The Roller Coaster Pursuit to Become an American Citizen (with Olo's Diego Panama)

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This is a podcast episode titled, The Roller Coaster Pursuit to Become an American Citizen (with Olo's Diego Panama). The summary for this episode is: <p>“I don’t know if there was a specific figure or person, but it was just that concept of opportunity and not being tied down because you weren’t born in the right borders or to the right family.” </p><p><br></p><p>That's the reason Diego Panama, Chief Revenue Officer of Olo - an online ordering platform for revenue brands - gives for why he dedicated the first 17 years of his life in the United States to pursuing an American passport.</p><p><br></p><p>In this episode of The American Dream, Diego explains what exactly that pursuit of an American passport looked like. He explains why he thinks everyone should have the immigrant hustle, and he shares his next big goals for life in the United States.</p><p><br></p><p>Be sure to hit the subscribe button to get new episodes when they drop every other Tuesday.</p><p><br></p><p>In the meantime, be sure to leave a ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Elias on Twitter at @eliast and @DriftPodcasts and Diego on LinkedIn.</p>

Elias Torres: Ola! I'm Elias Torres, co- founder and CTO of Drift. You are listening to The American Dream podcast. Did you know that Drift is part of just 2% of VCPAC startups led by Latin American founders. Well, I'm on a mission to change that. On this show, you will hear from leaders who have achieved their own version of the American dream. We'll talk about what the process looked like to get there, the obstacles they faced along the way, and the work we still have to do to build the new face of a diverse corporate America. foreign language to The American Dream podcast. Today, Diego Panama joins me on the show. Diego is the Chief Revenue Officer at Olo, an on- demand commerce platform powering the restaurant industry's digital transformation. Prior to Olo, Diego spent eight years at Live Ramp where he helped the team grow from 30 to over 1,500 employees, from$ 50 million to$ 500 million in revenue. Diego has seen a lot of success. I'm very proud of you in your career. But all of this work was in pursuit of one goal. It started with the pursuit of one, and that goal was to become an American citizen. So I want to talk about that today. I want to talk about what that pursuit looked like and how others can pursue their versions of their American dream and what the next big goals are for Diego. Diego, welcome to the show.

Diego Panama: Thank you so much for having me. It's a real pleasure and honor to be here, and real pleasure and honor to get to know you a little bit better too. So, thank you for having me.

Elias Torres: Yeah, I know. My pleasure. A lot of podcasts are with fancy celebrities. This podcast is only with hardcore immigrants, hustler, Latinos, underrepresented that are here trying to achieve our American dream. That's the kind of celebrities I bring on this show.

Diego Panama: I love it. We get the job done.

Elias Torres: We get the job done. That's what immigrants do. So, where'd you grow up?

Diego Panama: I grew up not too far away from you. I grew up in El Salvador, in San Salvador, the capital. I came over when I was 18.

Elias Torres: Wow. Same thing. I came when I was 17. What was your childhood like?

Diego Panama: I grew up in El Salvador. You remember in the 80s, civil war, that's a theme. But I grew up in a very nice comfortable family. I was lucky that we had food, we had a nice house, I had a good education, even though we had this backdrop of the civil war around us. So, I had a nice childhood, something that I remember and what we're going to talk about today. Since I can remember, when you asked me, what did I want to be when I grow up, I would say, I want to be an American citizen. I wanted that passport, that blue passport. I think a lot of that is my dad's influence that he just recognized that there'd be a lot more opportunity for me if I could get out of El Salvador, and we can talk about that as well. But I would like to say that almost everything I've done since I hit eighth grade, I remember eighth grade was critical because that's when your grades started counting for university applications. That's when I buttoned up. I was like," Okay, now, if I want to get to the U. S., I have to get good grades." So everything I've done was very deliberate to figure out how I could get that blue passport. That's a little of my childhood. I'll tell you one that had a big influence on me. There was a big event when I was probably about 15 or 16, that also had a big impact on me, which is on a Friday afternoon. Dad comes home and tells my mom and my sisters that we have to leave the house because the bank is likely going to take it over next week. My mom had no idea. That's a separate story. But the shock and the trauma, and we had to move to like a tiny little apartment that we're lucky my grandparents had. That just gave me this ambition and this hunger for financial security that stays with me till today. I had a beautiful childhood really focused on education, but no shortage of economic shocks, and that was just the big one that really influenced everything I've done since.

