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During COVID, immigrants are getting the job done



Welcome to Worksheet, a newsletter about how people are working smarter in these turbulent times.

Every week, this newsletter will share analysis on the state of work by S. Mitra Kalita, a veteran media executive, author, and journalist.

Kalita recently launched a series of community ventures, including Epicenter and The Escape Home, and is building a network to connect niche media and big media. Both her startup experiences and background in larger organizations guide and inform Worksheet. She was most recently senior vice president at CNN and previously worked at the LA Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Quartz and Mint (India). She also frequently consults and speaks on diversity, management and digital strategy, and fashions herself an expert on where to eat in Queens.

Here’s what to expect in this inaugural edition of the newsletter.

In the first installment, Kalita explores how an immigrant mindset has helped some employees not only survive 2020, but make the most of an incredibly difficult year. Here’s an excerpt.

There’s a certain worker undeniably in high demand during this pandemic: multi-skilled, flexible, resilient, tolerant of risk and the great unknown. 

Basically, immigrants.

“Immigrants are more likely to be people who inherently embrace uncertainty,” said Brian Laung Aoaeh, who was raised between Nigeria and Ghana and launched a fund, Refashiond Ventures, to invest in supply-chain innovation.“This is actually a phrase I use to describe myself—and it’s come up in job interviews in the past: ‘I embrace uncertainty.’”

The act of migration itself underscores an appetite for risk. Outsiders bring with them fresh perspectives, new ideas, and a certain hustle and hunger to survive. In the middle of this current and historic upheaval of the world order, some employers are finding that’s not just welcome but necessary. 

Immigrant Mindsent-Job-Application
Juan Barbosa, 23, of Bakersfield, left, checks details on an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) employment authorization renewal with Daniel Jimenez, an outreach worker with United Farm Workers Foundation, at the organization’s offices in Bakersfield, California. Immigrants—and the life experience they often bring to the job—are in demand right now.
Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg/Getty Images

To be sure, an entrepreneur’s birthplace or country of origin is not actually what makes immigrant workers so valuable. “Are you special because you are an immigrant? No, it’s more about the ethos of being an immigrant,” said Nitin Pachisia, founding partner of Unshackled Ventures, which invests exclusively in startups where at least one founder is an immigrant or the child of immigrants. “For us immigrants, there are creative ways of looking at a problem. When you come from another ecosystem, you question the why behind it. Then you take a variable and change it. That’s how big innovation happens.”

Kalita goes on to talk about specific strategies immigrant-founded businesses are using to pivot during COVID, and the surprisingly high number of Fortune 500 founders that are immigrants. (Can you guess how many?)

Read her full column here.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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