My guest today is Israel Rojas-Moreno. Israel immigrated from Mexico with his mother and grew up in Seattle. His parents worked a variety of labor jobs (housekeeping, construction, landscaping) and imparted an entrepreneurial spirit and strong work ethic. School came easy to Israel and he recognized it as an opportunity for pursuing a professional future. Israel attended Stanford University and received his Bachelor of Science in Management Science and Engineering. He later received his Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. One of the biggest hurdles for Israel was the guilt that came with leaving home and having some distance from the challenges his family was facing. His long-term perspective was vital in helping him stay motivated. Israel is now is Senior Consultant at Capital Group American Funds, a financial services firm. He has used his experience as an immigrant and First Gen College Student to help him relate to others in his profession but also create more meaningful relationships in his family. Here is a little of his First Gen Journey. . .
In this episode, Dr. Hernandez interviews Israel Rojas-Moreno, a Senior Consultant at Capital Group about his First Gen Journey. He discusses how he felt guilty about having distance from the challenges his family faced back home and how his long-term perspective was vital in helping him stay motivated for school. He also shared how he learned to utilize the strengths of his First Gen identity to relate to others and build meaningful relationships with colleagues and family members. Here are a few highlights from his episode:
· Israel’s parents worked a variety of labor jobs (landscaping, construction, and housekeeping) but they also had an entrepreneurial spirit and started a few different businesses (1:13). The main message he received was that you had to do whatever was necessary to be somewhat financially stable. Israel would often accompany his parents to their jobs to help them work (3:13). That is where Israel was exposed to different lifestyles and the idea that education would be a way to have different opportunities.
· Family support was crucial to Israel’s college journey. One source of encouragement was his uncle. Israel remembers that his uncle always expressed that Israel would be the success of the family and get an education (4:07). Because school came easy to Israel, he started to recognize higher education as his path toward success. Even though there was an expectation that Israel help the family either by caring for his younger siblings or helping with his parents’ jobs, his family gave him a lot of freedom and didn’t limit his engagement with school or other extracurricular activities (5:09).
· College seemed inevitable for Israel because his family supported his education but also because he recognized it as an opportunity that his family didn’t always have access to. Israel is really grounded in his family’s immigration story and was motivated by his history to take advantage of every opportunity (6:15).
· Israel attended Stanford University and noted that he had a very positive experience there (7:17). Two factors that helped him build community and feel comfortable at college were enrolling in a pre-freshman program that allowed him to have a launching point for college and living in a Latinx themed dorm his freshman year, Casa Zapata.
· Israel was focused on feeling comfortable when he started college because he knew that would likely allow him to perform well academically. More recently, he has started looking for opportunities that push him out of his comfort zone because he feels those experiences are more likely to help him grow as a person and make connections he wouldn’t be able to otherwise (8:54). This was his mindset when he applied to and attended The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
· Perspective has been the coping skill that Israel has used most often to get through difficult moments. Being so rooted in his immigration story and his family’s history, he is able to put his struggles in perspective and persevere (10:26). Gratitude has been another way that Israel has been able to soothe difficult moments because he can appreciate the positive aspects of his experience and situation (11:17). Israel also focuses on what he will be able to provide to his family now that he has access to the privileges of higher education (11:56).
· Moving away to college was great for Israel’s personal development but it also brought up a lot of difficult feelings of guilt, worry and uncertainty regarding his family’s situation back home (13:46). Israel noted that his mom not asking him to stay, focusing on the pride she felt for his achievements, and taking a long-term, reality-based perspective helped him make the decision to continue with his studies. The emotion tied to this time in Israel’s life is still powerful but Israel noted that he has been able to compartmentalize his feelings as a way of helping him move forward and focus on the present moment (17:58). One strategy that helps soothe the guilt is focusing on what he can now provide his family because he did follow through with his education.
· Israel has recognized the role that sacrifice plays in success. He feels he has scarified time spent with his family to pursue his education/career (20:32). However, he hopes that his sacrifice will contribute to a pipeline that helps the next generation access education and that his sacrifice will prevent future generations from having to make as many sacrifices in their lives. Israel can already see how his family is making progress in terms of their communication and emotional engagement and that gives him hope (22:48).
· Because Israel’s background is so different from others in the professional world, he has found it a little more difficult to connect with colleagues. Over time, he has managed to find a way to bridge the gap and his number one tool is to connect over travel (24:15). Israel feels that it is his responsibility to find points of connection in the professional world. If he doesn’t, others are not likely to be able to find that common ground because they aren’t exposed enough to the immigrant or First Gen experience. He noted that if you don’t make the effort to establish some common ground and those relationships aren’t developed, they might not include you (25:06).
· Although his day-to-day reality is a world apart from his family’s reality. He finds it easier to connect with them because there is so much shared history and the conversations and activities are family-oriented (26:01). However, he does his best to stay grounded and behave and speak in ways that won’t make others feel alienated. Early on, Israel felt more resentment from his siblings and cousins about the path he decided to take but he has worked on those relationships to establish more open communication and deepen their understanding of each other (27:36).
· Israel can now identify that the ability to relate to different people and tailor his speech and behavior to the setting is an asset of his First Gen identity that is tremendously helpful in his career (30:47).
Israel’s tips for First Gen students and professionals wanting to go into the business field:
1. Don’t be afraid of networking – be curious and don’t be afraid to ask others for their time.
You can connect with Israel through Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/israelrm