Elias Torres: Wow. It's amazing the parallels that you and I have. My mother, the house that I lived in, I don't know how it compares to your house, but I found out the year that we came here, that she was really borrowing that house from the guy that left during the coup from the Somozas and the Sandanistas.

Diego Panama: Yeah, wow.

Elias Torres: So a guy took off and he told my mother," Can you take care of my home?" Most people would steal homes. I thought my mom borrowed, but my mom told me that she actually finished paying his mortgage, and then we lived in it. Then when the guy came back, he came knocking and he said," I want my house back." I did not have grandparents with an apartment waiting for me. The church had an old lot and had it from the earthquake. They said, there's three lots that you can take because we don't want to lose that lot. But there was a house there... not a house. There was four pieces of wood with plastic around it and a plastic roof. And so, that's when we went to see, right as we were getting the call to come to the United States. My mom was," That's where we're going to live." I was like," Oh my God. We ran from our house."

Diego Panama: Wow. That's some-

Elias Torres: I was going to live in a house with plastic bags, trash bags, walls. Same thing. I was 17 and when I had that.

Diego Panama: It's like that shock. It's like cold water in your face that this home that is your world... I see my kids now in my house and it's theirs. It's their house. And I love it obviously. But then all of a sudden it's just not really yours and you have to figure it out. I mean, probably similar to you, but I wanted to be an American citizen because I wanted to have opportunity to make something of myself and to contribute. But that drive to make money and have financial security has always been there, and I think that just really accentuated the need for that. For the longest time I was paranoid about losing this house. I would go sit with my wife and go through every scenario that could happen of where we could lose that... It's impossible. We're not going to lose this house. But it was just that sense of security.

Elias Torres: But what a great feeling, right? That's a version of the American dream, is to have that stability and to be in a country that you feel somewhat secure that you can live in that house. You can pay for it, the bank or the government or the military is not going to come and take it and ask you to move out. You have built enough financial security to know that it's not going away. That's congrats. I think that's where all of us Latin Americans and immigrants coming wish. Question, I believe in role models a lot. You said it was your father. Who are the role models? You remember vividly who is the person that you looked up and said they went to the United States and why you built this association with getting the passport as your big, most important pursuit?

Diego Panama: So, I mean, my father helped me with education and curiosity and like, that's the path. But I don't know if there was a specific role models. Because all the examples I had, the way I grew up and I'm sure it's similar in Nicaragua, there's a very small, very, very wealthy community, and then the rest of the country. I was exposed to that. The friends and all the kids that I went to school with had the blue passport and they were going to veil in Semana Santa. I was very, very far away from that world. But I just remember thinking like," Man, they can do whatever they want. They can go wherever they want. They can study wherever they want. They can get whatever job they want." And so, I don't know if there was a specific figure or a person that drove me, but it was just that concept of just opportunity and not being tied down because you weren't born in the right borders or to the right family.

Elias Torres: I think that makes sense. That's clear though, where you came. I can picture it. You were able to go to a good school where you got to see the wealthy of the nation, and they all hadn't already worked on that. I see people that come and they have their babies here because they're wealthy and they can fly them over with the visa. Then they get the passport and they go back. And so, it's the set up. Vail, wow. I didn't even know Vail existed till a few years back. You know what I mean?

Diego Panama: I didn't know what it was. I just knew that it was skiing and they would all go together. I didn't see snow until I was 19.

Elias Torres: Yeah, same. I was 22 when I saw snow. Because I was in Florida for the first six years. That's great. It's funny because sometimes I've been to Vail and I see a couple of Latino families. Most of the ones I ran into are Argentinian or something like that. Super wealthy. When I see them, I immediately go, wow, it's a whole family speaking Spanish. They don't live here. They must be so wealthy to come and do this kind of vacation. I was talking to a friend this morning. As a Latino in Nicaragua, I never had vacations. I think I went to the beach for spring break one day. Go and come back.

