Creating Opportunity for All: Helping Refugees & Durhamites Experience the American Dream Tucker Stevens – Managing Director, Amplio Recruiting

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Tucker has a history of working to create opportunity for all. As Managing Director at Amplio Recruiting, he is working to staff companies with the talented refugee workforce in the Triangle region of North Carolina.

Prior to working at Amplio, Tucker was the Director of Operations at ReCity, a B2B service provider connecting community organizations and businesses around a common goal: ensuring that every person in Durham has access to the resources they need to thrive. Tucker also was a Trinity Forum Academy Fellow where he participated in a 9-month leadership development Fellows Program founded by a former McKinsey CEO.

He was awarded a $30,000 residential scholarship to work, study, research, and write a thesis regarding: Philanthropic Efficacy – The Role of Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector (w/ theological analysis). He has also been a Consultant at multiple organizations and the founder of Level Logic, a patent-pending self-leveling technology for pictures, mirrors, and other wall hangings, and was offered over $60,000 in seed capital.

What is your biggest inspiration for wanting to make a difference?

As corny as it sounds, I still believe there is an American Dream to be revived.

I’ve seen it in two ways in my family. On my mother’s side, her parents were Dutch, living in the East Indies, and were captured and put in the Japanese Internment Camps during WWII. They were 17 and 19 when they went in, and both survived 4 years. They were largely the only members of their families to survive.

After the war, they moved around until they came to America. My grandfather was a handyman and worked on appliances all day, then slung fish on the docks at night. I never got the impression he enjoyed his work in America, beyond the fact that it allowed him to provide a good life for his family. On my father’s side – his grandfather was born one of nearly a dozen children in a small log cabin in the mountains of NC. After teaming up with his brother, they used the natural resources at hand to start a furniture company, and ended up becoming employers and an important part of their local economy by the time they had grandchildren.

“Here I sit, 2 generations later, the most generic white middle-class male because of the hard work they put in, and the system that allowed them to thrive. I also acknowledge that though my mother’s family were immigrants, they were white. My father’s family was also white. The American system was built to let white people work from rags to riches. I firmly believe that this opportunity should be available to immigrants, refugees, and Americans alike. We were all immigrants or refugees at one point – some of us forget that.”

Don’t Let Disease Define You

What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your career and how did you overcome them?

Honestly, the biggest obstacle I’ve had in my life was my health for 4-years. While this was not a “career” challenge, it did leave me unable to work for about a year, and just passing through for a few others.

I have always been a generally healthy person – active and well. In my early 20’s I was diagnosed with mono twice, developed a number of food allergies, and later had the rare misfortune to get Lyme Disease.

As an athlete and active person, so much of my happiness had always come from sports and being physically active. Thus, these sicknesses led me to depression as they drug on beyond the standard amounts of time expected. Mono plagued me for a year and a half, then came back for another 6-12 months when Lyme beat my immune system down. All in all, these sicknesses and the associated depression really wiped out my mind. I have a 30 page research thesis that took me a year to write – I barely remember writing it. When I read it, I’m still captivated by the information as if its the first time I’ve read it. Many books I read over those years sit on my shelves still largely a mystery to me.

As cliche as it may sound – mental health, faith, gratitude, and a positive outlook were among the greatest tools that helped me heal. Oh, and DIET (Gluten Free for 7 years).

“I learned a lot from certain books and friends about not allowing affliction to define you. I had to ask my family to stop referring to me as “the one who is always sick”. I started to renounce these proclamations and reply that “I was sick once upon a time, not now”. My friends to this day still say things like this and I always correct them.”

I started exercising again, passing out after jogging a quarter mile on my first attempt. I got a puppy (yes, this helped my emotion immensely, but take my advice – research dog energy levels before you get a puppy…). Over a few months I was able to run two miles, get a job (I had been out of work, essentially bedridden with multiple naps per day, for a year). As one of my favorite books says – you “have to look past the monkeys and dragons” – keep your eye on the positive things ahead of you, not on the distractions on the side. I used to write an item of gratitude on my mirror every morning in sharpie: “Thank you, God, for XYZ”.

Purpose can Heal

Among the most important things I did was find work that inspired me and that I believed was helping my community far beyond my paycheck. I also serve on a board of directors for a local nonprofit, and try to spend time with the kids on day trips and events.

Tell me a bit about your role with Amplio Staffing & how you’re helping staff companies with qualified, dependable refugee workforce.

I am the North Carolina Managing Director for Amplio Recruiting. We exist to connect companies with the dependable refugee workforce. Let’s keep it simple: If a refugee has gone through years of running, camps, moving, applying for refugee status, interviewing with various government agencies, passing tests, and so much more (which they all have…) – don’t you think they will be dedicated workers and take advantage of the opportunities that await them here? That is the truth – refugees are among the most humble, kind, dedicated, and hardest working people I have ever met. These days, companies are desperate for good, hard, reliable employees who take pride in their work. At Amplio, I determine the exact needs for a position, then go find refugees to fill the spot.

My goal is to get each person into stable work with good wages and any benefits possible. We stick with each employee for a minimum of 90 days to continue to facilitate their training and transition with the new employer. Personal relationships are very important to me – so I communicate with my candidates even after they are placed or converted to full time after the 90 days. The employer, on the other hand, does not have to deal with HR, worker’s comp, payroll, etc, until their contract is complete – which gives them a simple “risk-free” opportunity to see how candidates fit in to their company and how they perform.

We work with companies in manufacturing and construction, as well as hospitality and more. Refugees come with a broad array of skills and qualifications – including full professional careers in trade skills, medicine, etc. We always try to match someone to their highest potential and honor their skills and expertise.

What advice do you have for aspiring Arc Benders?

“Be buoyant”. I love this phrase. I learned this at Amplio, and it is the most succinct way to sum up all the ups and downs of business, social impact, and life. I love to sail, so the metaphor has a special hold on me as well. My other favorite is “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”. Having capsized a few boats, and swum one of them home, this carries weight for me as well. You always learn more from the hard times than the easy, but you should revel in each – be buoyant.

Read. Read about other people, cultures, businesses. When you see how desperately others have failed, only to later succeed greatly, it puts your day in perspective and inspires you to push on. We make the mistake of thinking that the American way of life is the most enlightened and best – we are still a very young experiment – so keep growing in your worldview.

Lose. By this I mean practice the golden rule to the extent that you actually put yourself at a disadvantage in certain situations. Give up a contract, give up your time, whatever it may be. Take a financial or personal loss at times when the receiving party is blessed by this – even if they are not grateful. This will come back tenfold.

Go with your gut and listen to your body. This is not just in regards to your health, but in regards to life and job decisions. I was about to accept this job in Austin when I was 23. I was hyperventilating talking about all of the positives of this job. My Dad said ‘look at yourself, you’re sitting in a chair, holding your knees to your chest and you can hardly breathe. Obviously, you don’t want this job.’ My body was physically rejecting this opportunity. If you listen to it, your body will tell you what you need to hear.

To contact Tucker, you can email him at tucker@ampliorecruiting.com. Learn more about Amplio on the Amplio Recruiting website.