188: What It Means to Be A First-Generation American and Entrepreneur

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According to the Kauffman Index, more than 27% of entrepreneurs in the US are immigrants despite representing only 13.5% of the population. Furthermore, 43% of the companies on the 2017 Fortune 500 list were founded or co-founded by first or second-generation immigrants. This data speaks volumes about their ability to overcome obstacles, create a life for themselves, and successfully achieve the American dream. But the question is, why is it that immigrants tend to be more entrepreneurial? Interestingly, most first-gen students and graduates overcome almost similar obstacles. Patience and resilience come naturally to them, and starting with nothing demands more discipline, flexibility, and persistence than everyone else. Yet, these adversities make them tough and often increases their chances of success. 

Getting to Know Dr. Ortiz – 01:45

Being born into an immigrant family can be interesting. You get to experience your family’s rich social heritage and still get a piece of the American culture. Nevertheless, Dr. Ortiz explains that no matter how intriguing living in an immigrant family can be, it sure does pack its fair share of challenges. For example, immigrant kids often struggle to find a sense of belonging. Their parents work hard to get them into the best schools, but they also expect a bright future in return. The dilemma comes when college comes knocking. Immigrant children are torn between following their parent’s wishes or pursuing their dreams.   

Dr. Ortiz admits that his family had sacrificed a lot for him to get to where he is today. But as far as his future was concerned, all decisions were sorely made by him. He chose an out-of-state college, pursued his dream career, and overcame the cultural barriers in his path to success. Like most kids who grew up in immigrant families in the 80s and 90s, Dr. Ortiz is a pioneer and an inspiration to the broader immigrant population. 

The Ph.D. Path: Experiences and Lesson Learned – 11:50

Pursuing a Ph.D. for most people feels like a marathon that demands intense and sustained focus, passion, and determination. However, earning the highest certification in the land is not entirely dependent on intelligence. It’s instead a combination of having financial support and making educated moves. Dr. Ortiz made such educated decisions when he spent five years between each degree implementing everything he had learned after graduating. He believes that sometimes graduates make the mistake of going all-in for the Ph.D. without spending some time applying their skills in the real world. However, he admits that everybody’s situation is different, and sometimes it makes more sense to go all in.

The Most Challenging Parts of Navigating Graduate School and Staying Motivated – 14:30 

Back in the day, people of color were not as largely represented as they are today in the higher ed space. Dr. Ortiz explains that imposter syndrome and insecurity often increase when a person attends an institution with few diverse students. Racial bias suddenly becomes a reality when answering a question in class and the other students point out your accent. All in all, as first-gens, we’re psychologically wired to keep pushing, no matter the obstacles. According to Dr. Ortiz, the best way to deal with imposter syndrome is to stop comparing yourself with others. The people you think are better than you might be book smart but lack the life experience you possess. Be yourself, be unique, and keep pushing. 

From Educator to Entrepreneur – 15:40 

After spending several years teaching in the non-profit world, Dr. Ortiz was pretty happy with his life’s accomplishments. He had a Ph.D. and was doing what he loved, teaching. But something changed when more and more people started asking for advice about how he was able to succeed despite the odds. He believed that a business could be built from his experience and ability to teach. Furthermore, his parents were entrepreneurs, and so he had the entrepreneurial spirit running through his veins. If you genuinely believe your idea can be turned into a profitable business, then go ahead and pursue it. You might fail, or you might succeed, but the only way you’ll ever know is if you start. But, always ensure that whatever it is you’re pursuing is something you enjoy.   

Why You Need to Start Your Entrepreneurial Journey Early – 20:00

Nobody is born an entrepreneur. It’s a skill that can be learned just like any other. There’s no set-in-stone structure of achieving success, and different people take different paths to become one. However, the one entrepreneurial regret most entrepreneurs have is that of starting early. Dr. Ortiz believes that as long as you have the right mindset and believe in your idea, you should just start. And if you think you can’t do it on your own, ask for help. If you can find a mentor, the better. When you have a mentor’s guidance, you are more likely to succeed than you are alone. On the other hand, a business partnership allows you to leap straight into the game and move more rapidly than if you tediously faced hurdles alone. 

Dr. Ortiz is a compassionate executive leader passionate and eager to move into a progressive higher education institution to apply his two decades of direct social work experience, four years of graduate teaching experience, and ten years in organizational development, direct management, and fiscal oversight. Cultivator of strengths-based and outcomes-oriented team culture to achieve the largest community and organizational impact.

Dr. Ortiz obtained his Bachelor of Arts, Creative Arts from San José State University (1999), an MSW (2010), and Education Doctorate (2018) from the University of Southern California. Connect with Dr. Ortiz through LinkedIn.