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Learning to Fly in North America

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure to present Learning to Fly to groups of IESE Alumni and their guests in New York City and Toronto.

Whenever I do these sessions I hear more people’s stories and find myself both intrigued and inspired. I will share two of those stories about the responsibility some people feel for their family’s business as the stories may resonate with many people.

The first story was from a person who had moved to the U.S. many years ago as he felt there was much more opportunity there than in his home country. He had gone there for university and managed to get a good job at a well-repsected firm and was on track to get his green card and eventually apply for citizenship. By this time, Donald Trump had become President and the person’s father became gravely ill back in his home country.

Putting family first, which I think is a good thing, the person quit the job and went home to help with his father who eventually passed away, and with the family business. After a year or so the business was stable and he was in a position to go back to the U.S. and re-start his career.

The problem is that by then, the Trump Administration had tightened the immigration rules and he had to essentially start the entire immigration process again but without the traction that he had before going home.

To make a long story short, this person had after a few different steps secured an important and well-paying position at a company in New York doing work he did not really enjoy but which would enable him to get his papers in order and stay in the US indefinitely.

My advice was to try to find a role that he would rather do in the company he was presently working for.

The other story was told to me in Toronto. I had, by the way, not been there in many years and was blown away by the high-rise apartment building and office blocks, amazing restaurants, and multicultural vibe in the city.

This person had worked for years in his family business in a developing country but felt that he was not doing the work he was meant to do and came to Toronto with his wife and two children to participate in the tech space in the city. Leaving the family business was a bit traumatic for him and his father and triggered a restructuring of the company dividing different parts of it between his father and his uncles.

In terms of the framework shown in Learning to Fly, he had come to Canada, a place he had never been, to work in a Space in which he had no first-hand experience, and without a clear idea of the role, he wanted to play. Naturally, after a few months of knocking on doors, he had little to show for his efforts.

To make matters more complex, one of his children had special needs and his wife decided that she would be better able to care for the child back home and decided to go back.

My advice was to follow his wife and go back to the family business in which he may be able to find a way to bring advanced technology to it and then perhaps transition to a tech company after demonstrating some experience with the particular technology that he was interested in.

What I like about both stories is that they show how issues such as loyalty to our families are important but perhaps not the only thing that we need to think about. My feeling is that parents want their children to be happy and that they will support any decision a daughter or a son takes as long as it is well thought out and leads them to a good place.

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