Diego Panama: Well, that's the other thing I remember. On the weekends, El Salvador doesn't have a tourism infrastructure. It's not like Costa Rica. If you go to the beach, it's pretty much private houses. And so, if you want to go, we didn't have anything like that. But a lot of my friends," Did you see it?" Okay, so on the weekend, we just stay home. And so, it just creates this hunger that was connected to the American dream that, unfortunately, I don't think if you're not born into it, it's very hard. While I do believe that as imperfect as it is, I think the United States is probably one of the most incredible, amazing countries in history. And I do believe that for the most part, if you work your butt off and are curious, you have the opportunity to do well here. And you have the opportunity to do exponentially well. I know you talked about that a couple of podcasts ago. You can lockstep your family wealth for generations and not just survive. I feel that's very, I don't know if it's unique to the U. S., but it's present in the U. S. and it's a big reason why I wanted to come here.

Elias Torres: Absolutely. I think the role models, and I think a big breakthrough to thank your parents was that, I've heard this before of, I kind of sit in two camps. In some ways, I went to a public school here in Tampa. That's what mom could afford. Other immigrants, they would say," My parents worked so hard so they would send me to a private school in another zip code." The point it is, I don't know the specifics for you, maybe you'll tell me, but there was a conscious effort that your father wanted you to be in this school. That made a positive impact for you, where you could have gone worse, you could have been negative and sad and depressed because you didn't have what the other ones have and you weren't a part of it. But instead you turn it around into a good type of motivation for you, and they were role models that expose you to things. That's the thing that people don't understand, is that we need to be exposed to things. We need to see things to want them, to pursue them, to think that is possible. If we don't have that vision, we have that immigrant hustle, but if it's not directed as a vector into the right direction, we cannot achieve the dream.

Diego Panama: I haven't thought about, but I think that's a great point. Exposure, just so that you understand what's possible. It's hard to imagine that certain things... I see some things now that I would've never imagined possible growing up. I was like,"Oh, this is a thing? People do this? This is possible?" So I think that, yeah, the exposure is a great point. Both my mom and dad, the budget for the school was untouchable. Everything, that was it.

Elias Torres: That, in a way, everything just builds on each other. It's one step after the other. You go into that school, you saw the passport, you saw the access that these wealthy people had. The one thing, it's amazing, you observed one thing. They had these passports. And you're like," How do we do it?" Question: how did you get the passport?

Diego Panama: I got here, call it, September of 2000, and I became a citizen on April 11th, 2017. So, about 17 years.

Elias Torres: Wow.

Diego Panama: I'm very deliberate. I'm pretty thorough. I had studied everything there is to study about becoming an American citizen. For example, you go to top tier schools, you're more likely... and you start with a student visa that gave you 12 months, if I remember correctly, I think we call it practical training or on- the- job practical training. But if you went to a good school, you were more likely to be able to get a job that would sponsor you. In addition, if you studied math and science, it was easier for you to get sponsorship for that, because you had to get a job that was going to be related to what you studied; so in order to go from a student visa to a work visa, which is an H1B. I love history, but sorry, that's a luxury. You're going to study math and economics. I mean, that's what I told myself. And so, I ended up studying math and economics so that I could get sponsorship for an H1B. Then again, I had done the research that if you have a Master's degree, your path to the green card accelerate. You're at a higher tier. Because you only have six years on that work visa. After those six years, you have to go back to your country for at least a year. All these were my nightmares at night. It's like, what would I do? So, I have to work for three years, go get a Master's degree, and then I would have another three years to finally get my green card. That's what I did. I did math and economics so I could get an H1B. Then I worked in an economics related field, pushed to get a Master's degree. Then I went to get my Master's degree. Then from there, we talked about it, I went to MIT Sloane, which is an awesome business school right in your backyard. You have options and startups, I've always been curious, and I had worked with startups in my first job. But that was a luxury I didn't feel like I could afford, so I chose to go work for Microsoft and move out here to Seattle. Even though I loved New York city, I loved the East Coast, I've never really been to Seattle before. I know you shared a similar story about Boston. But I knew Microsoft sponsors thousands. At the time, it was one of the biggest sponsors of first, make sure you get your H1B, they weren't going to mess it up. Then second, translate that H1B to a green card. That's why I ended up at Microsoft, so that I could make sure that I could make that transition from the H1B to the green card. Once you get the green card, you're sort of a little bit safer. My wife makes fun of me because I'm always driving at the speed limit. I still feel like an outsider. I've got to be very respectful of everything in the country. But once you have that green card, now you can change jobs without asking for permission, I would say. Before, when you have an H1B, it's tied to your employer. If you want to change jobs, there's a whole process and they must really want you for it. It didn't seem feasible. So finally I got the green card, and then I had a little bit more freedom. So that's when I joined startups. I joined Live Ramp early on because I had that security that if that doesn't work, I can easily get another job. Once you have a green card, it felt like a piece of cake. Then I was very aggressive with the process. About three years later, I finally got the citizenship and it was great. I'm so happy that I'm here. If I choose to, I will stay here. Nobody can pick me up.

