If you’ve met Jen Teves, you’ve met her grandmother, Vicenta. The two were so close that Jen can see how her grandmother, who died in 2011, shows up in her day-to-day life.
When Vicenta, a teacher in the Philippines, taught Jen math as a child, she wasn’t allowed to have calculators or count on her fingers. She would put her hands behind her back and work the problems out in her head.
Jen, a research director at Best Buy, still uses these skills and others her grandmother taught her.
“When you’re freaking out about something, you sit down. You look at things. You chunk it out and tackle it one at a time,” Jen said. “That’s how she shows up in me.”
Carrying on her grandma’s legacy is important to Jen, who grew up in a small agricultural town in the Philippines and moved to the United States in 2005 for graduate school.
“When I told her I was going to go abroad for school, she told me, ‘Go as far as you can go,’” Jen said.
And she is. She went on to get a doctoral degree in philosophy and has grown her career to now lead a team of 50 researchers who help provide design direction for Best Buy’s products, services, experiences and technologies.
A family of trailblazers
Vicenta also played a big role in raising Jen, who was delivered via emergency cesarean section after her mother was shot in an ambush during unrest. She had them deliver Jen before they could operate on the bullets inside her body. Jen’s father was killed in the attack.
But decades before Jen was so memorably brought into this world, Vicenta got pregnant out of wedlock — a taboo in 1940s Philippines, where more than 80% of the population is Catholic.
She went on to get married and get a university degree, becoming one of the first teachers to establish a public education system in the south. Her family lived upstairs in their home, and she taught classes downstairs.
“I thought my grandmother for that time was a trailblazer in Philippine society,” she said. “I’m very proud of that history.”
Jen comes from a family of trailblazers. Her great uncle was the first doctor in her hometown, and her grandfather brought electricity to the village 30 years ago.
“We have a task to continue their legacies,” she said.
Last spring, when COVID-19 hit, Jen supported an organization called Frontline Feeders to feed health care workers at 45 hospitals in 17 cities across the Philippines.
A year later, Frontline Feeders has expanded to provide relief outside of the capital city. The organization has moved from relief to support and is now asking how it can assist the government’s vaccine initiative.
Blazing a trail at Best Buy
Jen’s also blazing a trail for other Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) employees at Best Buy.
The AAPI community has experienced an increase in harassment and violence since the start of the pandemic, and Jen began to raise her voice about what we could do as a company.
Since then, she’s helped lead listening and learning sessions on the topic. She wants to see Best Buy continue to make an effort to retain AAPI talent.
“The true test of Inclusion is when we keep those talents from all backgrounds and origins, keep them motivated, keep them happy, make them feel a sense of belonging and maximize their potential,” she said. “There is a lot to be said about the phrase ‘entering a room where there are people who look like me.’”
It’s just one way she’s carrying on the legacy of her mother and late grandmother.
“This is what fuels me to do more than what is expected of me in my job,” Jen said. “I just want this one life to count.”
Click here to visit our Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month landing page on BestBuy.com.