Agostino Pozzi, L.E.K. Consulting Manager and co-founder of employee resource group AIDA, tells us about his experience as an expat in the U.S. and why this affinity group was created.
Tell us a little about yourself and your experience as an expat working in the U.S.
I was born and raised in Northern Italy, a couple of hours north of Milan. I went to medical school in Milan and then came to the U.S. in 2017 to get my Masters in Public Health and MBA at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. It was during this time that I realized the complexity of living in the United States as a noncitizen. I navigated key immigration-based challenges and logistical complexities such as visas, taxes, insurance and figuring out a new healthcare system.
What is AIDA? What does the name mean and what is the group’s mission?
AIDA is an affinity group at L.E.K. The acronym stands for Achieving International Diversity and Awareness. Also, Aida, in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera of the same name, was an Ethiopian princess expat in Egypt. The name of this ERG reflects the three main goals of the group. First, supporting our international colleagues as they navigate the complexity of the American immigration process and adapt to a new culture. Second, providing a sense of community to international team members so they can connect with others who are in a similar space. Third, raising awareness more broadly about the added stressors associated with being immigrants in the U.S.
Why were you compelled to co-found AIDA?
The idea of creating a formal affinity group arose during the pandemic as COVID-19 put another level of stress on international team members. There were travel and visa restrictions. It was a particularly isolating experience for anyone international because it became much more challenging to visit our families, if we could at all. I, for one, haven’t seen my family since 2019! Meanwhile it was an incredibly stressful time. The pandemic shined a light on the added complexities and unique stresses that come with living here as an expat, and I wanted to create a group that would provide support, give us a platform to get together and raise awareness within L.E.K. It was important to me to find a way to make international L.E.K.ers understand that they are not alone.
What types of events and programs will AIDA be coordinating in the upcoming year?
We have an ambitious agenda for 2022! We’ll be offering an “Expat Buddy Program” where mentees can be matched with a Buddy who can provide support and guidance especially during onboarding. There will be business language, presentation and English classes for nonnative speakers. There will also be a platform where AIDA members can openly ask questions and discuss their experiences privately. We are planning speaker sessions with our nonresident employees, and we will hold panel sessions that all L.E.K.ers can attend and learn from. On the cultural side, we’ll be holding quarterly events such as lunch and learns and happy hours that may showcase country-specific themes and speakers.
What advice would you give anyone considering a move to the U.S.?
I would say to embrace the process. The U.S. is a great country to live in and is a highly entrepreneurial, sophisticated and rewarding place to work. Immigrating is challenging but embrace the stress and see this as a special and positive challenge. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for support, and remember there are others going through similar challenges and you can reach out to them.