Sunday, November 1, 2009
As a (relatively new) immigrant to Canada, I enjoy reading Spunky Immigrant Makes Good stories. So when I browsed the first few pages of Obstacles Welcome: How to Turn Adversity into Advantage in Business and in Life online, and realized the author, Ralph de la Vega, had left Cuba alone at the age of ten to eventually become the CEO of AT&T Mobility, I had to read further. Thomas Nelson sent me this book as part of the Book Review Bloggers program.
I loved the sections of the book which dealt with immigrant-related issues.
The US government had a food program for Cuban refugees that consisted of blocks of cheddar cheese and containers of Spam-like meat the size of paint cans.
de la Vega describes what enabled him and his family (who eventually joined him in the States) to rise above their circumstances. As well as their adaptability – they learned English and worked hard at jobs to which they weren’t accustomed – they placed an emphasis on staying in school. For them, degrees led to opportunity, and one of the themes in this book is that nearly everything can lead to opportunities of different kinds. de la Vega didn’t have money, but he had dreams, determination and the willingness to step well out of his comfort zone.
“Be comfortable with being uncomfortable”, in other words.
The immigrant issues span the first three chapters of the book, and the rest deals with business situations such how At&T achieved sales in Latin American markets, and the merging of Cingular with AT&T Wireless. This would probably be helpful to readers who are more interested in business. There’s a great deal about a company’s vision, its treatment of customers and how leaders can inspire the people around them, although nothing struck me as really groundbreaking here.
So my favorite part is still the start, where, in Miami, a ten-year-old boy who can’t speak English (no ESL programs those days) wonders if God is punishing him. Then he picks himself up and goes on from there to lay the foundations of the American Dream.