Don’t come to America thinking the American Dream is easy to achieve. It will not just fall on your lap because you are here. It’s hard work, it’s dedication. You have to be willing to put the time and the effort in. It will show you the door, but you are the one that has to open it. Also, be careful with the temptations, it’s also a land of cheap fun and entertainment opportunities, it’s really easy to get distracted. Also, it’s really easy to get you into a comfort zone, because you can have a comfortable life without major effort. But if you want your dream, don’t lose focus and put the effort in.
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 Ana Araujo who came from Brazil in 2011.
She had enough money to stay for 12 days! If I didn’t get a job she would have to go back. She got a job as a milk-shake maker, and then at a Brazilian local newspaper in NJ . For years she was juggling jobs and working in restaurant to make ends meet. When her English was good enough she started taking online programming classes. While I she bartending she met two guys that gave her her first opportunity to work as a developer. Now she is working as a data-consultant for Kaiser Permanente and launching her own app Safe Circle!
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a modest family in Brazil. Neither of my parents have college degrees but they worked hard. My dad moved as up as he could in his career in the steel industry and my mom focused her career to give opportunities to me and my brother. When I was a toddler and my brother was a child, she got a job at a school cleaning the locker rooms, just so we could get a scholarship there. Then she moved up as a disciplinary. So I always studied in schools where my mom was the disciplinary (fun huh!). That gave me and my brother a chance of a better education. We couldn’t afford for me to do private school and/or do federal college in a different state (in Brazil, if you do Federal college you don’t have to pay for your education), so I only had one option of college and of the courses offered there I chose Journalism. I got in the first try.
I was lucky to have parents that always put mine and my brother’s (2 years older than me) well being in first place always. I remember when my father lost his job for 6 months, and it was really hard on them but they did their best to make it get to us. Then my dad got a job in a new city and we all had to move — but again, my mom got a job in a good school.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
When I was graduating from college, I actually had a “good thing” going. I had good internships programs and probably wouldn’t be hard to get a job. But I looked at my colleagues, how much they worked for little pay, how they were struggling even after a degree. Also, I realized I didn’t want to pursue the career. My last internship manager said to me “I can tell you don’t wanna be here”. And once, when I was working as a reporter for a tv show,an internship that a lot of students would love to have, the cameraman told me “you are good, but I can tell this is just a job for you”. My entire life I did what I was allowed and had to be grateful for the opportunities that I had. Don’t get me wrong, I am very very grateful for all of it. But I needed to do something that was my choice, because I wanted to. I always wanted the experience of living abroad. So I worked as a waitress on weekends and sold candy in the neighborhood stores to save money and move to NYC.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
I loved NYC. It wasn’t easy at the beginning. I only had enough money for about 12 days, so I had to get any job right away — with extremely broken English. I would pick an avenue and stop in every establishment on that avenue asking if they were hiring. Then make my way back on another avenue doing the same thing. Because I was a college student, I was able to get the J1 visa. So one burger place was hiring for a cashier position and the manager hired me, but I knew I was doing a bad job because I only could understand half of the words the customers were saying. To compensate I was working really hard and cleaning the place all the time. He kept me but the owner showed up and said “you are either able to do your job or you are fired” so I started memorizing the sounds with the images we had in the POS. Also the cook and the manager were helping me out hiding my mistakes from the owner! But on the second month I was opening and closing the store, and I also got a hostess job at night. I also used my journalism experience at the beginning and was working for a Brazilian Newspaper in NJ. I had to work very long hours, but then I started bartending and things got better.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
I had a few people. Mainly in the work space. The manager and the cook at the burger place that helped me keep my first job. The manager of where I was working as a Hostess was protective of me when customers were being funny. The people at the Newspaper that were super welcoming. My teacher at the Bartending school — he was managing a nightclub and offered me my first bartending job. I also made great friends that made it fun, even with all the struggles.
So how are things going today?
Today is much different (thank God!). So when I was bartending I got the time to study programming. I was watching all the online tutorials I could find. When I was bartending I heard two gentlemans talking about how they needed help with their website and branding, so I told them that I could do it and bam, got my first programming job. After that, I decided to move to LA. Now I am Data Consultant at Kaiser Permanente. I live in Hollywood with my boyfriend and my cute dog.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am currently working on an app called Safe Circle, it’s a safety check app. Living here I realized how many people live away from their parents and how much they put themselves in danger to pursue a dream. The idea of Safe Circle is to facilitate keeping your loved ones safe. You can see on www.safecircleapp.com .
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 was lucky and I didn’t have many issues. But in general it should be more humane, especially when considering families.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
Don’t come to America thinking the American Dream is easy to achieve. It will not just fall on your lap because you are here. It’s hard work, it’s dedication. You have to be willing to put the time and the effort in. It will show you the door, but you are the one that has to open it. Also, be careful with the temptations, it’s also a land of cheap fun and entertainment opportunities, it’s really easy to get distracted. Also, it’s really easy to get you into a comfort zone, because you can have a comfortable lif without major effort. But if you want your dream, don’t lose focus and put the effort in.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
People are getting more aware of politics and the issues, the yough is taking charge, which I think it’s a good thing. I lived in NY and LA and the diversity in these two locations is a very beautiful thing. Different minds come together and if it’s from a place of love, it generates more love and compassion. And this country is strong, it can have it’s downs but the recovery is faster than in most other places.
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. 🙂
Oh so many! I am a big fan of Arlam Hamilton from Backstage Capital, Pocket Sun and Elizabeth Galbut from SoGal. Would love to meet Lin-Manuel Miranda and America Ferrera.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!