Elias Torres: Did you travel anywhere outside the United States after you got the passport? Where's the first place you went to?

Diego Panama: Well, I think, I mean, you may remember, but there's a period of time where you can't travel. When you're going from the green card to the passport and you have to do an interview and you have to do all these tests, you can't travel. So in that period of time, you're hoping that there's no emergencies at home. Where did we? We went to El Salvador. I chose to go into the country as an American instead of using... and you have to pay$ 10 or whatever the tourist fee is. But that was a moment for me. I thought that was pretty cool.

Elias Torres: What a journey. I mean, I think... God, just so many thoughts. It's a beautiful, beautiful, well- executed, and I'm sure it's not as easy as you make it sound. I mean, everything went perfect and you behaved perfectly for it in some ways. The sequence of things, you made the right choices that made it work out. But it was 17 years.

Diego Panama: And to your point, it's a roller coaster. And I think, I mean, this is all I wanted in life so I was devoted 120%. I would stay up at night reading all the immigration sites, the law. Everything possible. So I knew everything that could go wrong. And yes, it's a roller coaster. I remember I was on Microsoft and I think it was 2010, 2011. We were in the downturn. Unemployment rate was high. I got the news that they couldn't justify my green card sponsorship because there were Americans who could do the job that they were sponsoring me. I went to my GM, which is the partner of the group, and I was bawling, crying. I just remember. He was so kind. We figured it out. Because my time was running out. Because you have those six years. I remember we had to go back and go through my passports at the time and count every day that I had been outside of the U. S. so that we could add those so that I had a little bit more time. I ended up moving to sales because there was a role that would be easier to sponsor. I mean, it was-

Elias Torres: People don't understand. I hear people that are natural citizens that have a lot of privilege and opportunity, and they're complaining about not getting promoted in six months. They're complaining about why they're not vice presidents. They have no idea what you were... you're crying, you're worrying every minute about the lottery, the sponsorships.

Diego Panama: The lottery, oh my gosh.

Elias Torres: The company, any moment the company fires you, you're gone. You start over.

Diego Panama: Oh, the company fires you, you go home.

Elias Torres: Yeah, you go home.

Diego Panama: But with the lottery, there's five countries that are not eligible to apply for that lottery. Guess which one's one of those five?

Elias Torres: El Salvador.

Diego Panama: El Salvador, yeah.

Elias Torres: Because of foreign language

Diego Panama: There's already too many of us. I don't know. But it's such a privilege to be a citizen of this country. Again, as imperfect as it is. We have a lot of work to do. But you just can't take it for granted. It's a real privilege.

Elias Torres: It is so much respect for you. You did compressed what we read in another podcast that there's a study that it takes Latino immigrants six to eight generations to generational wealth. It's the study that we have and you were able to do it in one. You executed flawlessly to be able to go from a student to a very successful top tech executive, wealthy by most means in this country, I would imagine. And capable and now a proud American citizen through a lot, a lot of hard work. You did it in one generation.

