In the past year, there have been many conversations about immigrants. All this talk made me think of my parents, who emigrated from the Basque region of France and Spain and who started small businesses here in the United States.

Growing up in northern California, I was often embarrassed. I am ashamed to admit it now, but as a teenager, I was quite aware that my parents were uneducated and spoke poorly. ” English, and that my father did not wear a suit in the office. I did not realize how wonderful they were much later. At that time, all I could think was that while the other parents looked clean and professional after work, my dad was dirty and smelly when he came back from his gardening business.

However, when I spent a year in Paris with a French family, I began to appreciate the skills of my parents; they helped me navigate my life. Now that I am in the business world, I am even more grateful.

Although my father’s gardening activity is totally different from the cloud computing industry in which I work, there are more similarities between our jobs than you do. think. I’ve learned a lot from my parents who have worn me throughout my career, including how to position myself for success and how to treat clients.

These lessons still help me today in my job as Senior Vice President of Marketing for Small and Medium Businesses at Salesforce. Here are five things my immigrant parents have learned about success in business.

1. Make every moment count.

Being an immigrant is not easy. In most cases, people who come to our country need to learn English – and it can be difficult to build a life in a new environment. You must also know your new community, make friends and learn the nuances of a new culture.

Running a small business is also a challenge. There is a lot to do to find customers, make sales and cope with expenses; and it seems that there is never enough time in the day.

My mother was always busy. If she does not learn English (her mother tongue is Basque), she works on the company, or strengthens the links with her new community by volunteering or caring for sick neighbors. She made every moment count.

My father, who spent some time as a shepherd in Wyoming and was bored stiff, realized that he wanted to continually learn. Today, at age 84, he still reads Barron’s or watches CNBC.

This philosophy stayed with me. When I do not have a deadline for my work, I can always find something worthwhile to do, such as volunteering, exercising or professional development. It helped keep me motivated, motivated and fulfilled.

2. Ask what you deserve.

Although my father was the face of our family’s gardening business, my mother was the person who made things happen behind the scenes. This included managing finances and difficult conversations.

When I was in elementary school, my father was maintaining the garden of a field in the nearby town. The man who owned the property became the secretary of defense of the United States and moved to Washington, and my father continued to maintain his property. The bills did not seem to follow him to the east; and after several months, my mother became frustrated and called the Pentagon. After a few transfers, she had him on the phone and received the check four days later.

Do not expect that you will be paid or recognized for the work you do. You must ask for it – and be persistent. Set clear expectations with your manager for both projects and promotions; and keep track of your accomplishments so that you are ready to ask for an improvement in your responsibilities, more recognition or a bonus.

3. Find mentors and advocates.

Many people helped my parents when they started in the United States. One of my father’s clients, Mr. Paul, who was as American as apple pie, was interested in our family and helped my mother practice English. He then took her to the DMV to get her learner’s license so that she could start driving instead of cycling in town. Having left his own father behind, my mother saw Mr. Paul as the paternal figure she needed to make this country her home.

Mentors and lawyers are also valuable in the world of work. They can offer a perspective on your performance or career that you will not get from someone in your immediate chain. You can join a networking group, a meeting group or a community organization, or you can find an individual, inside or outside your company. Be open to different opportunities and build relationships. They may already exist in your life without having this formal title – as Mr. Paul was for my mother.

4. Pay forwards.

The story of my parents would have been very different without the opportunities that Mr. Paul and others have created for them. My mother continued to pay him back all his life. She is 83 years old and still prepares meals for sick neighbors and visits single people. This sense of purpose helps to maintain it too.

Paying forward is also important in the world of work. I firmly believe that all of us, especially women, must support one another. We must take the time to have coffee, lunch, conferences and meetings to share our ideas and advice with others.

You get as much of a mentor as a mentee because it’s a great opportunity to have different perspectives on what’s going on in the world.

5. Be true to yourself.

Even though it bothered me sometimes while I was growing up, my parents were always clueless themselves. My dad wore his gardening clothes as a badge of honor. He never claimed to be anything other than what he was. And, almost at fault, they were truth-tellers. They were known as honest and trustworthy people.

Being true to oneself is also essential for business leaders. You need to build trust if you want people to adhere to your vision and support your team. I have learned from my parents that I am much more trustworthy and trustworthy if I put my authentic self at work. I share my interests, challenges and vulnerabilities with my team. Building relationships in this way has helped me build stronger relationships and become a better leader.

Photo via Salesforce

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