Learn the country’s financial system. Figuring out that I needed a credit card to get a credit score but also credit score to get a credit card broke my brain a bit. I now have a CPA, plan for taxes and have learnt the ins and outs of basic finances in the US. You don’t need to become an economist, but get an idea of what weaves through the country’s financial system.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ignacio Rosenberg.
Ignacio (or ‘Iggy’ to his friends, collaborators and clients!), was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has been working in lighting and visual design for 20 years. Before joining Lightswitch, Iggy spent the last decade designing or executing large touring shows around the world for artists including Tesla, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson and The Rolling Stones in Cuba, as well as numerous corporate shows. Iggy says ‘If I learnt anything in Argentina, it was to be conscious of budgets and maximizing the potential of what resources are available’.
Iggy describes his approach as ‘I’m steadfastly committed to servicing my clients the best way I possibly can. I really believe in putting in the hard work to make sure they get the best solution their money can buy, and if that means going above and beyond in search of excellence, so be it’. Iggy is a huge technology advocate, always looking for new tools and ideas, as long as they serve the design intent.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Sure! I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was very lucky to have had an incredibly hardworking family that put me through a really good education. We have a big agricultural farm and as a kid I hated “wasting” my weekends working in it. As a kid I didn’t appreciate it, but as I grow older I realize I owe a lot of my success to behaviors I learnt from my parents’ work ethics, the work they made me do, and my schooling.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
Nothing drastic, it had become kind of the norm in my family that we got college degrees abroad. I was an admittedly terrible student so I did a degree in Argentina first before doing a second one in the US. That said, being in entertainment in Argentina meant we had little access to the technology and scale I wanted to work in, so it slowly became inevitable that I’d have to find a way into a bigger market.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
I went to Florida to study and it was also my first time living alone. I remember now knowing how to pay my bills, I didn’t have a car, didn’t know where to shop for groceries, just the silliest things to not know. The “real issues” came when I got my first job here, because I didn’t know what a credit score was, why we did taxes in April, how to manage my bank account, how to get a license. I had to go get my SSN and it was 3 cities away. I also remember it snowing from scratch and I was so excited, I had been in snow but never seen it fall from day 1, and after 3 weeks I was over it.
The biggest thing was that I knew coming to the US would be starting from the bottom rung. I was somewhat well known in the industry in Argentina, but that carried no weight here. I started as a tech in a company, loaded the lighting trucks, cleaned cables, eventually went on tour…it was good work to do, and it instilled a sense of respect in other people because I didn’t just waltz in at the top. To this day have a lot of respect and attention towards the crews that work for us, it’s a good thing.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
Oh I could have never done it without a ton of friends. I lived with a really good friend and lighting designer for a while, and he was the one that taught me how to do my taxes and what it meant. He drove me to get my SSN, and actually told the shop manager to let me go get it during office hours. He also became a giant mentor and gave me my first design jobs, I owe Nook a lot, of nothing else it was the person I needed to keep my hopes up.
So how are things going today?
They’re going well! Obviously 2020 has been rough for the entertainment industry (which my wife and I are both part of) but we both have gone through ups and downs so we prepared well. We had savings, a few investments, and took this time off to do other things. We bought some investment properties, and opened a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy in Park City, UT. Random, but it’s what we love!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have a preternatural idea that what I do in entertainment is immensely enjoyable (I design shows for a living!) but also very selfish. My wife and I decided real estate would be our path to affect humanity. Our motto for the real estate investments then is “Good Homes for Good People”, we wanted to invest in blue collar areas and because we’re producers and designers we could revamp homes to be nicer for our tenants by just making design decisions. We truly think the people that work to keep the world turning should go home to a place they enjoy and love. Eventually we want to have large multifamily homes where some of the units go at cost to help people get out of Section 8, or just to diversify the buildings with some diverse culture! I want a Jamaican grandmother filling the building with smells of her food.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
I think a system that’s designed to allow people to change status in a country shouldn’t be so complicated that you need to spend tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers to sort through forms. I understand the complexity behind it, but there has to be a way to engineer some of these processes into a more streamlined affair.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
- Learn the country’s financial system. Figuring out that I needed a credit card to get a credit score but also credit score to get a credit card broke my brain a bit. I now have a CPA, plan for taxes and have learnt the ins and outs of basic finances in the US. You don’t need to become an economist, but get an idea of what weaves through the country’s financial system.
- Keep an open mind. The US is like a series of little countries all sewn together. If you travel through it you will find a myriad of cultures and ideologies, some which are very much at odds with one another. Within those is the story of a lot of the US and the cultures within it. I met a lot of amazing people while I toured, from our millionaire Rockstar artists to the guys driving the trucks with the gear and the local caterers.
- Craft a good inner circle. Find mentors and people that are willing to help. This is a country rich with people that want to share knowledge and help. Make those the people you have dinner with and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
- Don’t break the law. I know this seems pedantic, but I’ve always been really cautious about having any marks in my ledger. As a student you may not care about driving with a few drinks in you…but when you are applying for a Green Card that’s going to rear its head.
- Set big goals. I have seen this country raise people with incredible goals, and while it’s scary I’ve seen the rewards myself. Don’t be afraid to aim for the moon, it works. I opened a business in the middle of a pandemic!
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
Everywhere (and everyone) needs improvement! I have hope for social change, I hope cities become friendlier and more eco-conscious. American innovation is incredible and so is the ability to push that innovation forward, I hope much more incredible inventions and technology come forward. Finally…I have hope we can nail the vaccine distribution. I miss doing events with people having fun, socializing, and connecting.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
This was a surprisingly hard question to answer. I meet entertainment people every day so I’ll take a departure from the norm. I think I will go with Gary Keller; I’ve been lucky enough to do some Keller Williams events and I’m in awe of that man’s capacity of taking huge swaths of data and compiling them into one simple sentence or question. In reality I love people that have achieved much but have the desire to talk about it, teach it, and ask great questions.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
www.lightswitch.net or @iggylights on Instagram.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!