Where you grew up and your background can often have surprising effects on our lives and careers. We’ve asked folks from the community to tell us about how their background has affected them.

Pietro Milici | Photographer & Videographer

I am from Palermo, a city in the south of Italy. Normally when I mention where I am from, everyone thinks about one thing: Mafia. Some people laugh to avoid the underlying fear that word brings to everyone, including me. When I was a child I had multiple unfortunate chances to see events that shouldn’t have been seen by a 5 year old, but in some way, those experiences made me who I am today. I was lucky to have a family that was never involved in anything related to the mafia, and that protected me as much as possible from witnessing anything that could affect me negatively, although sometimes things just happened in front of me and they couldn’t do much to shield me. As I said, all those things made me who I am today. Thanks to my parents I was able to travel when I was a teenager, experience different cultures, and have completely different experiences. Those small contrasts between my city and others, made me understand that that was not where I wanted to live my entire life. Read more>>

Ketline Bazile | I Am a Real Estate Broker, Coach, Speaker, Author, and Minister

I’m from Nassau, Bahamas. I migrated to Miami, Florida, when I was five years old. My parents divorced because of infidelity when I was 12 years old, and that’s when my life turned for the worst, at least my teenage years. My mother left my father because she couldn’t endure his betrayal, so my church-going family of 6 turned to 5 just like that. Shortly after, my father moved his mistress in with us and what was already a bad situation turned into a worse situation, he married her, and my siblings were like the outcasts. We endured mental abuse from my stepmother, and she said horrible things about my mother and terrible things about my siblings and i. that we would be high school dropouts get pregnant early and be nothing in life,. When my siblings and I found out that my mother was in prison and then shortly after that, she was deported back to the Bahamas; the verbal abuse from my stepmother got worst to the point that she said my mom is a lesbian because that’s what women turn to when they are in prison. Read more>>

Jonah Bliss | VP of New Media & Marketing, CoMotion

I grew up in Los Angeles, and I think the city’s diversity (in terms of both people but also its wide range of places – dense city, tall mountains, desert, beach, etc) and its general open mindedness / creativity had a profound impact on me. It kind of spoils you in a way, making it hard to enjoy places that aren’t quite as complex. Read more>>

Joel Gandara | Entrepreneur Coach

I was born in the Caribbean island of Cuba. Cuba has been under Communist control since 1959. Opportunities for succeeding are limited to the family and close friends of whomever is in power (for nearly 60 years it was the Castros) and now a new dictator has been put in place. The masses are kept quiet and powerless without hope of a better future. Upon coming to the United States in 1980, as a 4 year old boy, my life jumped to a new trajectory. While the first years were very difficult, my family slowly worked their way out of poverty (a typical starting point for immigrants) and bought a house, paid it off and kept going. Every single day I am grateful for being in the United States and the opportunities that are all around us to succeed, accomplish our potential and be free. As a kid growing up in my new country, I always new that I had to make it. I was here for a reason. Til this day, I’m 45 years old now, and have been here 40 years, I have just one physical memento from Cuba. Read more>>