My American Dream

I am the American Dream realized. Ever since I was a little kid, I have always been passionate about technology. Brazil in the 80s, however, was not the most optimal place to develop such an interest. With the ability to provide only a modest upbringing, my parents could not afford to enroll me in the best schools. However, I was blessed; the education my amazing parents provided me far surpassed anything even the best schools could teach. That wisdom, paired with my passion, dedication and drive, armed me with the ability to conquer my wildest dreams—to “make it” in America.

When I was 13 years old, one of the first ISPs in Brazil began operating in the office next to my mom’s workplace. I stopped by their office every day in an effort to learn as much as I could about the company and their enterprise. At first I performed menial tasks such as getting coffee and water, carrying computer parts and cleaning. Against their wishes, I kept coming back. Eventually my persistance paid off; I was given the chance to write my first CGI script. My innate talent shined through, and I started to get noticed.

One day, I was approached by the owner of the company. He told me that he had a challenge for me; he needed a temporary replacement. His main and only technical guy was out of the country, and he was given a project to develop a website for a major Brazilian company. I didn’t know what it entailed but he told me all that I needed to know was inside a single book; it was a book about something called “HTML.” I read and re-read that book multiple times in a span of a couple of days. I, then, took a shot at the project. Fortunately, it was a success. After that initial project, I started building static websites for companies across the metropolis that I called home, São Paulo. Within months, I was financially independent. My parents no longer needed to spend their hard-earned money on me; and, in turn, I was able to do something that gave me great pride and happiness—to provide for them. At the age of 15, I began working for a Brazilian company called Zeek; I was their first employee. Zeek was established by a Brigham Young University graduate who had just moved back to São Paulo. He was not really looking for help nor was he interested in hiring anyone but I told him I would pay him $100 per month and get him as much coffee as he wanted; all I asked for in return was that he teach me about his business. Luckily for me, he agreed to the deal. A few months later, I was building dynamic websites, talking to databases; I was living my dream. Shortly after, Zeek took off, becoming the second largest search engine in Brazil, and I was their main developer. At 16, I started managing people for the first time. Technology is, indeed, a fast-paced field; it was not long before Zeek was acquired by StarMedia.com, the first Latin American Web company to have an IPO (NASDAQ). StarMedia moved me to their headquarters in New York, bringing me one step closer to achieving my ultimate dream. At 17 years old, Manhattan was hard to endure but my parents gave me the strength to keep fighting, conquer my goals and fulfill my American Dream. To this day, making my parents proud is still the main driving force behind everything I do. Because of the solid education they have instilled in me, I can overcome anything.

The passion to learn still burns inside of me.

Love,
Felipe Oliveira