From Student to Tech-Startup Founder, How an Immigrant Entrepreneur Was Able to Thrive in the U.S.
Thriving in the United States as an immigrant is hard. Here are the steps this entrepreneur took to become a CEO in New York.
My name is Rodolfo Delgado. I am 33 years old, and I’m a Mexican immigrant living in the United States. I’ve lived here for over six years now, and my experience has taken me from being a student to being the owner of a tech startup based in Manhattan. I wrote this article to share with you how I was able to come to the United States initially and later find areas of opportunity to thrive in the beautiful city of New York.
Acquire valuable skillsets
I started my journey in the U.S. as a student. I’ve always been passionate about technology and real estate, so I decided to get a master’s degree in technology. When selecting which master’s or which program best fit my needs, I learned that some universities offer the option to sponsor a work visa called Optional Practical Training (OPT), which is temporary employment directly related to an F-1 student's major area of study.
To make sure I was creating opportunities for my future self, I made sure whichever program I selected offered an OPT as an option. I wasn’t sure if I needed it, but I wanted to have the option.
Think about it from the U.S. government’s perspective. If the government allows foreigners to live in the U.S., it wants to ensure that they contribute to society, creating jobs and helping the American economy thrive. Having a higher education degree from a reputable American university, in my opinion, dramatically helps.
Reach out shamelessly
Finding work opportunities in the U.S. as an immigrant is far from easy — especially for people like myself who had no connections, no friends in the city and a very uncommon name. I had to start from the bottom.
I applied to over 70 job postings via LinkedIn and other recruiting sites. I believe my very Spanish name on the top of my resume hurt my chances of getting noticed. Every job application out there asked me if I would need visa sponsorship now or anytime in the future. I firmly believe that answering "yes" to that question made my application weak and ineffective. Hoping to get a job out of a posting on such recruiting sites is, in my experience, as effective as throwing your resume out of the window and hoping that the right person picks it up. It may happen, but it isn’t very likely.
You have to reach out shamelessly. Contact anyone and everyone you believe might know someone who can benefit from your skillset and let them know you’re actively looking for new opportunities. That’s what I did. I called the real-estate broker who helped me find my apartment in the city and let her know my intentions. I pitched her the idea that my tech skills combined with her real-estate expertise may work wonders — and it did. She hired me as a technology manager for the largest real-estate team in the company, and I made sure we had the best tools at our disposal. Find a way to bring value and make money, and the world is yours. In the following years, we won multiple prestigious awards, respect and invaluable connections within the industry. We were being noticed.
Don’t stop moving
Momentum is real. You have to take advantage of it and recognize that the visa quite literally has an expiration date, which means that if you like the quality of life and adventure you’ve pursued, you have to keep looking at what’s ahead. Ask yourself, "What’s the next step?" Define how you’d like your career to look in one year, five years, ten years, and figure out your next moves — design a career path.
I’ve always loved being an entrepreneur and creating things of value. I knew I wanted to create something, so I began looking for opportunities while still having a job. After seeking and evaluating potential pain points for our existing clients, I finally found a way to contribute to our industry by bringing more transparency and honesty into real estate — I created the first company focused on advertising properties through unedited videos. What you see is what you get.
Focus on what matters
Your objective should be crystal clear and go beyond just living in the United States. Why is this important to you? What are you ultimately trying to accomplish? There are thousands of visa applications submitted every year, and you have to make sure to be impeccable with describing your motives and intentions.
From then on, I made sure I used my newly acquired connections, friends and contacts to continue growing. What will happen next is yet to be seen. Still, I can share that my experience has taught me invaluable survival skills transferable among different industries and even countries. Navigate life creating value for yourself and others, and make sure to enjoy the journey — that’s what truly matters.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor