There are only two rules to what cards you get dealt in life: you cannot change your hand, but you can choose how to play it.
It is unfair. While some are born three feet from the finish line others spend their entire lives waiting for the chance to play. The silver lining? Maybe there isn’t one. For the masses that is often the case, but success stories aren’t written about the masses. Success stories are written about individuals who are dealt a poor hand but always play to win.
Rodrigo Stabio came to the United States when he was 11 years old. On the outside he seemed completely normal, but on the inside, he was living with an incredible secret: Rodrigo was undocumented in the country where he was trying to forge a new life.
Emigrating from Argentina, Rodrigo and his family settled in Arizona. His father worked as a mason, and Rodrigo and his brother attended school. It was working out for them, but being undocumented was a constant threat in the back of their minds.
“I was always told that if I worked really hard, things would pay off for me. I believed it, but that wasn’t really the case. Without a social security number, my good grades didn’t matter. I worried about my future, but I was more worried about making it through another day without being deported. I remember going to school and praying daily that I would be able to come home and see my parents. Deportations were happening everywhere. Being undocumented was a huge part of me, but it wasn’t a part of me that I was able to share with anyone.”
When it became time to apply to college, many scholarships that Rodrigo had won were revoked after he failed to prove his citizenship. Luckily, he was still able to attend university and ended up at BYU-Idaho studying Supply Chain management and Marketing.
It was in college where Rodrigo met his soon-to-be wife, and a year before graduation the two were married. “I always joke that, through marriage, I was able to get my green card…My wife doesn’t like that joke as much as I do.”
After graduation Rodrigo worked with HP/HPE for four years in sales enablement. It was a great steppingstone for him, but he knew he wanted more.
“I wasn’t happy with my job. I had two kids, and I wasn’t making enough money. I knew that a graduate degree would bump me up a lot faster, so I began applying to different MBA programs. Around the same time, I got an interview with my dream company, Toyota. Still to this day I think of that interview as my best one yet. I crushed it. I ended up getting an offer from both Toyota and the Wisconsin School of Business—crap! What do I do now?”
Rodrigo’s solution? Flip a coin.
“I am pretty spiritual, so I prayed a bit. I spoke to mentors for their advice, but ultimately, I flipped a coin and, luckily, I felt confident with the outcome.”
An MBA, in Rodrigo’s mind, was just one more way in which he could improve himself—a mentality he has sworn by throughout his career.
“Ultimately it was the people who sold me on Wisconsin. At the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship, the people running it are some of the kindest, most humble people. I knew I was going to be able to learn so much there, and I did. I have more friends from graduate school than my undergraduate, and I don’t plan on ever losing touch.”
While attending graduate school, Rodrigo was part of the Weinert Center’s Fellowship in Enterprise Development program. He now serves as a board member for the Wisconsin Business Alumni Board. His first job outside of graduate school was an internship at Procter & Gamble. However, with three kids, he soon decided that diapers just weren’t for him. So, he took a leap and applied to Microsoft.
“I’m in tech, but I am not very “techy”. Most people in my role have some sort of technical background, but you don’t need that. There are a lot of jobs in tech, and there are a lot of jobs in tech that don’t require you to be technical. I applied at Microsoft, and I got it. Take that leap of faith!”
Today, Rodrigo works as a product manager at Microsoft. His best advice for this type of role is having the ability to master three categories: consumer understanding, cross functional collaboration, and storytelling.
“As a product manager you need to understand the consumer. What is driving them to buy or use your product? Cross collaboration is vital because as a product manager you work with every team. The engineers, for example, are the ones building the product, but the engineers don’t report to you. So, how do you get them excited to spend time on your product as opposed to other priorities? Storytelling is last. How can you succinctly tell your product story and why it matters to the consumer?”
As of now, Rodrigo is focusing on how to be the best product manager he can be. He can see himself transitioning from product management to sales within Microsoft to challenge himself and learn new things but has no immediate plans to do so.
Apart from his career, Rodrigo has three kids. He refers to them as his world and his why. He’s entering a new chapter in his life where he is less focused on career growth and more focused on spending time with his family. His wife loves being outdoors. By proxy, Rodrigo does, too.
It has been so long now that Rodrigo would consider himself more American than Argentinian—except when it comes to the World Cup.
“You have to make a list of things you can control and things you cannot. Someone told me when I was undocumented that I was going to face a lot of roadblocks. My initial response was that there’s always going to be detours. It may take me longer to get there, but I will get there. Uncertainty is inevitable. I worked so hard never knowing if I was going to be deported or not, but I made sure to control what I could. I think that’s the most important thing.”