Diego Panama: Right back at you, Elias. You are a role model for all of us.

Elias Torres: But we did it in parallel. Right? I just want to show-

Diego Panama: But we were in Boston at the same time. Had I known that you, David... I had no idea. But we're always there between 2007, 2009, so I think you were already there.

Elias Torres: Yeah, I was here in 2000. I've been here since, so 22 years now. But that's the thing. Times are changing. I mean, just even this podcast is rare. There's just not many podcasts of us and the success and the dream and the journey. I will say something though. I'm at an inflection point in my life. I've now become privileged. I am so fortunate right where I have that American passport. I have stability. My children can trust their homes. My son went to a camp to Hawaii this morning, 4: 00 AM in the morning, we dropped him off at the airport.

Diego Panama: That's amazing.

Elias Torres: Little side story. My children cannot get a phone until they build an iPhone app.

Diego Panama: I heard you say that in one of your podcasts. I love it.

Elias Torres: He's the third one. He's almost 16 next month and he still does not have a phone because he is being lazy and doesn't want to make the app.

Diego Panama: It's good.

Elias Torres: He was trying to convince me, my wife and I, and him, that," What if I get him the phone and then we store after the trip?" So he's going on a trip a couple of other teenagers without a phone. We gave him his iPad and he didn't want to pull it out with this information. I'm like," You're privileged, but I'm not giving you a phone. You have to earn it. I'm not giving you this, and then you keep it and you sneak it in. The answer is no. You've known it for years." He's in ninth grade. My other kids did it at sixth grade, seventh grade. He's been wasting his time. You get no phone.

Diego Panama: I'm sure you think about that sense of hunger and ambition. For me, it came from just growing up with not a lot, seeing what I could have if I worked hard and having that experience. It just gives me this drive. My kids are younger than yours. I hope they get it and I hope they contribute to society.

Elias Torres: I think they're going to contribute to society, but what we share is very special. What we've gone through. What I was saying about my inflection point is that everything is so much easier for me now. It doesn't feel the same anymore as when I used to go clean the offices with my mother, go to bed late, wake up, how do we pay this? I need this car. I'm buying this car off the street with the sign that said For Sale at a grocery store, a Chevy Cavalier that cost us$ 900. Everything felt, when you earn every single thing from scratch in that hustle, it is a great feeling that I cherish and that my children will not necessarily feel the same way.

Diego Panama: I was thinking about that because yes, it's hard, but it's fun. To put it all out there, you don't have a safety net. I hadn't really realized or thought about it for a long time until you mention it, but if I would've gotten fired or laid off, I wouldn't be here. There's no safety net. You have to work your butt off. You have to hustle, hustle, hustle. And I was just thinking about how it's going to be different. I mean, it's good for my kids, for our kids. They have a great safety. Hopefully they use that to take things to a new level that we can't even imagine. But having that hustle, just again, no safety net, and your hunger, I'm grateful for that. Is your mom around Elias? Is your mom still around? Is your mom still around?

Elias Torres: Yeah. My mom is in-

Diego Panama: She must be incredibly proud of you. What a dream. That's the dream?

Elias Torres: She just mostly keeps me grounded, pulls me by the ear, just to make sure... She's always applying the wisdom techniques of to stay grounded, to not do crazy things, to help, to relax, to really feel happy, to focus on the family, and things like that. Because she always sees me with hunger and ambition. She's like," Relax." Not in a vacation way, but in a spiritual and in my soul. Don't have to always be... I'm just too much fire.

Diego Panama: I can appreciate that. Something I think about is, is it possible to be ambitious and happy at the same time? Because by definition, if you're ambitious, it's like you're not happy with the status quo. You want more or different. I've come to terms where it's like they actually feed of each other and I'm happy when I am pushing.

