The Definitive Answer to “Where are you from?”

This may sound like an easy question to most of you, but when you grew up in four countries and seven cities before the age of 12, it can be somewhat tricky to unpack. Let me explain:

I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in October 1988. My parents had plans to move to the United States shortly thereafter, but the U.S. changed policies in 1989 that closed the temporary processing of visas for Soviet Jews. Along with thousands of other families, this forced my parents to start an immigration process which would eventually lead them to the United States, but not before a lengthy detour. In 1992, they moved to Israel when I was 4 years old, and in 1996, they moved to Canada when I was 7. In Canada, the first two years were spent in Montreal, followed by two years in Toronto, and finally a year in Ottawa. 

Finally, in the summer of 2000 while visiting some family friends during the summer, my mom had an interview and received a job offer from a company in Chicago, allowing my parents to make the move they intended to make for so many years. 

I have now lived in Chicago or in the surrounding suburbs for the majority of my life. I finished high school and college in the Chicago area. In 2012, I started the application process to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. I was able to vote in the 2012 election for the first time, which was very interesting, rewarding, and educational. For the first time in my life, I felt like this is where I belonged. Chicago was home. When I think about it, it’s the sense of familiarity, belonging, and stability that cemented Chicago and the U.S. generally as home to me. I still have my Israeli and Canadian citizenships, and although I do not plan on moving back to either country, I do plan on keeping all three citizenships active for the foreseeable future. 

Over the years, I have listened to my parents retell their immigration story, and to this day, it’s still difficult for me to comprehend everything they went through. I’m honestly not sure that I could have handled the stress and uncertainty of the entire process. Close your eyes for a minute. Imagine landing in a new place, no place to stay, no money in your checking or savings account, no idea where your family’s next meal would come from. My memory of that time is hazy at best, I was just 7 years old, afterall. But for my parents, this is something they recall and think about each and every day. 

I vividly remember my first day in a French-speaking school in Montreal, it was horrible. I didn’t know the language, had no one to talk to, and could not begin to comprehend what the teacher was asking me. I came home that day crying. Slowly, I started making friends. I started being able to communicate and learn a new language and life in a new country started to feel normal. But as soon as I became more comfortable overcoming those initial barriers of conversation and friendship, it felt as if we had to move again. 

When I was younger, I was always confused why we didn’t stay in one place for more than two years. Switching schools and making new friends was constantly difficult and frustrating. Looking back, this was ultimately helpful in shaping my ability to approach new people, and get along with just about anyone I meet. Having exposure to different people and cultures gives you perspective on people you might not naturally see. I firmly believe this is why I am able to empathize and see the good in people in nearly all situations. 

Now as an adult, I am finally able to grasp and understand the sacrifices my parents had to make in order to reach their goal in moving and giving their family a chance to have a better life in the United States. In speaking with them, I know they have given up the ability to grow their family beyond just having one child, progress in their own careers, overcome language and cultural barriers, not to mention the financial sacrifices in starting life over in a new and unfamiliar place. It’s easy to take growing up in one place your entire life for granted. I now feel like I have a much more meaningful connection to the country in which I was able to grow up, get an education, and start my career. It’s hard to say how life would have turned out had I not gone through this process throughout my childhood, but I’m incredibly glad to have experienced it. You don’t realize how this manifests for a child until they grow up and become an independent thinker able to make their own decisions. I think it’s no accident that I pursued a career in finance, it’s no accident that I am uber conscious of budgeting and money management in general. And it’s no accident that I am a little nerdy when it comes to saving early in life. My parents’ experiences instilled a core belief in me that I should be a diligent saver and investor to make sure that I set myself up well for the future.

Getting Back into Blogging

Recently, I have noticed more and more that the smartest people I follow on Twitter and on the internet have been blogging and sharing their writing. Writing is something that I never thought would be so important to someone who works in finance but I’m starting to learn that being a good writer is important in every industry.

I started my personal blog in 2013 on Blogger and migrated that over to Tumblr and was committed to posting for a short while. As Tumblr faded as a blogging platform, so did my writing on it. I decided to migrate my Tumblr blog over to WordPress and start fresh.

This is hopefully the first of many posts that I am planning to publish, and although my current audience is a total of zero people, I really want to dedicate the time to become a better writer and post regularly about topics that I find interesting and those that make me want to keep learning. That will require reading a lot and taking good notes, something that actually makes me very excited.

How to Get More Out of Snapchat

There is one common denominator I see that people struggle with when they use social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and most recently Snapchat. 

This made a lot more sense for me when I read Fred Wilson’s No Pain No Gain and Jeffrey Kalmikoff’s You’re Using Instagram Wrong posts. What typically happens for users is their feeds lose value and they churn out of these highly powerful services quickly. What are they doing wrong? In many cases, they are following only their friends instead of following their interests. 

The reason why I love and use Twitter and Instagram, and now Snapchat so much is because I took the time to carefully curate those feeds with users who are not necessarily my friends, but interesting people who share thoughts, photos, and stories that fit my interest profile.

In my short time using Snapchat, I’ve encountered people who get random pictures sent by friends, but their Story feed is empty. In my case, the Story feed has anywhere from 10-40 posts at any given time, and the feed instantly becomes as interesting as Twitter and Instagram because I’ve taken the time to follow accounts that use the medium creatively and correctly. 

My friend David Perell asked me to share that list, so I will here. Keep in mind these are the accounts that make the feed interesting for me. Snapchat’s Discovery features are pretty horrible right now, but like Fred Wilson said in his post, “When it comes to social media, no pain means no gain.” Take the time to find users you like, and your feed will be just as enjoyable for you.

Are there any users you like that I missed? Tweet me @levnaginsky with some recommendations 

I Found a New Job

There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” – Winston Churchill

Last week was officially my 4th anniversary at Quill – a company I started working at immediately after graduating from DePaul. Over my four years, I developed great relationships, and gained a ton of valuable experience to start my professional career. But like high school and college before it, the impending end of another four year cycle in life had me itching for a new challenge.

Because I was a commuter during my time at DePaul and work being so close to home, moving downtown was an absolute requirement on my checklist. Additionally, I’ve developed a love for the tech sector from reading blogs and interacting with smart, interesting people on Twitter (if you’re reading this post, I’m sure you know who you are). Finally, I wanted to find a company that was young and rapidly growing. No offense at all to Quill, it is a fantastic company with fantastic people, but the office supply industry is getting swallowed up in a software/tech driven world.

This post has been in the works for some time now, but I am happy to share that I’ve accepted an offer to start working at Fieldglass as a Revenue Analyst in the next few weeks. Although finding this job took longer than I expected and hoped, I knew immediately the fit was right when I met the people I would be working with. The company is young, energetic, dynamic, focused, and driven. They are moving into an amazing new office in November and I couldn’t be more excited to start. 

I’m equally excited to start looking at apartments in the downtown Chicago area, where I’ve wanted to move since starting college eight years ago. I moved around a lot when I was younger and there isn’t a better city for my money than Chicago, and I can’t wait to finally move and live downtown. Better late than never, right? 

I would be remiss if I didn’t say thanks to my coworkers and friends who gave me great advice along the way. And a special thanks to my recruiter who helped me find an awesome gig.