Lorenzo harnesses his skillset to support other immigrants and refugees at Upwardly Global
Lorenzo arrived in the U.S. just before the borders closed in February of 2020. He made a life-changing decision to move from Italy to be with his now-wife. Had he moved one week later, the looming pandemic would have locked him out of the country.
In Italy, Lorenzo had earned both a master’s and Ph.D. before leaving for the U.S. As an accomplished academic, he had nurtured a unique sense of curiosity while growing up.
“I spent most of my childhood in this very little town in the area outside of Bologna,” reflects 35-year-old Lorenzo. His hometown’s lush rolling hills served as a backdrop to his inquisitive nature.
“I had this general propensity towards learning as much as I can about the people around me in the world,” he says. This led him to the University of Bologna, where he pursued a bachelor’s in anthropology and, later, a master’s and Ph.D. in disciplines of music. Lorenzo immersed himself in academic pursuits, exploring questions about culture and resilience. He also ventured into instructional design, founding a small education service company.
The search for meaningful work
After immigrating in 2020, Lorenzo had no idea where he fit. His wife’s salary supported them while he spent his initial months in the U.S. searching for meaningful work. Despite his efforts, he remained unemployed for over a year and his mental health deteriorated.
“I was struggling a lot,” he says. “Coming to a different country, trying to figure out what you’ve done, what you can do, what it means for you … Those are huge questions that aren’t really easy to answer.”
When his wife found an ad on LinkedIn for Upwardly Global, everything changed. He applied for the program and found a wealth of career navigation tools to guide him through the professional transition.
Finding a sense of purpose
“By going through [Upwardly Global’s] learning platform, I started to patch things together,” says Lorenzo, who had diverse skills in academic research, coding, instructional design, UX research, and data analysis. “I had a [career] coach who was very gentle and patient with me because I had such a load of thoughts — like ‘What if I do this? What if I do that?’”
Little did he know that Upwardly Global would become more than a temporary support system. In April of 2021, he landed a job as the Partnership and Volunteer Lead in Upwardly Global’s New York office. His role connected immigrants and refugees with the resources to find meaningful work in the U.S.
Lorenzo discovered that he wasn’t alone in his struggles. In the U.S., there are over two million immigrants, refugees, and asylees with professional qualifications who are unemployed or working in jobs that require no more than a high school diploma. Upwardly Global plays a vital role in empowering this community of professionals to secure jobs that align with their qualifications, with program alumni earning an average starting salary of $65,000.
“Upwardly Global enabled me to make sense of where I was coming from. What kind of contribution I could bring to the world around me,” Lorenzo says, aiming to make a difference through his work. He recalls a song that guided him during this transformative period from Solange’s album “A Seat at the Table.” The lyrics resonated deeply: “Walk in your ways, so you can sleep at night.”
Making a positive impact
Behind the scenes, his new colleagues — and fans — were cooking up a role that would meld his skills in perfect harmony. In 2022, he became Product Manager of Upwardly Global’s online learning platform.
“Music is a language, a way of thinking … It can teach you a lot,” shares Lorenzo, who still draws on his previous studies to shape his professional work. “Even when I’m creating a PowerPoint, I think, ‘How can I make the components of this PowerPoint reinforce each other instead of working against each other?’ And I apply the concepts of harmony.”
At Upwardly Global, Lorenzo’s projects fuse together both his skills and his deep passion for making a positive impact. In his role, he reimagines content to foster cultural inclusivity, tailoring programs for a diverse user base. Come spring, Lorenzo will tally his third year at Upwardly Global.
“Again, it all comes back to, ‘Do what makes you sleep at night,’” he says, now settled into life in the U.S. “I do things that are fantastic. I sleep very peacefully at night.”