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Celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Q&A with ESL Employee Aldi Priyanto

In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Awareness Month, we sat down with Aldi Priyanto, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist at ESL to learn more about what this month means to him.

May 2024

Can you please share where you grew up and what that was like?

I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital city. I moved to the Rochester area when I was just turning 15. I grew up in a large, tight-knit family, which provided me a strong network of support. We all lived in the same city, in proximity to one another, and would gather often.

When my immediate family moved to the U.S., it was quite a challenging transition. First, on a more surface level, it was rather jarring to move from a huge, busy metropolitan like Jakarta to a quiet, smaller city like Rochester, which, at the time, didn't have quite as many things going on as it does today. Secondly, on a deeper level, to be away from family and friends that had been our support system, while adjusting to a new place, a new language, a new culture, and a new way of life here in the U.S. was tough. For me, starting high school in the U.S. was its own major challenge, not only socially, but also adjusting to how the education system operates, which was quite different from Indonesia. Later, navigating higher education and everything that comes with it, was not any easier.

Aldi Priyanto, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist, ESL

There was plenty of learning and adjusting in the early days, which was at the same time exciting but also challenging and, at times, painful. However, it also allowed me to have unique perspectives and sensitivities that I wouldn't have otherwise, which still helps me to this day in navigating the complexities of life in the United States. Those challenges inadvertently shaped the path that led to my work in equity and inclusion, since it was difficult for me and my immediate family to navigate our first days in the U.S., not knowing the resources and support that could’ve made our transition smoother.

What has your career journey been like at ESL?

I've been fortunate at ESL to have a supervisor, Syd Bell, who sponsors and supports my career development within my role. I've taken on many professional development opportunities, both internally and externally, to help me hone and grow the skills and competencies necessary for my role. I also have to credit the learning and development team at ESL for offering an array of professional development options for employees to continue to grow within the organization.

What’s your favorite thing about ESL?

My favorite thing about ESL is working with my immediate team and the employee volunteers in the Employee Resource Groups Program. That is truly a come-together moment where we are all working collaboratively, bringing our own expertise, knowledge, and experiences to support each other and our colleagues in creating an open, welcoming, inviting workplace where folks have what they need to succeed in their endeavors. Having the opportunity to be part of that work is truly a privilege.

What advice would you share with others that has helped you?

One piece of advice that I think has continued to resonate with me, and applies to plenty of different situations and scenarios, is to be comfortable being uncomfortable because that is when we experience the most growth. When we challenge our discomfort, to understand why, and to reconcile that discomfort, it’s often the catalyst to push us beyond our safe and comfortable zone. We’re pushed towards that unknown territory where there's so much to learn and absorb, which would then help us be better than if we choose to remain within the safety of our comfort.

To learn more about ESL and opportunities to join our team, please visit