THE BLOG

In the Search for Success: From Peru to USA and Back Again

03/13/2013 09:57 am ET | Updated May 13, 2013

Most people aspire to find a comfortable job, settle down, and have a pleasant life. But there are some people that must follow their "dreams" and won't be happy until the moment they achieve "success".

Unfortunately, I am one of the dreamers.

In my case, "success" means making my stories and characters come to life in books, games, and movies, being able to inspire others, and doing my part to change the world. Oh, and making tons and TONS of money.

I was born and raised in Lima, Perú. I loved watching cartoons and movies, especially sci-fi and fantasy. Spielberg, Cameron, and Lucas inspired me. I was also inspired by my dad, who had his own small company, "Indursa". He used to say "I rather be the head of a mouse than the tail of a lion" and I agreed. That's when I decided I was going to be: an Entrepreneur!

So, at age 9 or so, I created my first company: "Tacosa". It was a wooden box filled with trinkets that I would sell to my friends. My mom, who is a great cook, taught me how to bake ... soon I realized that I could also sell cupcakes around the block. At first, people were afraid to buy cupcakes made by a 10 year old, but they were really good (the secret is butter) and I had daily sales ... that is until my mom found out that I was using up all her ingredients and, on top of that, I was selling my cupcakes for half the price of the ingredients. As you can see, I was not very good at finances ... this would be a bad omen ...

By then, my family thought I was a bit ... "odd". I was composing bad music with my Casiotone by 8, I knew all about the big bang theory (the non-tv show one) by 9 and I was trying to improve my telekinesis by 12 (still not that good). On top of that, my social skills were non-existent (a virtue I still possess) and I seriously lacked self-esteem. All I had going for me were my dreams.

At 15, I got my first job at "Mueblelinea" doing pencil drawings for a furniture catalog. I got paid half the minimum wage and I doubled as the receptionist, but I was proud to be earning my own money. My parents only found out that I had a job, two months later, when I arrived late to my own birthday party ... then they called the store owner, yelled at her for hiring an underage boy, and made me quit. During those long walks, to and from work, story ideas and characters would incessantly come to my mind. That's when I decided I was going to be: a Storyteller!

The name of my future company would be: "Pers" and, according to my calculations, I would be famous by the time I reached 20. Yeah, we'll see ...

At 18, I was studying "Electronics Engineering". I would use this knowledge to make robots, software, and movies better than Tron. Unfortunately, math bored me to no end. This would, years later, inspire me to create "Ice Math Ninja", but at the time, it just made me quit the university. That's when I decided I was going to be: an Artist!

Soon, I announced the great news to my family. Let's just say ... they weren't "thrilled". In their eyes, I had gone from rich respected successful engineer to poor weirdo starving artist. This was a source of constant stress with my family.

To make things more interesting, I discovered that I started liking my male best friend a bit more than was customary. I tried everything to make this feeling stop, with no success. I had seen the movie "An Early Frost" and I had heard about the "Gay Cancer" (a.k.a. AIDS) since I was little ... I really did not want this life for me. And my friend wasn't too "thrilled" with my brand new feelings either.

I felt alone, buried in problems, with no escape. I started daydreaming about killing myself ... and then I would imagine how everyone would feel bad for not treating me better. But suicide was never an option, in part because it seemed wrong, but mainly because I was a wuss.

So, my only option was to go far, far away and start over. A ticket to China was too expensive, so USA seemed like a good alternative. That's when I decided I was going to be: an Illegal Immigrant! (kidding, kidding, don't lynch me).

I sold my Commodore Amiga and my CD collection and bought a ticket to USA. I had a Tourist visa and thanks to the "Catholic Charities" I was able to get a temporary work authorization. Now, at the age of 19, I was ready to continue my search for the Peruvian dream!

By this time, my plan was to make my very own comic book. I went to conventions, mailed dozens of letters, and I had the honor of being rejected by DC, Image, Marvel and the top comic book companies in the world!

When I was 22, I met with a company called Defiant at the San Diego Comic-Con. The art director liked my drawings. He told me I wasn't good enough yet but that I could start working for them as a colorist! I was on my way to success!

Once I got back home, I called the art director. He never answered. A few days later, I grabbed a comic book news magazine and there, in the front page, it said: "Defiant Comics is Out of Business" ... and with that, my journey into the world of comics had ended. This would be just one of the many stumbles on my path to success.

During this time, I was also trying to get a better job since I had grown tired of my glamorous life as a waiter at the "Old Spaghetti Factory". I mailed dozens of resumes and I had the honor to have been rejected by DreamWorks, LucasArt, Pixar, and the top entertainment companies in the world!

A friend that had seen my struggles told me, "Jobs like those don't happen to normal people like us." I ignored that comment.

When I was 23, I got my first break. I went to an engineering job fair looking for a design job, hoping I'd stand out as a designer. The plan worked! I was offered 2 jobs, including an internship at Apple!!!

My first day at Apple, I felt like Tom Hanks in "Big". I had so many ideas, so much to give ... unfortunately, I was "the intern" and no one wanted to listen to me. You see ... I was hired to meet an intern quota at the "eWorld" team. It didn't matter to me--I was on my way to success! I bought a new car (this time with working tail lights!), moved into an apartment (no more basement for me!) and ... 2 months later I was fired because e-World was shutting down.

Luckily, I was able to get a job in another division at Apple. A year later, I moved to the Claris division and, for a while, I was happy ... but then Steve Jobs had a fit and fired half of Claris (I still love you, Steve! R.I.P.).

The good thing is that, with Apple on my resume, I was in high demand and I was soon hired by Adobe.

During all this time, I had to go through the stressful yearly process of renewing my temporary work authorization. Apple and Adobe had tried to get me a permanent authorization, but there was a period of six months that I had remained in the US illegally (when changing from tourist to work status) and that impeded me from getting a Green Card.

And then I received a letter from immigration telling me that I had six months to leave the country.

Thankfully, the Universe figured I had squirmed enough: A new amnesty law passed and my six months of illegality were forgiven! I was able to get my Green Card one month before I was going to be kicked out!

By this time, I became the visual manager of the Creative Suites. I was able to make many innovations, such as the breaking-the-border Splash Screens, the new Photoshop toolbar icons, the PDF icons, and the Adobe Bridge. I was proud that my work was being seen by millions of people around the world.

I now had a good life. I was very self-confident, I was comfortable with my sexuality, I made good money ... but I wasn't happy. My life felt empty.

You see ... for dreamers like me, working for someone else is not fulfilling. I felt stuck in the endless cycle of work/eat/sleep ... and I had gotten sidetracked in my search for success.

On top of that, my Peruvian genes started to kick in ... I felt that life in the Silicon Valley was too ... sanitized? Don't get me wrong, the Bay Area is possibly the best place in the world, but I felt that many people there only cared about working and making money. This included my best friends who were always busy working and rarely had time to do anything "fun".

In contrast, every time I stayed in Perú, friends and family will show up with drinks in hand and would take me out partying until 6am (sometimes even going straight to work right after!). As you can see ... priorities are a bit different here.

With all these things in my mind, I contemplated leaving Adobe to focus on my dreams. I knew this would risky. I would be throwing away my future in the software industry.

In the end, the decision was easy ... this was not the life that I wanted to live. So, on March 20th 2003 I created my company: Pers. http://www.pers.com

Soon after, I left Adobe and three years later, I would move back to Perú! The future was now very uncertain, but it had gotten a lot more interesting ...