My journey through the land of lighted highways
Deloitte Global CEO opens up about his immigration experience on LinkedIn
I boarded a plane and left India for the first time to attend college in the US. I remember thinking on the ride that evening from the Portland, Oregon airport, “What a wondrous country where they can afford to light up their highways!” (My hometown had no street lights.)
My eyes were opened to a great many things in those early years. Living in the U.S. was exhilarating but also intimidating. I strove hard to learn the customs, fit in with the culture, and develop skills so I could contribute and eventually become a citizen. Now, decades later, I am still enchanted by my adopted country.
My story has been repeated millions of times by those who, like me, crossed borders to find new opportunities. Regardless of where we landed, assimilation often proved a fine line to walk without losing ourselves or stifling the unique perspectives we brought to our jobs and our communities. Ironically, it was precisely my past experiences that engendered such a deep regard (and love) for my new home and drove me to succeed.
I owe a lot to the people I met here in the U.S. who supported me throughout my journey. They helped me understand that I could not allow myself to be defined or constrained by labels – because those labels rarely had anything to do with the value of my ideas or the potential I had to contribute to the betterment of where I chose to live.
It wasn’t always the easiest advice to follow, but it was a message that stuck with me. And, I was able to take my cue from other newcomers who had begun to demonstrate the value of diversity in spurring innovation and supporting economic growth. The immigrants and children of immigrants who were founding thriving brands in their adopted homelands (think Google and Tesla); who were being recognized for their bold ideas (think U.S. Nobel Prize winners), and who were slowly transforming local cities into global business destinations (think current day London).
The fact is, yesterday’s newcomers inevitably become an integral part of today’s economic and cultural fabric, the many threads making up a community’s vitality.
Therefore, amid the fear that is a natural reaction to a turbulent world, I urge the case for understanding. Because if we allow fear to rule our actions and drive our decisions, it isn’t only those we shut out who lose; it is our businesses, our economies, and our society as a whole that suffer.
As a former newcomer myself, I will never forget that first highway ride that welcomed me. And, that is why, I will always believe in keeping that highway lit for those embarking on their own journeys.