Elias Torres: I mean, I think that's the way we're built in as human beings. I just think that we always want more. That's the way we're built. That's the way we're designed. It's just like, if we have this meal, well, tomorrow we might want to have a different one or a better one that we see something. We want more. We cannot just eat the same thing or be in the same place or wear the same clothes. We want more. It's built in.

Diego Panama: I don't think everybody's like that. I don't know if you'd agree with that. But for you, do you think it's nature or nurture?

Elias Torres: We can argue about this. I think that every human being wants more. There's different degrees of more.

Diego Panama: For sure.

Elias Torres: There is not one person that would just eat the same thing every day, wear the same thing, live in the same, wear the same shoe. I mean, we can say that there's people that look like that. Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or whatever. It's the same clothes, same shoes, whatever it is. But it is not true. I'm just saying everybody wants that they can get up and go try to get it is different. That they will do something about it. But that everybody wants something more. Everybody wants it. You think so? How many people in the world do not want nothing more?

Diego Panama: And maybe more is defined different for different people because not everybody wants more money.

Elias Torres: No, I don't mean money. For example, if people didn't want more, they wouldn't have children. Because the minute you have a child, you are asking for something that you didn't have. And so, the minute you have that, then you want more for your children. Then, they're going to ask you.

Diego Panama: I agree with that.

Elias Torres: I'm just saying, we're just wired.

Diego Panama: It's fulfilling. Everybody wants a sense of purpose and that's never really done.

Elias Torres: And that's never really

Diego Panama: You're always working.

Elias Torres: Right.

Diego Panama: Once it's done, you die.

Elias Torres: Exactly. And so, that's why we are doing this. So now, the question is the journey of getting the more is extremely satisfying. It's way more important than whatever you get on the other side. My kids, I mean, they're at a great time right now, but when we had to bath them, when we had to take care of them, that was so hard, so tough. But those are the moments that define me as a parent. Now, we're just having fun. But we got to prepare them for the next stages and we got to see. I don't know why we are wired, us immigrants, to enjoy the challenges in the hustle. It's something that we want the American country, the U. S. to harness, is what I want. To understand that there's so much power in the immigrant philosophy and the immigrant energy.

Diego Panama: I mean, I believe that at its core, the United States is an immigrant country. I mean, it is. It was built by immigrants. It was grown by immigrants. I don't know the official stats, but look at, at least in tech, I forget, there's a very handsome share of CEOs that are immigrants or kids of immigrants. I think it has to do with that hustle and that ambition. I think a lot about it. I think that we talked about what was surprising about that process. Reflecting now, what's surprising is just how emotional it is. Because it's something that is completely out of your control but has absolute influence over your life and your outcomes. And so, I think you learn not to take anything for granted and that's, in a way, the definition of hustle. You don't take it for granted. You fight for it.

Elias Torres: I think that's something to highlight about Latin American immigrants or first generation, whatever, is that might be, I'm connecting that to your journey of everything that you did compared to the struggle that I see in tech and employees that are starting their careers, in how many things they're worrying about that I don't see as a concern or worry. We're trying to impart to them that it's going to be fine. But that grit inside, that emotion, that stress, that urgency, that necessity, seems to me much more important than brain talent, pedigree, or skin color. It cuts through anything.

Diego Panama: A hundred percent.

Elias Torres: It's the most powerful force. I'm not going to complain if I didn't get a free lunch today because I am focused on getting my visa. That was you. What everybody complained at lunchtime, it went one side of your ear and it went out the other, and you were like," I don't give a shit. As long as I can apply and I need my three years right now. That's all it matters. I don't care about myself."

Diego Panama: Talk about priority. I remember so vividly I was in the elevator. We had free lunch at the early days and I hear two kids. I'll call them kids." Can you believe that the vegetarian option today was tofu again?" I was like,"Are you kidding me?" So many levels of that.

Elias Torres: I exploded when I heard that. And so, that's the importance, right? That necessity and that hunger makes us innovative, creative, persistent, tough, looking for this most crappiest solution to the problem. Because we have to win. We have no choice. We burned the ships. You came here, you don't want to go back. You were like," I don't want to go back. I don't want to go back. I have nothing to go back to Nicaragua." I was like," I'm not going back. There's no way. I need to succeed here. There was no way looking back." This is great. I love this story. 17 years to achieve your dream of getting that passport. You did that really well. Not only getting the passport, but being extremely successful. Let's wrap up here. What is your next big goal now? You made it.

