Covid-19 briefly immobilized the world, but as order steadily resumes, so do opportunities for those looking to advance their tech careers. For a specific section of that talent, immigrants have always been a key to the industry, and a source of inspiration for many. Yet career paths sometimes depend on networks and connections, and uprooting to a new country is an added challenge that involves many financial, emotional, and social sacrifices and setbacks.
Each story is unique in its transformational way of laying the groundwork to pursue successful career paths. But common throughout is a bedrock of empathy and effort in order to excel for themselves and the greater good.
Atefeh Riazi is CIO of the Hearst Media Group and former CIO of the United Nations, and has held other high-ranking positions throughout her career in tech. It’s a long way from where she was born in Iran, where women still fight for basic human rights and freedoms. “As a woman growing up in the Middle East, you were always told you have limited choices when it comes to careers,” she says. “You become a teacher or a nurse, but you don’t become an engineer.”
Riazi’s parents sent their then 16-year-old daughter to the US to study, joining her older sister already living in New York. Shortly after arriving, the Islamic revolution in Iran broke out, and the financial implications meant that Riazi had to take on multiple jobs at a young age to get by, which she describes as both tough and enriching.
“I was waitressing, washing dishes, and selling and repairing vacuum cleaners door-to-door,” she says. “I also made money fixing TVs and radios where I could. I even had my own radio program for over six years. I met amazing people who helped me greatly during this time, whom I will never forget. They understood it was a difficult situation for all of us. Of course, such struggles, uncertainty and upheavals make you resourceful and resilient. But they also make you grateful and humble, and encourage you to want to give back to your community and society.”
Felix Quintana, CIO at MX Technologies, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and lost his biological father in a motorcycle accident when he was two. At 10, he and his family immigrated to the US. “My family sought a better life and opportunities,” he said, adding that the transition was grueling. “I had to adjust to a new culture and learn a new language. The most challenging experiences were probably fitting in. Our economic situation was below standards, employment opportunities were limited for my parents, completing schoolwork in a foreign language was difficult, and we experienced some discrimination.”