Appreciate you have the chance. It might sound obvious, but not everyone in the world gets to pursue the ‘American Dream’. Speaking with a lot of Americans, I often hear about the negative aspects. Myself, and many immigrants, understand the value of this country implicitly. We’ve each sacrificed to come and build a better life for ourselves in America. To get through the tough times and hardships, you need a guiding light — and that starts with appreciating that you have an opportunity that many others wish for. Show gratitude and go forth and conquer!
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 Patrick Ward.
Patrick is the Founder of NanoGlobals, an expert-led platform that helps mid-size companies tap into global markets through remote hiring, offshoring, and international market expansion. A writer by trade, Patrick’s insights have been featured in notable publications including Forbes, Ad Age, Business Insider, US News, Business.com. He earned his Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies), majoring in Marketing and Political Science, from the University of Sydney.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Having the privilege of being born in Australia, life was pretty good. In many ways it was a quintessential suburban upbringing. As the eldest of four, there were more than a few house changes as I grew up. As more were added to the family, the house had to get bigger. We were never outstandingly wealthy, a fact not lost on me as a ‘scholarship kid’ at an elite inner-Sydney private school, but nor were we poor. We never went hungry and my parents were always quick to provide what we needed, especially when it came to education. Looking back on it now, I can see that as we became more prosperous as a family, it was directly linked to my parents’ career success derived from their education — Mum being a Leading Renal Specialist and Dad running a Digital Agency. One lesson of childhood that still remains with me to this day is ‘independence’. My parents taught me at a young age that if I wanted to buy ‘wants’ not ‘needs’, I had to pay for them myself. While I wasn’t thrilled about the lesson at the time (what child would be), in hindsight I point to that lesson as being the most transformative of my life — and ultimately what led to me pursuing a life beyond the borders of my home country of Australia.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
During my collegiate years, I’d had the opportunity to study and work in the US: my studies took me to George Washington University and UCLA, while work came in the form of an internship at Santa Monica-based Ad Agency, M&C Saatchi. When I returned to Australia to complete my studies, I remember sitting at work (as a copywriter for a Sydney Digital Agency) and not being satisfied. Sure, I had everything that I should want: a job already lined up for after college, and an abundance of friends and family. But for me it was about a challenge — I couldn’t shake this feeling that the US offered more. I told my friends and family — they told me I was crazy, but I wouldn’t relent. My argument: even if the worst happens and I miserably fail in the US, I’m still privileged enough to be able to return to Australia and still do ok (even if I had to carry a bruised ego). I’m grateful that the worst did not happen but knowing that was ‘all’ that could happen gave me the confidence to pursue emigration to the US.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
In one word: hostile. Most Americans flinch at the stories I tell of entering the country, not realizing how terrifying a US immigration process can be. Documentation, Background Checks, Medical Examinations, all taking months and months. The embassy interview was frightening — I’d dressed in my best suit, everything in order. The man before me had been thrown out (not literally) by the consular officer — no recourse, no appeal, gone! I was shaking in my boots — the officer asked me a few questions and then boom, approved. Entering the country was another thing entirely — LAX is a particularly harsh border entry because it caters to the entire Asia-Pacific Rim. I was asked to wait — no drama, I thought. I was coming to live permanently, it must be a few more checkboxes than your standard tourist. Then I was taken behind some steel doors — red flag number 1. People were being yelled at, families sent back to board planes, it was a scary time. Just my luck until a woman yelled out “Patrick Ward”. What could be in store for me. She simply says, “Ah no, you’re not meant to be here”. Taken to the wrong room by mistake. Come back out to a different line — this Border Patrol looks at my papers for no more than a minute. “This all checks out, America is down the escalator to your left”.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
If that story of what it takes to enter America doesn’t scare you, there’s plenty more to figure out once you’re here. Apartments? Pay exorbitant security deposits because we can’t run a credit check. Speaking of credit — try putting up money as a bond to get a secured credit card because you can’t build credit without one and you can’t apply for a regular credit card. Jobs — you’ll be lucky if we trust your education credentials and previous work experience. All of this I knew ahead of time and was willing to persevere, but it doesn’t make it any easier. To that end, I have three people to thank. My first boss Sarah — who took a chance on me and set me on the right path with US employment (once you have your first US job, it’s a lot easier to get your second). The others are two of my coworkers, Kristine and Stryker, who became very close friends and helped support me, keep me sane and help me assimilate to the US, both professionally and personally.
