Tech Savvy Angler Ready For Next Adventure

By: Stephen Graydon

Pheng Yang has a secret. If you worked with him in SAP club, a business software hosting network, or if you were lucky to have him tutor you in SQL, the standard in computer management language, you would likely never know Yang spends almost every weekend away from everything, buried in his clandestine passion – fishing.

His hobby has taken him from salmon fishing the Sacramento River to moonlight adventures in search of Mekong catfish in his birth land of Thailand. It’s a passion that Yang discovered when he moved to Chico at the age of 11. In his youth, Yang spent his free time either discovering new fishing holes or checking in on old ones, “Anywhere that has water, I’ve been there,” says Yang.

Pheng Yang : headshot
Pheng Yang takes a moment away from work and school.
But sport fishing in Northern California has yielded as many lessons in diversity as fish on the line, and Yang has always worked to bridge the illusory gap between people.

“I’ve had people say racial slurs to me, and some people have been really nice. I don’t judge them,” says Yang.

He acknowledges that the biggest thing about diversity is appreciation, “They have been fishing there for years and years, and then you come up,” says Yang, “so you have to be respectful of the culture, everything just has to flow.”

Yang speaks about diversity on a higher level; while it is the celebration of differences it is also a philosophy of openness to experience.

Yang helps create that openness by helping with diversity training. He knows that people can have a hard time adjusting to new faces, difficulty accepting people that look or act different. But despite any crude comments he’s endured, he still looks toward diversity education as the prescription for change.

Yang says, “You might as well teach it. If you want to hate it you can still hate it – but it’s there. It’s like technology; technology is still coming, and it’s new stuff. If you don’t want to move on and it’s too long before you realize it – you’re far behind.”

Yang cleverly wraps big ideas in practical language. His early involvement with the Academy of Communication and Technology (ACT) at Chico High made him adept at tackling tough issues early. The group would travel to local schools and put on diversity productions, some were even sponsored by California State University, Chico. Aside from putting together diversity training for his peers, Yang got to work with green-screens and computer modeling programs most of his friends wouldn’t see until college.

When looking to the future, Yang draws on his roots; he draws on the chance his father took bringing Yang and his four brothers and two sisters to the United States. Working two jobs since he was a junior in high school, Yang has created his path to success from sheer determination. And with one year left until he graduates, he’s looking forward to getting an internship this summer, preferably with an exciting group of young professionals.

“I really want to work for Workday,” says Yang. “The culture there is just different than the other recruiters that come in. They’re super loud, super energetic.” He says they remind him of people coming back from study abroad; they are so excited to share their experiences, to share what they have seen and learned.

Yang knows what an incredible experience studying abroad can be; he spent the fall of 2012 in Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. From Thailand, Yang travelled to Cambodia and Laos, where he visited family. But, like every angler that’s hooked on the sport, Yang was able to squeeze in just one more trip before returning home. In an adventure he will not soon forget, Yang muses about a moped ride before the light of dawn to his favorite spot the same day he was to catch a flight back to the states.

For some, college is the natural step after high school, for others it may be the ivory tower. But for Yang it is part of the path his father began by coming to the U.S. when his four brothers did not make the journey. “For me to graduate, and for me to make money and pull him into my own home, is to have the American dream.”