Growing up didn’t seem too difficult. I had a loving family, friends, played sports and for all intents and purposes, I felt like I had all I needed.
As a young boy, born in Amman, Jordan and moving to the US at the age of eight, what more did I need? As I look at my own children and see what they have available to them I can’t help but see the contrast between what I had growing up and what they have today. Our early years are incomparable! So, on a quiet Friday afternoon, I’ve been reflecting on my life and how I went from a Jordanian boy with no more than hand-me-downs from my older brothers to where I am today, the Vice President of Finance at Enterprise; one of the largest global mobility providers in the world.
I didn’t come from wealth, my parents didn’t go to university and I would have qualified for school meals and government aid. I was on the lower end of the Social Mobility (SOMO) scale.
But, it’s important to note that while SOMO can mean different things to different people, it does not apply only to individuals who come from low socio-economic backgrounds. SOMO is embedded in society. It’s about social inequality. It’s about the haves and have-nots. It’s about your race, gender, age, your social circles, and so on.
It’s the barriers that are in place preventing or limiting the advancement of people based on qualities beyond their control. It’s like an invisible thread that works itself into society and keeps people tied down, restricting how much they can achieve. So much depends on your social class, what you look like or which part of town you come from.
Moving to the United States when I was eight wasn’t easy. For a start, nobody in my family could speak English and I had to catch up fast to the kids in my class. I will admit that not speaking the language made things difficult for me in the beginning. I am thankful to the teachers who supported me and took time to help me learn English. My parents knew it would be difficult in the beginning, but also believed that in the long run, it was best to immigrate to America to give their kids better opportunities in life.
I went from being a minority in Jordan to being a minority in America. So, I just did what I had to do and that is to go to school, work hard and make friends.
After high school, I got a job, took out school loans and applied for government grants to put myself through university. I was proud when I graduated and got my degree from the University of Florida, the home of the mighty fighting Florida Gators! My uni has a saying: “If you ain’t a Gator, you must be Gator bait!”
Not long after that, I started my career at Enterprise on the Business Management Programme and soon had the chance to relocate to help grow our business in the UK.
I was asked on numerous occasions by family and friends if I was sure I wanted to go live in another country. Having lived in Jordan and making the move to America as a child, I knew I could move anywhere.
Besides, I wasn’t the type to wait around for someone else above me to get promoted or to retire. I wanted to advance my career as quickly as possible and if that meant going to live in Europe for a promotion then that’s what I had to do. And that’s what I did. The success I’ve had is largely attributed to the opportunities I took to advance my career, by working smart, staying focused and remaining dedicated to the company and to my career.
Of course, it could’ve all turned out horribly wrong. I was once again a minority in Britain, and I was determined to succeed in my new country.
I have now been in the UK for 25 years, or nearly half my life. Throughout this time, I’ve had the honour and the privilege of meeting great people from all around the world, both in my personal life and in business. Making the move to Europe helped me to become more worldly.
I met my wife in London and we now have three kids. As I take this time to reflect on my own history and experiences, something that my kids are not likely to experience, I keep reminding myself that I must educate my kids to show compassion, tolerance and acceptance to all people regardless of their background, gender, race or ethnicity. We must call out any form of discriminatory behaviour.
I chair the Social Mobility Committee at Enterprise’s European HQ to help educate our employees, break down social barriers and do our part to create opportunities for everyone.
The committee’s aim is to educate everyone about what SOMO means, to ensure that at Enterprise we continue to move the Social Mobility agenda forward, tracking & reporting on our progress, to bring our customers and suppliers along on our journey, and to ultimately help bring down the social barriers that limit people’s potential. We need everyone to become an advocate of Social Mobility.
We believe that where you start in life shouldn’t define your future success. We strive to break down barriers into and within our organisation to build a workforce from the widest socio-economic backgrounds. Join us, and help strengthen our business with diversity of perspective, opinion and voice.