Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Graduate candidates walk to the Marriott Center in Provo for Brigham Young University's commencement on Thursday, April 25, 2019.

Success is often described as the point where preparation and opportunity meet. Unfortunately (or fortunately) only one of those attributes is in our own control.

I hail from one of Pakistan's most populated cities, Lahore, in a country founded primarily on the basis of religion in 1947 and in the top 10 list for most populated countries. After having completed high school in Pakistan, I found myself booking the local shuttle service from Salt Lake City to Provo, Utah, one fine August morning in 2008. (Uber and Lyft were just funny four-letter words back then.)

The snowy mountains were very foreign to me. I had never traveled within Pakistan to the northern side to witness these gifts from nature and the picturesque Utah valley was a far cry from the heavy traffic in the largely metropolitan city of Lahore. What I did find similar were the people, the family structure based around religion and the hospitality that many of my peers had suggested did not exist in the Western Hemisphere.

My college years at BYU flew by like a breeze and I was fortunate enough to be part of the prestigious Marriott School of Business at BYU. I saw myself cheering for BYU at football games (a game that I had only seen played in Hollywood movies) or camping outside the Marriott Center to score some BYU basketball tickets (I was a senior during the glorious Jimmer Fredette year). I had enjoyed a hike to the Y on a glorious summer afternoon and on plenty of occasions made a J-Dawgs run in between classes. For the lack of a better word, I had found myself being fully submerged into the BYU culture prior to me graduating. The only thing that would differ me from my fellow peers at our graduation was possibly a thin beard (I had a beard card exemption), the color of my skin and possibly my strong Pakistani accent.

During recruiting season at the Marriott School, I began to notice the reputation BYU has in the professional world and how it is one of the highly sought-after institutes by prospective employers. I was a decent student and found myself being part of many interview processes. Unfortunately, the complex visa issues for international students had quite a few employers be extra cautious.

The H1-B visa has for the past few years been quiet a nightmare for a lot of employers, with the system usually having less than a 50% approval lottery rate due to systemic limitations. How was I going to convince any employer to take that chance with me?

1 comment on this story

My good fortune at that time is what many might consider adversity. I was a diverse student in America's least diverse city. An employer had a long-standing relationship with BYU and had hired from BYU consistently over the past few years. They had great results from their relationship with BYU and were committed to carry on their program at BYU. The manager hiring for this position wanted to diversify his team and wanted a culturally diverse individual from their earlier hires. Lo and behold, I was short-listed for a second round interview and finally offered the job.

I'm not saying I was only offered the job because I was not your typical BYU candidate but at the same time I believe it helped me stand out from a pool of highly talented individuals. Sometimes adversity for some might be opportunity for others. I can't help but smile every time I see such headlines make way about Utah and its lack of diversity and the opportunist in me is always smiling — all it means is more opportunity for the rest of us.