Connecting community, culture, and creativity

Autodesk Foundation Team September 23, 2021 3 min read

How one employee’s leadership is building intergenerational bonds

This year, Autodesk embraced its unique opportunity to accelerate positive outcomes through a company-wide impact strategy that positions Autodesk to take action as a business, in partnership with customers, and to support its industries and the communities it serves. Autodesk employees engage with impact both within their roles and through volunteer, pro bono, and giving, which is facilitated by Autodesk and the Autodesk Foundation.  

Gail Tanaka, Global Integrated Marketing Lead for AEX and Global Lead of Autodesk Asian Network, has been deeply involved in the Japanese American community of the San Francisco Bay Area for years. As a fourth-generation Japanese American, she volunteered for the nonprofit organization Kimochi as a young adult, serving nutritious Japanese meals to community seniors. She experienced firsthand how important intergenerational relationships are to both the individual and community flourishing. 

Portrait of Gail Tanaka, Global Integrated Marketing Lead for AEX and Global Head of Autodesk Asian Network
Gail Tanaka, Global Integrated Marketing Lead for AEX and Global Head of Autodesk Asian Network

Creating together, remotely

Years later, after joining the Kimochi board of directors, Gail looked for ways to leverage Autodesk resources to support Kimochi’s mission of helping seniors preserve their dignity and independence through culturally sensitive programs and services. In the past, many of Kimochi’s programs involved tactile projects, like making origami. In response to the challenge of physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gail proposed that Kimochi teach seniors and youth how to use Autodesk® Tinkercad® a simple,  web app for 3D design, electronics, and coding, as a way to continue creating Japanese American cultural items together, remotely.  

Kimochi jumped at the opportunity and, because of the Autodesk Foundation’s 2:1 donation match for employees serving on nonprofit boards, Gail’s financial donation to Kimochi was enough to purchase a 3D printer, so the seniors and youth could create physical objects together like cherry blossoms and torii gates.

“The seniors had a lot of fun,” says Grant Eshima, Program Specialist at Kimochi.

“Being able to use a mouse and keyboard and change things that they perceive in their minds is definitely a new experience for them. It’s a great creative outlet for the seniors to impart their knowledge and their wisdom in a very engaging way.” 

Grant Eshima, Program Specialist, Kimochi
Gail Tanaka, Global Integrated Marketing Lead for AEX and Global Head of Autodesk Asian Network
Grant Eshima Program Specialist at Kimochi shows 3D printed torii gates to a group of seniors and children
Grant Eshima Program Specialist at Kimochi, children, and senior collaborate in Tinkercad
Grant Eshima Program Specialist at Kimochi, children, and senior collaborate in Tinkercad

Creating a sense of belonging

For the youth, the program was an opportunity to learn about Japanese American culture from elders through the kind of technological medium they were already familiar with. “The children learned about not only Tinkercad, but also about our Japanese American culture,” says Gail, “and one day they’re going to be the senior, and they will be passing on our Japanese American culture to the next generation.” 

Gail says the Autodesk Asian Network, an Employee Resource Group supported by Autodesk’s Diversity and Belonging team, has helped her lean into leadership roles both at work and in her community. 

“As Global Lead of the Autodesk Asian Network, I’ve always felt a strong connection between my work and my community, especially with Autodesk supporting employees to bring their authentic self to work and feel a sense of belonging.”

Gail Tanaka, Global Lead of Autodesk Asian Network
Gail Tanaka, children, and seniors admire 3D printed cherry blossoms at KImochi
Gail Tanaka, children, and seniors admire 3D printed cherry blossoms at Kimochi

Watch the video

Get involved

Employees who want to give back to their communities like Gail can take advantage of the following support from Autodesk and the Autodesk Foundation: 

Autodesk employees interested in engaging with impact can find more information on the Autodesk Employee Impact Hub.  

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