When I came to the U.S., I thought I was just going to learn about American business and return home. Things ended up turning out much differently. Today, I run a thriving company and recently moved into a new home here in San Francisco.
While settling in at my new place, I re-read parts of one of my favorite books, Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows, to examine how the immigration experience changed both me and my plans.
I thought I came to America to learn, but it turns out I am really here to prove myself.
When I first arrived from Mexico, I was totally on my own. I didn’t know anyone. Faced with formidable challenges in the job market and a lonely, isolating experience in a new place, I quickly learned something about myself.
Rather than focus on all the things standing in my way, I pushed myself toward achievement of bigger and bigger goals: master the language, adapt to a new way of life, get a job, get a better job. This was the point I realized I was on a journey of self-discovery, not a business trip.
An internship eventually turned into a management position and another even more important discovery — why I really came here.
I decided I wanted to start my own company.
To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to know a few things about your industry. In my case, that is accounting. That means developing an understanding of the marketplace and technology ecosystems.
When I was a kid and a young adult, I made a point to listen before speaking. To this day, when I meet someone, my first instinct is to be quiet and learn all I can about them. This is an important trait that helped me take the next step on my journey.
I began by connecting with as many people as I could, individuals who could or would eventually become part of my personal network as customers, employees or partners. Once I possessed a better understanding of the U.S. business culture, I realized that the stability and reliability it provides does in fact create opportunity.
By its very nature, U.S. business culture and systems operate to maximize advantage and minimize the barriers to new business development.
It doesn’t matter how favorable a business culture is to entrepreneurs. If you don’t produce or offer something that makes people’s lives better, the chances for success diminish. I realized how important it was for me to have a positive impact on people. I wanted the people around me to find meaning in our work and I wanted our output to provide value to our customers, clients and users.
I needed to create something that would benefit others as much as or more than myself. In achieving my goals, I had to help other people achieve theirs.
I became passionate about solving problems associated with managing accounts payable (AP). I had spent years watching my colleagues painfully and laboriously slog through time-consuming manual tasks to process invoices for payment. My company, Entryless, provides a solution to automate AP. Our customers benefit from our services, and Entryless employees perform artful work that provides demonstrable value to other people.
Here To Stay
My business is thriving and growing. The isolation and loneliness I encountered when I first arrived are a memory. Over the years, I have built relationships with friends, partners and mentors. I also built a company with a positive culture. I just don’t know if I could’ve achieved this anywhere else on earth. The U.S. challenged and changed me in ways other countries simply could not.
I came with one goal, a simple goal, and remain here today having achieved more than I could’ve hoped for before arriving. I’m a better person because of the journey I began in 2011, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Repost from original publication: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2017/10/06/immigrant-entrepreneur-innovator/