Where are you from?

I am from England.

What was it like growing up?

I had a very pleasant childhood in England. I am not one of the immigrants who had to fight through a warzone to get here. It was an idyllic English childhood.

What brought you to Cleveland?

I am half American. My mother is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My parents divorced when I was young and I would spend my summers in Milwaukee by lake Michigan. I love the States and always imagined that I would live in this country. I studied American Studies in college to better understand the country I loved. I worked in the UK for a few years after graduating from college. I had originally wanted to work in Television and I came to Cleveland when I got a job here with the CBS affiliate. I never intended to stay in Cleveland, but ended up falling in love with a local girl and with city as well.

What were your first thoughts about coming to the US? Did those change?

My first thoughts were that this is the land of opportunity and a truly meritocratic country. I am proud of my English heritage, but England is a country entwined with tradition and social hierarchy. I had a perception from the outside that America would be completely mediocratic. I was surprised to find out that this was not true, and that some of the frustrating social hierarchies I had tried to leave exist in similar but different forms here too.

On a more positive note I was also surprised by how interested and welcoming people were towards me. They were interested in my backgrounds and experiences, frequently asking me why I moved to Cleveland. I have been very warmly embraced here.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

I don’t know that I faced an enormous amount of challenges. I didn’t have to learn a new language. If anything, my English accent worked in my favor. One of the things I found initially challenging is that Cleveland is a big small-town. Everyone in Cleveland knows one another. This made it challenging to become part of the community’s fabric because people already had close relationships with one another. It also took me a while to open up to Cleveland. My affection for Cleveland has been a slow burn. You don’t initially understand what makes Cleveland unique. It takes time to really appreciate all the Cleveland has to offer. The Cleveland I knew when I first came here in 2004 is very different than the Cleveland of today. There is a sense of place that exists in Cleveland in 2016 that did not exist in 2004. We have so many ethnic and cultural groups in Cleveland. These components are what makes Cleveland fantastic. Very few cities have the authenticity that can be found in Cleveland.

What is your occupation?

I am the Co-founder and CEO of a company of Tech Elevator. We are a technical training program that teaches novices to become software developers to capitalize on the thousands of open jobs in this region and beyond.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcome?

I have been very involved in the start-up scene. Amongst entrepreneurs, there is a real sense that we have the power to change the balance of the city. There is a comradery and respect among the community of entrepreneurs of Cleveland. For many years, people considered Cleveland to be a has-been town whose glory days were long gone. Entrepreneurs have the energy and ability energy to breathe new life into this city. We feel that the best days of Cleveland are ahead of us, not behind us. We believe we can reinvent this city. At Tech Elevator we are producing the workers of the future, fueling what the city’s businesses need to grow. I gain intense gratification from participating in the entrepreneurial community.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

OK so here comes the stereotype: I really enjoy tea. With a nod to that, at Tech Elevator we have lots of free tea. I grew up with many American traditions because of my mother, so I feel very familiar with all we have here. My favorite are the fall traditions, picking pumpkins and cooking a huge thanksgiving feast.

I enjoy debating politics. It is a European tradition to discuss these topics, but I’ve found this is sometimes perceived to be inappropriate in the US. I’ve been pinched under the dinner table once or twice for pushing a contentious issue. Unfortunately I have found that in the US, when you question someone’s ideas, it can be construed that you question them as a person. This is not the case in England. We can leave a heated political or religious debate as friends.

What do you love about Cleveland?

I love the energy that we have right now. There is something very special happening in Cleveland and it didn’t happen by accident. It is not the result of one person, but the result of hundreds of people carrying out their unique rolls. We are experiencing an incredibly special moment in time where things are coming together. Cleveland is finally catching the break it deserves. These are meaningful things that enact real change, not just transient things like sports championships (though they help!).

I love the authenticity of Cleveland that can’t be recreated in places like Salt Lake City, Phoenix or Vegas. Its manufacturing history gives its businesses today meaningful roots. These buildings are being given new life by the companies coming into them. Clevelanders have a great work ethic. They have a work hard, play hard work ethic. They are grounded and real. You can have meaningful relationships here.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

It’s always surprising to be asked this question. It’s like we have the memory of a goldfish. We forget that this country was built by immigrants and refugees who were willing to risk everything to come here. The success of this nation is almost entirely owed to the success and determination of those who, at different times in history, were willing to move to an entirely new world. That gumption, drive, determination, has formed the genetic makeup of this nation. We need to continue to embrace that. The drive of these individuals continues to impress me. The way in which they view things provides a diversity of experience. I believe the opportunities of immigration far, far outweigh the risks.

Why is it important to travel abroad?

Travel is an incredibly powerful form of education. Travel broadens the horizons. Everyone must consider it a priority in their life to experience another culture. Experiencing another culture allows you to appreciate your own. Traveling makes me feel alive in a way that few other things do. We get into routines in life where we perform the same tasks. We fall into ruts of the expected norm. Before you know it, the baby you just had is now graduating high school and nothing has really changed substantially in life. Travel punctuates time in life. It enables you to see things you have never seen before in your life. You’ll eat food you have never tried before, hear sounds and smell things that are completely new. You’ll hear about a tradition or philosophy you have never heard of before that open your eyes. Travel gives you moments of rapid growth, it expands your mind. There’s a caveat: you won’t get the benefit if sleep at an American hotel and eat American food, or spend all your vacation on a cruise ship. There’s nothing wrong with the relaxation, but for you to really get the benefit of travel, you have to put feet on the ground, get off the beaten path and really experience the new culture.