Diego Panama: Oh, thanks for the time, Elias, and for the opportunity to share the story. Hopefully it's helpful to other... I mean, if you're an immigrant, you keep hustling. And be curious. I think that's the part, the exposure part, I really like you highlight that because you be curious and learn what's out there because you can have it. For me, what's next? I love the hustle. I'm still in it. Tactically, I want to get Olo, my new company, to a billion dollars in revenue. So it's full focus there and continue to build and grow with my kids. I have three young kids, seven, six, and four. I want them to grow to be contributing members of society. I want them to want to hang out with me when they're in their twenties. So hopefully, we'll do that. Then I've always cared about having an impact. More and more, I'm getting educated and involved in our immigrant community because there's a lot of work to do there. With the community and educating folks outside of the community. So, that's how I think about what's next. But continue to work really hard. I mean, I think that's fun for me,

Elias Torres: Absolutely. I think that's the journey that we now, that's the responsibility that we carry, of how do we help others. How do we lift others as we rise? I'm doing different things and just meeting people and exposing myself. There's a lot of need out there and that's the good thing. But I'm trying to transform my ambition, to be able to channel it into the right thing, to feel that again, and solve big, big problems that people have. We need more. I think you being here, it's like you were here not too far from me. People are just not aware who's around, who's successful. What did they go through? And so, you are a role model for many. People are listening. I know a lot of people are in that visa journey, of getting that and working at places here, and you should be encouraging that it's possible.

Diego Panama: I'll put in a plug in something that I'm learning. But if you have a green card, you should be working your butt off to get that citizenship, because that's how we're going to make a difference. More of us vote, more of us participate in society. You'll be surprised but there's a very meaningful number of people out there that have a green card and just sit pretty. It's like," It doesn't change my..." Actually, it does. Go get your American passport. It's going to take you one to two years, but get it going.

Elias Torres: Absolutely. It is something that without getting political or philosophical, I pay respect to this country because this country allowed me to become who I've become. No other country accepted me and invited me and gave me this opportunity, so I'm thankful. I don't care what other people say. Whether they're from this country and this country, blah, blah, blah, I'm thankful. This is the only one. We're living the American dream. I hope others can achieve it too. Be inspired by Diego's story. We will bring other people that we have lined up. Great stories. I'm so impressed for my fellow Latinos that are working really hard in this country.

Diego Panama: Thanks for all you're doing, Elias.

Elias Torres: Thanks for listening to The American Dream podcast. Make sure to hit Subscribe so you never miss when a new episode drops. If you like this episode, please leave a six- star review wherever you listen to your podcast. If you're interested in learning more about my American Dream mission, subscribe to my newsletter, linked in the show notes.


“I don’t know if there was a specific figure or person, but it was just that concept of opportunity and not being tied down because you weren’t born in the right borders or to the right family.”

That's the reason Diego Panama, Chief Revenue Officer of Olo - an online ordering platform for revenue brands - gives for why he dedicated the first 17 years of his life in the United States to pursuing an American passport.

In this episode of The American Dream, Diego explains what exactly that pursuit of an American passport looked like. He explains why he thinks everyone should have the immigrant hustle, and he shares his next big goals for life in the United States.

Key Moments:

  • (2:01) Diego’s childhood
  • (7:51) What inspired Diego to attain American citizenship
  • (14:03) Diego’s journey to obtaining an American passport
  • (18:04) The first place Diego traveled after he got his American passport
  • (19:04) The obstacles Diego overcame to achieve American citizenship
  • (25:32) The immigrant hustle
  • (27:13) Is it possible to be ambitious and happy at the same time?
  • (30:13) The United States is (and should be) an immigrant country
  • (31:43) The first-generation grit cuts through anything
  • (34:07) Diego’s next big goal

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