Caren Lock: ‘The impact is amplified’ when speaking up to help others

To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the Dallas Regional Chamber caught up with Caren Lock, Regional Vice President & Associate General Counsel of TIAA, to get her perspective on AAPI influences and representation in the Dallas Region.

In her role at TIAA, Lock is the primary interface for the company and its subsidiaries on all legislative, executive, regulatory, and administrative matters for the South and Midwest regions. In 2015, Lock co-founded The Orchid Giving Circle which provides community grants to support social change and services to the North Texas Asian Community. Lock serves on the Dallas Mavericks Advisory Council, Board of the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, and the President’s Advisory Board of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Caren Lock, Regional Vice President & Associate General Counsel of TIAA. (Photo by D CEO magazine)

Tell us about an experience that has influenced your life.

Shortly after my family immigrated to the United States, I watched in horror as my parents were scammed at a tire shop. Since I was the only one who could speak basic English, I jumped in to politely explain that my parents did not bring in a car with four flat tires like the salesperson claimed, only one. I couldn’t even see above the counter and had to speak to the salesperson on my tippy toes. When he dismissed us, I started to do the only thing I could: talk louder than him. It caused such a scene that they offered to fix all four tires and only charge us for one.

I learned that day if I use my voice to help those who are disadvantaged, the impact is amplified because that tire shop would think twice before taking advantage of another family with limited language skills.

What Asian American and Pacific Islander figures have had the biggest influence on your life? Why do you look up to them?

I have had many mentors throughout my professional life, but the one I credit with shining a light on the importance of volunteering and philanthropy is The Honorable Karen Gren Scholer, Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. She reminded me a few years after I started practicing law that I needed to give back to the Dallas community that welcomed and nurtured me [after immigrating to the United States].

Judge Scholer encouraged me to start serving on nonprofit boards and use my skills to shine a light on issues affecting Dallas. It took me a while to realize my passion is in women and girls. Since that time, I have served as Board Chair of the Texas Women’s Foundation and the first Asian American Board President of the Dallas Assembly.

Please share some Dallas Region-based AAPI-serving organizations you support. Why do you support them?

One of my proudest legacy projects is the Orchid Giving Circle. A small group of us started this organization to democratize philanthropic giving while giving back to the North Texas Asian Community. Since our founding in 2015, Orchid Giving Circle has granted more than $1.5M to more than 30 different organizations.

What can employers do to help AAPI professionals?

Corporate America can help the AAPI community by supporting organizations like Orchid Giving Circle and providing mentoring opportunities focus on first-generation Asian Americans entering the corporate world. My hope is that we can be better together.

What would be the title of your autobiography? Why?

“Resilience: Because Failure is Not an Option.”