“Despite the steady stream of seemingly only bad news, there are many amazing things going on in the U.S., including energy independence and greater oil exports, improving public health and tech innovation. It’s never been a better time to be alive in terms of public health, cheaper or easier to educate yourself or to build a thriving business or become anything you choose as a human or professional. That, in itself, makes me tremendously optimistic.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Yuri Kruman, a corporate Employee Experience (EX) Consultant, startup advisor, Forbes Coaches Council member and Forbes contributor. Yuri’s consulting, advising and coaching portfolio includes speaking engagements and advisory work on Employee Experience (EX), HR Transformation / Change Management, Customer Experience (CX) and PR/Media, impacting thousands of corporate and startup executives.
Imagine a shy, nerdy, overly sensitive Soviet kid growing up with his Mom in Kentucky, of all places. I had an awesome childhood full of nature and travel. Mom taught me everything she knows about biology and how the world works. She gave me a voracious, restless intellectual curiosity that hasn’t stopped for a moment since. My best friend from childhood is Iranian and other school friends are from Ukraine, Israel, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, you name it. Mom’s first boss was Mormon; the second was from India. I was lucky to be surrounded by remarkable people, including Holocaust survivors, rabbi-academics, even a horse auctioneer. Hardly what you’d expect from growing up in the South. At 17, I left, went to college in Philadelphia and then came to New York.
The most simple triggers were a combination of much greater economic opportunity in the U.S. after the fall of the Soviet Union and getting away from anti-Semitism. My Mom got a job as an academic at University of Kentucky right from Russia, which is how we ended up there. She left mainly for me and my sister to have opportunity to become successful in America and not be held back by anti-Semitism or any other discrimination in pursuing our chosen fields.
It wasn’t exactly like Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America,” but there were certainly quite a few hilarious and, awkward moments. We got the word that Mom got a job in Kentucky, packed up our life, expecting to come back after 3 years at the end of the contract. We had no idea what to expect, except for streets covered in gold (only half joking), as well as everyone wearing blue jeans. We flew Delta (first time on a plane for either of us) into JFK on the day Bill Clinton was elected and flew on to Lexington, Kentucky. We were met by Mom’s Mormon boss and his wife, who were incredibly generous in giving us everything from dishes to towels to set up our new home in an apartment complex on campus that was full of immigrants from China, Ireland and other countries.
It was culture shock daily for the first few weeks.I was the youngest kid in 5th grade by a year and a half (a quirk in the Russian school system had had me in 5th grade at 9, so I continued that way in Kentucky). I was put into English as a Second Language and got out after just 2 months.
I remember all too well how we walked by foot to and from the grocery store in the dead of winter (the town stops when 2 inches of snow fall), everyone looking at us from their passing cars like aliens. We were shocked to have all these perfect-looking fruits and vegetables — especially tropical ones like bananas and pineapples — in the middle of winter, but we learned quickly that they rarely had much taste. We bought our first car after 2 months and our first house after 5 years, and haven’t looked back since.
Aside from Mom, who got us out of Russia, this would definitely have to be Faye and Peter Oeltgen, the couple that brought us out with a job contract. Their kindness remains with us until this day.
America is definitely the land of opportunity, but it’s not exactly covered in gold. Life is unquestionably better in terms of quality and opportunity than it would have been for us in Russia. But this has been hard-won through insane challenges and setbacks. I’ve been blessed to be free to be exactly who I want to be, study what I want, live where I want, marry whom I want and raise my kids the way I want, despite the difficulties. In this vein, I’ve managed to build a successful business, write for top publications, publish books, help thousands of people transform their lives, careers and businesses and to travel widely, share my insights with many people and to make a solid living doing it. Our gratitude to America for accepting us and giving us the runway to succeed is unwavering.
Once I got clear on my life mission, how to pursue and how to monetize it by helping empower people in their lives, careers and businesses, it’s been an amazing time coaching and consulting hundreds of people, writing articles for top publications, being on podcasts, TV, etc. My message is always the same — to help give people the language and psychology to succeed on their own terms.
I’m not a political animal or policy wonk and my views are never party-line. That said, as an immigrant in tech, I would first undoubtedly extend the H1 program for tens, even hundreds of thousands more highly-skilled immigrants to come to the U.S. each year to contribute to growing the economy. I would then pass immigration reform in Congress to help clarify the status of the millions in limbo through a mix of formal status that allows the IRS to collect taxes more widely and deportation of criminals and others breaking the law. Thirdly, I would make the borders more secure through a system of tech savvy fences like the ones Israel uses. Immigration policy must remain humane, if firm, as well as recognize the realities of service, agriculture and meat processing industries, which is that Americans largely don’t want to do these jobs, so we need to help immigrants get their start there
It was the worst of times (politically, global warming), it was the best of times (public health, innovation, many others). Despite the steady stream of seemingly only bad news, there are many amazing things going on in the U.S., including energy independence and greater oil exports, improving public health and tech innovation. It’s never been a better time to be alive in terms of public health, cheaper or easier to educate yourself or to build a thriving business or become anything you choose as a human or professional. That, in itself, makes me tremendously optimistic.
If I could have lunch with anyone from those, it would be with Mark Benioff. He’s struck an amazing balance between being a tech mogul and giving innovatively. I have a lot to learn from him for my future plans in a similar vein 🙂
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