So how are things going today?
Looking back to those early years, at times doubts crept into my mind. Did I make a terrible mistake? Was America just too hard to crack? Now, I’m glad I’ve persevered. The professional accomplishments I’ve achieved — working with clients like Google, MasterClass, AT&T, Harvard Medical School; being featured in Forbes, Ad Age, Business Insider; Guest Lecturing at USC; even publishing my own Amazon Best-Seller — these are all achievements I couldn’t have even imagined achieving in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, Australia was a great place to grow up, but it’s a small market for a reason. America always has been (and will always be) a representation of what’s possible. By many measures, I’ve already achieved the American Dream, and yet I know there’s still so much more to do and accomplish.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
America has enabled me to hone my craft as a marketer, and those skills are incredibly valuable in the right hands. The ability to communicate your purpose and vision broadly and effectively, resulting in revenue and impact, is a powerful one and to that end something I take pride in teaching to those that need it. To that end, I stay involved in the non-profit sector, providing pro-bono marketing consulting and workshops via the Nonprofit Learning Lab and Cal Lutheran Center for Nonprofit Leadership. In addition, I’ve combatted what I’ve seen to be a lack of quality networking groups in Los Angeles by founding a local chapter of LinkedIn Local, a movement that aims to turn online connections into deep and meaningful offline relationships.
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?
1. Encourage skilled migrants. It’s no secret that skilled immigrants bring entrepreneurial endeavors to a country and with that comes new jobs and prosperity for communities right across the US. Unfortunately, the US is falling behind when it comes to encouraging innovators, with no dedicated start-up or entrepreneur visa. As a passion of mine, I’ve collated a startup visa index of countries that offer such a visa. My hope is that, given the Obama Administration was in the process of creating one before it was canceled, that the blueprint is there for the current Biden Administration to copy and implement swiftly to help America reach #1 in innovation once again.
2. Simplify the process. The fact that some immigrants have to wait years before receiving a response of any kind is outrageous and indicative of a failing system. The excessive documentation and hurdles trip up the most well-meaning of folks and do a disservice both to the officials trying to process the paperwork and the potential immigrants applying. A process is important but shouldn’t be immune from scrutiny — especially when it leads to duplicated efforts that only serve to frustrate all parties involved.
3. Treat immigrants as humans. Until that moment that I fully set foot in the US (i.e. outside LAX terminal), fear was coursing through my veins. As an immigrant, you are made to feel like trash and your life is worthless. No other country does this — I understand rules and procedures need to be followed, but some courtesy extended to immigrants shouldn’t be too much to ask for. At the end of the day, legal legitimate immigrants are coming to this country to make their lives (and the lives of the communities they live in) better. They should be celebrated, not shunned. This nation is after all ‘a nation of immigrants’ and we should always remember that.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
- Work Smart Not Hard. A common enough adage but one that flies against the motto that aligns with the ‘American Dream’ of ‘Hard Work Leads to Success’. In my first tech job in the US, I was clocking 14-hour days. A year into that job, I was still clocking that much time and was close to burnout. Now, I’m in a much better position. Although I work ‘less’ in terms of hours, I’m far more efficient. Learn the power of delegation and leaning into your strengths. When you do what you do best the majority of the time, you’ll be more successful and able to achieve the ‘American Dream’.
