John Lim’s mother is no stranger to hard work. She has been working in factories since the age of 12, sometimes up to 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. But, that was the life when you were one of 11 children and your rural family could only afford to send one child to school and that child is one of your brothers. Uncle #3 was the family’s ace in the hole, and that meant that all of the other children would work, including John’s mother who left her village in Taiwan to work (and live) at a factory.
John’s uncle is no stranger to political persecution. Following a civil uprising in 1947, Taiwan’s self-declared “One True Party”, the KMT, launched a violent initiative known to the people as “White Terror” that led to the disappearance of over 30,000 intellectuals, activists and anyone else who did not toe the party line. John’s uncle was one of said intellectuals and escaped to the US to avoid persecution and possible jail time at the notorious ‘Green Island Prison’ after martial law was instated in 1950 – a reign that lasted over four decades.
“I knew my uncle wasn’t allowed to come back into Taiwan after he left for the states because he was part of an independent Taiwan movement,” John says. “So when he came to visit, we had to hide him in our attic. If someone knew he was there, people, neighbors or whoever, would report it. You could tattle on a neighbor and they would end up in Green Island Prison.”
But John’s uncle ended up doing well in the states. He settled in San Jose, worked his way up to an executive role at a technology company and was able to sponsor John, his sister, and his parents to leave Taiwan and join him in his nice home in California.
After battling the Taiwanese bureaucracy for years, John and his family finally touched down in San Jose the day after Christmas in 1982. He was 7 years old. Of his first impressions of the states, he says, “It was like the land of milk and honey. Literally. There was just so much food – so much bread!”
John’s parents brought their strong work ethic with them and began working right away. “My parents went to work on the assembly line at my Uncle’s company and my sister and I went to school,” John says. “It was cool because there were a ton of Asians in San Jose.” And he learned English quickly.
But his parents were still working long hours so John and his sister became independent really fast. “The thing about most Asian parents is that if you are getting good grades,” he says with a mischievous look in his eye,” they don’t really care what you’re up to.”
While John may have been up to all kinds of shenanigans, it certainly did not impede his ability to succeed. He went to Cal Poly and studied Aeronautical Engineering only to land in Business Administration Management.
But tech was always a passion and it led him to a position in the IT department at Cuesta College where he met Russ Levanway. “This was before Russ had his cochlear implants, but he seemed like a cool guy so I learned some sign language so I could communicate with him,” John says. “Besides,” he shrugs, “I had never had a deaf friend before.”
What started as a friendship eventually led to a very successful working relationship and soon John and Russ (along with Jeff Bower and Jeremy Koellish, who also worked at Cuesta College) were partners running TekTegrity.
John is the active Chief Technology Officer where he has trained and mentored many budding technicians. “I have a lot of kids who have done well under me, and I’m proud of that.” He says. “That’s how I measure my accomplishments – by how many people I have helped grow and succeed.”