Skip to main content

Rising Star: Xavier Nonez

Xavier Nonez holding up award while standing next to Jamin Friday
Xavier Nonez (left) receives the Rising Star Alumni Award from SILSAA president Jamin Friday.

Xavier Nonez (’21) was born and raised in Durham. He grew up playing almost every sport except baseball. Through sports, he developed a passion for teamwork.

Nonez hadn’t spent much time outside North Carolina before he graduated from high school, so he was determined to go out-of-state for college. A visit to UNC during his junior year of high school as part of Project Uplift changed his mind.

“My first glimpse of the UNC community was through Project Uplift. The program opened my eyes to the vibrant community fueled by its diverse students, which made UNC an easy choice.”

Nonez took his time as an undeclared major to explore his options and talk to people about different interests and career paths before pursuing a path as a business major with an information systems (IS) minor.

“I wanted to find some hybrid between business and technology. I didn’t have jobs in mind or a north star, I was just driven by skills. With IS, I loved the foundation and principles.”

“The one thing I really enjoyed about SILS was the group projects – they were all meaningful. The projects were big enough and meant enough to empower everyone on your team to be their best. Everyone always showed up and it was a chain reaction. There was a certain standard.”

He also credits the faculty for breaking down complex concepts.

“Being a technical discipline – it’s almost a different language when you’re introduced to IS the first time. They broke it down in a way we could understand and learn.”

Nonez also continued to get involved in a variety of activities, just as he had in high school.

“People were telling me that you’re doing a disservice to yourself if you’re paying tuition and you’re not getting involved. I wanted to own and explore my passion—to do as much as I could. I wanted to take advantage of all the resources UNC had to offer.”

These included having leadership positions in the Mu Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc, serving as co-president of the Minority Business Student Alliance, and participating in Durham Success Summit. His involvement is especially notable given the challenges of over two semesters of COVID restrictions.

Today, Nonez is a success coach for Durham Success Summit, helping young black men expand their professional world and connect with career resources.

He also finally achieved his goal of living somewhere new, moving to San Francisco immediately after graduation to work in a two-year rotational program at Visa. The time to explore his likes and dislikes lead him to an interest in working with start-ups. Today, he’s a Startup Scout with Montfort Ventures. As a scout, he is the initial touchpoint for founders to understand their innovative solutions and fundraising strategies.

“With venture capital and the ecosystem with startups, it’s primarily reputation and relationship-driven. The social aspect is a really big part of it. I was fortunate that I was building connections in sports, campus groups, and group projects. Those connections accumulate I can see the reward on those investments.”

“What excites me with this line of work specifically is the people. These people truly have conviction – you see the light in their eyes when they explain their idea. It’s like their child – the thing they care about the most. Interacting with someone like that gives me inspiration as well, and makes me feel very fortunate to be involved early on.”

As an early-career professional, Nonez is eager to push himself to see what he can accomplish.

“I know that I’m young. I have the ability to mess up as many times as possible without it being strange or something that disrupts me. I know that in time, I’ll get back on my feet.”

As one of the inaugural recipients of the Rising Star Alumni Award, Nonez hopes that other students are inspired not by his personal story, but by the idea of becoming the best student they can be.

“If you trust the resources UNC gives you, you can be a phenomenal student or professional and really succeed. Trust in UNC’s professors, resources, and classes to build you into the professional you want to become.”

Related Programs: Minor in Information Systems