The Lessons I’ve Learned as an Immigrant in Silicon Valley

The Lessons I’ve Learned as an Immigrant in Silicon Valley
Gabe Moncayo

My parents immigrated to America from Argentina and Chile in 1983 and as a first generation American, I was extremely fortunate to grow up in the Bay Area. I attended high school with a melting pot of friends from all different backgrounds -- Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Brazilian; you name it. As we graduated from high school, our career paths were just as diverse;  some classmates went off to Ivy Leagues or top UCs, some to community college, and some, like me, went straight to work. Even though we were all on different paths, it’s now ten years later and my crew of about twenty friends are still hanging out. With our  various educational backgrounds, we all understood that there were different paths to happiness; success didn’t have to follow the straight and narrow.

However as I got into the real world -- I quickly learned society will treat you differently based off of your educational pedigree. Having a Ivy League degree is like wearing a suit; society will create a pre-defined perception of you when you walk around in a suit just like they would if you had a highly-esteemed degree. However, the lack of a formal education is like walking around in sweats. As a proud sweats-wearing worker, I find no shame in sharing my educational background and have never let that hold me back in any of my professional pursuits. In fact, I feel as though it has only pushed me to work harder, be better, and do whatever it takes to stand out amongst my degree-wearing peers.

Though I held these high ambitions, my first experience in the sales world was brutal. It was 100% commission and I only lasted six weeks. Thankfully, I was able to find another sales role that paid $8/hour - barely enough to make ends meet - but there was a strong opportunity for promotion and I was willing to take the risk. The job was working for a non-profit that helped Veterans receive more benefits when they returned from active duty.  When I first walked into my new office in Berkeley, I was astonished by the diversity. All of my co-workers were from immigrant backgrounds just like me and our desire to close a sale had a larger impact than just a financial gain. We were able to galvanize our communities to invest in a better future for all Americans. For the first time in my life, I felt like my work mattered and as if that wasn’t enough to feel motivated, if I hit my tier 1 quota, I’d get promoted to full-time which would mean a higher hourly rate and the opportunity for a bonus. Looking back, I realize this was a turning point in my life when I learned success was measured more on the stamp I would make in the world, not just the bottom line.

Ten years later that yearning for positive social impact is the foundation that drove me to co-found a community-driven startup in the Bay Area. Our mission from the start was to help anyone - regardless of their background or gender - be able to achieve their personal and professional goals through a sales bootcamp. That way of thinking has been at the forefront of all of our business decisions.

This small startup became more than just a sales bootcamp, it became a small movement for all of us. The name itself - AlwaysHired - promised opportunity to anyone that was accountable, coachable, and intrinsically motivated. In many cases to find those attributes, sometimes we needed to look outside the status quo. When recruiting new applicants, we were always searching for those that were willing to work hard and learn a lot in a short period of time. To us, we only care about who you are today and what you can do tomorrow.

Years from now these alumni will no longer be just AlwaysHired graduates, they will be the VPs of Marketing or Sales, the Startup Founders, the Community Leaders, and so on. I’m very proud of what we’ve created from a team of diverse minds and it’s thrilling to see the impact AlwaysHired, and other startups built on these values, will create in our communities and beyond. I am proud to be a first-generation American and will always be grateful that although it’s been challenging, the path that I have paved has led me here and I couldn’t be more excited to see what lies ahead.

To learn more about the AlwaysHired curriculum, visit us here.

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