Alaa Habeb, is a refugee using her impressive background in HR to help other, newly arrived, refugees get back on their feet.
Alaa (pronounced A-lah) grew up in the populous shore city of Basra, in southern Iraq, during the heat of the Persian and Iraq wars. Her parents were well-to-do, valuing education and achievement for their seven children, of which Alaa was the sixth.
After finishing school, Alaa immediately went on to attend college, studying computer science. “I was happy with college,” she shares, “That certificate meant a lot… I was educated.” She soon put her education to work, taking a job as an administrator at a communications company.
But Alaa’s knowledge and experience weren’t the only things growing during this time. Tensions in Iraq mounted, as war scandals were uncovered. Violence erupted after Saddam Hussein was sentenced by his own government, and hanged for his crimes against humanity.
“My family was scared because after the war, after the President died, the country became so dangerous,” remembers Alaa. “[but] our father liked our home because he built it when he married my mom. He couldn’t leave it.”
Because of the close-knit area, thieves were well aware of rich families, recognized by their houses, cars, and dress. One day, thieves stormed their house, stealing all of their gold, money, and valuables.
“They tried to call my father, and my sister,” says Alaa, a hint of fear still detectable as she remembers her family’s tragedy, “After that [my father] said, ‘No, we cannot stay anymore.’ We agreed, but it wasn’t easy.”
The family applied for refuge in the United States, a process sometimes taking up to two years. In the meantime, they resettled in the safer, more stable northern region of Iraq, where Alaa continued working earnestly in communications.
In 2012, the family was granted approval to enter the U.S., and resettled in Colorado, where Alaa enrolled at the Community College of Denver to pursue education in HR management. After a couple years of hard work, Alaa earned her associates degree, but felt her heart tugging her toward another dream—marriage.
Alaa had left a piece of her heart back in Iraq, her long-time boyfriend, Hadeer. She returned to Iraq to marry, but gained a whole lot more than a spouse. Alaa’s newfound HR knowledge earned her not just one, but two back-to-back prestigious positions: first, as Senior HR coordinator at American oil company, Baker Hughes; then Executive Assistant to the president of Kuwait Energy, where she was promoted to HR Supervisor.
It wasn’t long before Alaa became pregnant. She returned to Colorado, this time along with Hadeer, to be near family and give birth to the joy of their life, a baby girl.
“But Colorado was too cold for my baby,” Alaa laughs, “We moved to Georgia in March [of this year]. Not all the states have an abundance of jobs. In Colorado you can get a job, but not quickly like Atlanta.”
Eager to get back to work, Alaa and her husband sought advice from family friends, who gave them several recommendations. “I went to an organization about a job. They said, ‘You have a good resume and great experience,’ but they only had simple work.” Discouraged, she went on to another local organization, then another, and another, as she struggled to find work that would utilize her background in communications and HR.
Eventually, Alaa was introduced to Amplio, where Luke and the Atlanta team immediately interviewed her to learn more about her education and experience. But while she was in process, a friend called about another prospective job opportunity. Eager for work, Alaa interviewed and was hired on as office operations manager, a well-paying career that utilized her skill-set.
“I called Luke [at Amplio] back to see about getting a new job. He said, ‘Could you come tomorrow to our office?’” Alaa agreed, “I thought I was interviewing for another job—[it turns out] I was interviewing for a position at Amplio!”
Her HR skills were just what the company needed. Amplio made an offer, and Alaa joined the team as Recruiting Specialist, in September.
Now, her days are spent meeting with refugees and helping them fill out the company’s application. She notes their school and work experiences so when companies reach out to Amplio with positions, she can match applicants to them. “I know which ones will be fit for the jobs, and set up interviews with the companies.”
“Alaa is very professional. She is a quick learner, and remains calm under pressure—all things that are very important to [her] role,” says CEO, Chris Chancey.
Though she has only logged one month at Amplio, Alaa exudes passion and gratification in her new position.
“One lady came in and she really, really needed a job. She was praying. [It just so happened that] she came in when we really, really needed a job filled for a specific company! We gave her everything—all of the information and safety shoes for her to start the next day. She left praying, ‘Thank you, God!’”
“I like my work because it uses my 13 years of experience in HR. The staff here is amazing,” she continues, “I feel, here, like they are my family. Chris, Luke, all of them. I’ve worked with other staff before but didn’t feel [that way]. Here, even when I’m tired, I like to work!”
When asked what her favorite Amplio value is, she responds directly, “Consistency. We have to be consistent, because a lot of people’s lives are dependent [on it]. We have to help them. We have to be consistent with them to help them get jobs and help their families.”
Alaa is passionate about getting other refugees on a career track. “I feel happy and excited when I help them, because many come without money or experience. They don’t know anything here. When I help them, they thank me—‘Thank you so much, thank you so much.’”
She hopes that more companies and individuals will begin to see what she sees when she looks at the refugee community, “We need to help them,” she exhorts, When I came I had a family [where] I didn’t have to worry about money. But I see people who really need help. We have to help them get jobs.”
It’s hard to imagine the war, devastation and persecution that millions face, in other parts of the world. America was established as, and continues to be, a great land of opportunity, where individuals and families can live in peace, and build prosperity. Refugee families, like Alaa’s, come not to drain the economy, but to add to it. They desire safety, yes, but also to work and provide for their families, and achieve the “American dream”.
At Amplio, Alaa and the team are committed to connecting refugees with job opportunities that will help get them up on their feet. Likewise, we are committed to connecting businesses with this talented and motivated refugee workforce, who will increase company morale and productivity.
Is there a place for the refugee workforce at your company? We would love to provide you with more information about our services. Contact us today or visit our website at www.ampliorecruting.com to learn more.