A Global Perspective
When people think about America, the first places/thoughts that come to mind are New York City and Disneyland. Often times, smaller cities tend to get overlooked. This includes Raleigh, since North Carolina is not very well known outside of the Southeast. So, it’s easy to ask someone, “Why and how did you end up here?!” Instead, the question should be, “Why not be here in Raleigh?” This mindset can help us all be more welcoming to people who aren’t from North Carolina, and even from the U.S. Gabe Gonzalez, the program manager of NC State’s Entrepreneurship Clinic, is a great example of this mindset.
An Introduction to Gabe…
At the time when I came to the US, Venezuela was in the middle of the economic implosion. Before, $1 equaled 10 bolívar notes, and today $1 equals 3 million bolívar notes. Going through that, my family had an opportunity for work outside of Venezuela, which helped my brother and I come here. I knew more about North Carolina because my Aunt has been here for 20 years in Smithfield. We used to visit her regularly for a month at the time, which was very random to be in Smithfield, NC coming from Venezuela.
When I was school shopping, NYU and Berkeley were the top of my list. When people outside the US think about America, it’s always New York or California or Disneyland. But, due to the economic situation I couldn’t afford those schools, so I went for NC schools including UNC. I ended up at NCSU because I took an English class, but then went to Wake Tech because of the lower cost and the transferability for my credits to NCSU. Plus, I was looking at more tech options and saw that NCSU had the best programs for what I wanted to do. I studied entrepreneurship and accounting NCSU; when the E clinic was first opening up.
I met with Lewis Sheats, the director of the clinic, and this began my involvement. I was the first volunteer to join the clinic when it was just 7 students and fell in love with the space. In Venezuela, we could never dream of something like this or HQ – I’d never seen something like them in my life. It was great to get outside of the college bubble and experience real life while still in school, but interacting with so many different people especially with an international background like mine.
I’ve worked with a lot of local companies and startups in Raleigh including Loading Dock before it launched, and Filter Easy. I studied abroad in Shanghai, made a lot of friends there, and became friends with the founder of Mati. So, I pitched myself to the company and became one of the first brand ambassadors/interns. This was my first real job here in Raleigh. I’ve also interned with Malartu and worked as a TA in MBA classes.
After I graduated, I decided to stay here in Raleigh and hop on the opportunity to run the E clinic as the program manager. It involves wearing a lot of hats – running the NCSU mentors program and the accelerator program.
Biggest Differences in Culture
Personally, my biggest culture shock was time. People here are very on the dot and very punctual. In Venezuela, if you say 8, you show up at 9. In the professional world, I quickly learned needing to be on time. The way people here approach others is very informal. The culture itself has similarities, and differences. The rules are rules. Where I come from rules are guidelines that no one pays attention to. You start learning and appreciating the structure of the life here and how things are done. Also, I think being in a more southern state from someone coming from latin America, I was used to the bigger cities. Back home, it’s really easy to get adapted to a looser structure and lifestyle.
It’s also very interesting to learn about people’s lack of interest in traveling, and their appreciation of family. I didn’t understand that until I started to miss my family. Another thing I love about the culture here is that it’s, now, very non judgmental. You can find someone more alternative looking with dreadlocks working with someone who looks more preppy. You would never find that in Venezuela. Contrary to what some people think, I find people to be very tolerant. At first, I wanted to leave North Carolina (it’s not New York or Disneyland), but now I love Raleigh and don’t want to leave.
Is HQ Inclusive & What More Can Be Done?
Yes, for sure – just look around. HQ has definitely been a home for me and it’s clear they do a lot of dedicated effort to have people of different nationalities. But, it’s also clear in just the way they think. The merging of opinions helps bring more diverse people, which is always good.
I think having more programs that involve more international exchange throughout the year would be a good addition. You can empower people by telling them about the community we have worked to build. International lunches/potlucks or an international food truck day would be cool.