s Note: Chan Jones was the first woman to become the Global Chief Marketing Officer for SAP, the world’s largest enterprise application software company. In 2017, she was named one of Forbes’ Top 20 World’s Most Influential CMOs. She has also held key positions at iconic tech companies such as Microsoft and Level 3 Communications. In addition to serving on the USTA Board of Directors, she also serves on the board of directors for three global tech companies.]
With Tenshey, we have Women Sponsorship Programs that look to foster a culture of inclusion in companies, and we help to elevate diverse talent through executive and career coaching. I’m proud to say that Tenshey has been recognized by Inc. Magazine with the 2021 Best in Business award, and by Diversity Journal with the 2020 Innovations in Diversity Award.
I’ve had a lot of mentors throughout my career, but what’s also been key for me—and others—are “sponsors.” Mentors are the people who shine the light at the door for you; sponsors are the ones who kick the door open for you. In the corporate setting, if you do your work and keep your head down, it is not enough to get you to the top. But what will propel you forward is getting recognized for your work and getting recognized for your potential. At Tenshey, we work with organizations to foster executive sponsorships of high potential diverse leaders. This also applies in the tennis world, too. How do you help someone grow into a professional leadership role at a club, organization or company, or into general management? You need sponsors to really help open those doors.
I know that in my career, I wouldn’t have gotten to this point without sponsors. When Covid hit, I took time to write a book about how sponsors help. In “Decoding Sponsorship,” I share the stories and lessons I’ve learned throughout my career, how “sponsorship” has played such a key role in my and others’ careers, and how it multiplies the influence when it comes to cultures of belonging, diversity, equity and inclusion.
For me, personally, Asian-American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a good reminder of my own Asian culture and upbringing and how it has helped shape who I am today. I think diversity, equity and inclusion are so important in all things—in tennis, in the USTA itself, in all businesses and organizations. This is where we are our strongest. I’m so proud of the diversity we have on the USTA board and of our mission to make tennis and the USTA look like America.
Tennis is so many things for me. It’s a great way to get unplugged from my work. It’s terrific physical exercise and mental wellness, and it sharpens my thinking when it comes to business challenges. But it’s also very social—the friends I’ve made through tennis have become my support system, and I am part of their support system. I’m so grateful for this sport and the opportunities it affords, and I’m especially grateful that I’m able to give back through service on the USTA national board.
[Editor’s Note: Other honors Chan Jones has received include Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business (2021) by Asian American Business Development Center, Women of the Decade in Marketing, Branding and Communication (2018) by Women Economic Forum; and Woman of the Year (2014) by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications.]