- Listen to the Market. Too many people focus on ‘passion’ or ‘purpose’. While you should by all means love what you do, picking solely based on what you love is a recipe for disaster. The intersection you want to find is what you’re good at, what you love, and (most importantly) what the market desires. If you asked me which industry I’ve worked in I loved the most, it’s hands-down the travel industry. But I know that industry is also one of the most competitive and underpaid relative to other industries. Migrating into the tech industry has brought me a lot of joy in terms of leading teams and creating a pathway to success, right at a time when tech is the hot industry to be in. Listen to the market and you will prosper.
- Find your Inner Entrepreneur. Even if you don’t want to run a business full-time, discover your entrepreneurial side. Nowhere else in the world is entrepreneurship as celebrated as it is in the US, so use that fact to your advantage. Coming from Australia, I saw first-hand the negativity and pessimism applied to trying to be ‘too ambitious’. Although people are well-meaning, they are quick to judge and point to flaws. Here in America, if you have an idea, you’ll have plenty of support. It’s a tough road but it’s key to success. Without the American culture’s support, I wouldn’t have had the courage to start NanoGlobals — in the middle of a pandemic no less. The lessons entrepreneurship teach you about how to succeed (even if your own startup fails) is key to achieving the ‘American Dream’.
- Grit is your secret weapon. As everyone knows, life is not all rainbows and unicorns. It doesn’t matter how smart or talented you are, you need to be resilient. As an immigrant, resilience comes with the territory. Foster your own sense of grit and you will achieve the ‘American Dream’. It isn’t how many times we get knocked down — it’s that we get back up again every time.
- Appreciate you have the chance. It might sound obvious, but not everyone in the world gets to pursue the ‘American Dream’. Speaking with a lot of Americans, I often hear about the negative aspects. Myself, and many immigrants, understand the value of this country implicitly. We’ve each sacrificed to come and build a better life for ourselves in America. To get through the tough times and hardships, you need a guiding light — and that starts with appreciating that you have an opportunity that many others wish for. Show gratitude and go forth and conquer!
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
- Entrepreneurship. Many countries have entrepreneurs, but in the US it takes on a life of its own. The fact that we are now seeing younger entrepreneurs is indicative of this culture’s praise of this field. Being able to start a business and contribute to this nation’s economy and prosperity starts with the feeling that you can. I’m not saying that entrepreneurship is easy — but the US has all the encouragement a budding entrepreneur could need.
- Wealth. America is still the richest country in the world. We know the wealth creation effect that wealth begets wealth. I’m reminded of this when I talk with folks back home in Australia. They often question, ‘how can you sell to startups, are there that many of them’, before I proceed to rattle off a list of 7 and 8-figure startups that they’ve never heard of. That phenomenon shows there is a lot of money pooling around America and it is that very phenomenon that continues to drive the American economy forward.
- Optimism of the People. To grow and prosper, one needs to hold an optimistic attitude. While it isn’t the only requisite, a huge component of America’s success is the belief that it can, through confidence and optimism. A lot of other countries deride Americans’ optimism as naivety. Living here I can tell you that it is less about naivety and more about hope for the future. The road to success starts somewhere and I believe that place is the optimistic belief that good things will come.
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. 🙂
MacKenzie Scott. Combing through the list of famous individuals, the trap is falling for someone who’s sole aim is to be in the spotlight. Not saying I wouldn’t want to meet the folks splashed all over Forbes and Fortune magazines, but there is a nobility of character aspect that needs to be addressed when thinking of who to meet. In this respect, MacKenzie Scott leads a life of the utmost integrity. Having been married to one of the richest men on Earth, her life was perennially in the spotlight. Once she turned to philanthropy, she could’ve splashed her story around and earned enormous ego-driven praise in the press. Indeed, at her wealth level, it’s harder to have people not talk about you than talk about you. I’m deeply impressed with the steps she took to donate her money intentionally to charitable organizations that needed it most — and only after very thorough investigative journalism did the story get out. This says an enormous amount about her character and someone who holds values I aspire to embody. Just to hear her approach to life would be an incredible blessing.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!