The things that make me optimistic about the US’s future are the women in this country who are making moves to break glass ceilings, the men who are supporting women, and the kids who see past gender, ethnicity and religion.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Gonzalez, Founder of Dearly and Senior Manager of Growth & Operations at Skylight Frame.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in Guatemala. At 14, we relocated to Costa Rica for my dad’s job. Looking back, this move changed my life… I was able to go to a good private school and surround myself with ambitious people. I expanded my horizons through exchange programs to other countries, and I started to take on entrepreneurial projects — like selling cookies and brownies at school and in my neighborhood. I was determined to one day come to the US and become an entrepreneur. I focused on getting good grades, managed to skip a year, and graduated early at 17 with a scholarship to go to college in Boston.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?
There wasn’t one particular trigger, I just knew that if I wanted to really succeed, I had to move here. Getting a scholarship to college was what allowed me to do so.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
I received a scholarship to attend Suffolk University — my first year would be on their campus in Madrid, and the other three on their main campus in Boston. Fast forward four years, I graduated with honors and a full-time offer to join the Private Equity firm where I had interned. I was extremely thankful for this! International students know how hard it is to find opportunities in the US, but my hard work made me one of the lucky ones.
This was, of course, only the beginning of my immigration nightmare…
After being sponsored by the company to get a work visa, and winning the H1B lottery, my visa was denied. I had to leave my job immediately and had no backup plan.
This is where you realize how quickly your life can change. With the help of friends and family, I was able to get a lawyer and start my application for a green card. I am forever thankful for that.
Eight months later, I am now back to work and more ready than ever to fulfill the American dream.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
There have been so many people who have helped me along the way and I am so thankful for all. In particular, I am grateful for my parents who always supported me, my partner who stuck with me through the immigration nightmare, and my mentors who guided me in my professional career.
So how are things going today?
I left my career in finance to pursue more entrepreneurial avenues. I now live between LA and San Francisco, where I lead growth and operations at Skylight, a consumer tech startup. I am also working on starting my own business, which will launch soon. My goal is to help couples reconnect on romantic date nights, without the hassle of planning them. You can check it out at www.getdearly.com
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I think I still have a long way to go, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help others right now. I am working on a service that will help busy couples spend more time together and reconnect. I know what it’s like to be so focused on your career that your relationship takes a back seat. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my journey, it’s that you need to make time for your loved ones.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?
In my experience, the current H1B visa system seems to be based on how fast you apply and how good your lawyers are — that’s probably why the big companies are able to bring in so many foreign workers. In general, small businesses and entrepreneurs are left behind. We need to make sure this is a merit-based system. Four years of college and graduating top of your class should never be overlooked just because you are foreign.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Work hard. You give what you get, so if you want to achieve the American dream, you have to work for it.
2. Network. If you’re going to school, get to know your professors, do multiple internships, and get involved.
3. Make the first move. Reach out to people you admire to grab coffee, email companies you want to work for, and be proactive about what you want.
4. Embrace the culture. Many people come here and make friends with people from their home town. Get out of your bubble and meet the locals.
5. Be kind to others. I don’t think I need to explain this one.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
1. The women in this country who are making moves to break glass ceilings.
2. The men who are supporting women.
3. The kids who see past gender, ethnicity and religion.
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. 🙂
Whitney Wolfe, Founder & CEO of Bumble. She’s breaking glass ceilings and ending misogyny one swipe at a time, and I truly admire that. She’s the type of female leader we should all aspire to be.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can connect with me on LinkedIn (Andrea Gonzalez Corleto). Feel free to send me a message!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, Authority Magazine, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.
Originally published at medium.com