Here’s What it’s like to be an Immigrant and Move to Pittsburgh on a Work Visa

Below is an excerpt from a PublicSource article featuring Angélica Ocampo, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council. Click here to read the complete article by Mila Sanina, Executive Director, PublicSource.

Angélica Ocampo almost deleted the email that would ultimately lead her to Pittsburgh, to a big job at the World Affairs Council and a new path for her 16-year-old daughter.

angelica3A native of Argentina, Angélica worked in New York City at the time as the executive director of Worldfund, a nonprofit focusing on development of teachers in Latin America. She remembers that evening, how she was on a train on her way from work, cleaning her mailbox.

Delete. Delete. Delete.

Then followed a message that she almost committed to trash, something from a recruiter about a job in Pittsburgh, the city she never heard of before. She saved it for later. And then forgot about it. Until a week later, a friend who used to work in Silicon Valley told her, “There is interesting stuff going on in Pittsburgh. You should check it out.”

And she did. Angélica remembers her first few visits while she was interviewing for the CEO position at the World Affairs Council. How taxi drivers and concierges and waiters whom she asked about the city were its best ambassadors and cheerleaders. How the city was green and friendly. How they said it’s a great place to grow a family, which sounded like an appealing argument for a single mom.

It will be later that she would see veiled signs of how foreign to diversity Pittsburgh was. It will be later that Angélica will hear someone suggest to her that she may want to take accent reduction classes. “I thought it was a joke. I didn’t know what to say.”

But challenges do not have a paralyzing effect on her. In fact, they are a driving force.