We fear what we do not understand. To compensate, we seek familiarity, which helps us feel accepted and secure. I am no exception to this rule.
I immigrated from Colombia to the United States in my early teens. I didn’t speak the language nor did I understand the cultural differences. For example, I wasn't used to moving from classroom to classroom at school with so many different teachers, so my first week was a disaster to say the least. I was also used to playing pick up soccer every afternoon but I couldn't find anyone around to play with. I regularly felt overwhelmed and isolated.
These are just a few of the many transitional challenges I faced as a new immigrant. And, as a result, the people I chose to surround myself with in high school and college were people just like me. They felt familiar, gave me safety, and – without a doubt – comfort. Assimilating to the US was much easier in a community of people living through the same immigrant experience as I was.
The longing I had felt as a new immigrant for cultural familiarity, safety, and comfort had morphed into a curiosity for the unknown.
By the time I graduated from the University of South Florida in 2007, things changed. I was living in a self-insulated bubble, and in order to pursue my own personal development, that bubble needed to be burst. The longing I had felt as a new immigrant for cultural familiarity, safety, and comfort had morphed into a curiosity for the unknown.
This curiosity led me to Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan, outside of Detroit, the heart of one of the largest populations of Arab Americans in the United States. For the second time in my life, I was a minority. Again, I immersed myself in a totally new language, culture, and a completely different religion. It was strange and awesome all at the same time. Strange because there were no Colombian restaurants around; and awesome because I joined a very competitive soccer league made up of mostly Middle Eastern players. These are just a few examples.
My time in Dearborn fed my hunger for curiosity that I first felt after graduation. I was continually encouraged to intentionally explore new places, meet new people, experience different cultures, understand other religions, and search for new ideas. To say I loved it would be an understatement. I still joke with my wife about needing a weekly hummus injection to satisfy my cravings for Mediterranean food – which is harder to fulfill now that I live in Tampa, FL.
I was continually encouraged to intentionally explore new places, meet new people, experience different cultures, understand other religions, and search for new ideas.
Fast-forward five years and now I find myself as part of Symantec’s Competitive Intelligence (CI) team under the Enterprise Security Group (ESG). Of all the teams I’ve worked with, I’ve come to appreciate this team the most. The CI team embodies the diversity I’ve sought since I lived in Dearborn. The ten team members run the gamut across ethnic backgrounds, personalities, and even hobbies outside of work. For example:
- We represent a total of nine nationalities: Australia, Canada, Colombia, England, Germany, Israel, Japan, Spain, and the USA
- We have all kinds of personalities, such as: reserved intellectuals, outspoken analytical minds, and those who “tell it like it is”
- We participate in a variety of hobbies, like mountain climbing, classical music, mountain biking, hunting, running, soccer, and car racing
So why does all this matter? It matters because our individual differences strengthen us as a team. Our variety gives us dynamism and balance, while also inspiring us to look for things we have in common. Our heterogeneity facilitates incredible, meticulous strategic thinking, and forces us to push our boundaries – both personally and professionally. Our diverse backgrounds are the foundation for our diverse thinking. Put all of this together and we have got an invaluable team of individuals making a superior, positive impact on our organization and within the greater world of IT security. I’m honored to be a part of it.
Our diverse backgrounds are the foundation for our diverse thinking.
The Symantec Competitive Intelligence (CI) team has taught me that strength in unity is rooted in differences, and that, without a doubt, diversity makes us more creative, innovative, and empathetic toward ourselves and others – including our customers.
With that in mind, my challenge for you is to be more curious. Instead of sticking only to what you know and what’s in your comfort zone, how can you be courageous and be intentionally interested in other people, ideas, perspectives, and communities? I challenge you to put yourself in situations that feel foreign so that you may learn and grow from others. Together, let’s challenge the status quo and disrupt the dominant, homogeneous, stereotypically-male IT narrative. Like me, I suspect you'll find it liberating and refreshing.
Ultimately, I’ve found that even when we look, sound, or act differently on a surface level, underneath all of that we’re much more alike than most of us dare to imagine. When you do dare to imagine and put forth a little effort, you will see it as well.
Let’s stop being afraid of our differences, and instead recognize the strength and power within them.
When we are curious, we are better able to bridge the gap between our own experiences and other people's experiences, and we see the world through an expanded lens.
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