By the end of 2021, the number of people around the world who were forcibly displaced totaled a staggering 89.3 million. Of this milestone number, 27.1 million are refugees.
But behind these massive numbers are individuals with their own unique stories, journeys and experiences. In honor of World Refugee Day, we sat down with three Googlers to hear about their background as refugees and the stories that brought them to Google.
From left to right: Miher Ahmad, Account Strategist; Augustine Wiah, Product Operations; Mustapha Fadel, Analytical Lead Associate
Can you tell us about how you got to Google?
Mustapha: My journey started in Southern Lebanon, in a small city called Tyre. At the age of 4, I came with my family to the U.S. to flee the war and get medical treatment for my sister who was suffering from cancer. When my sister passed away, my family and I did a lot of soul searching and asked the question, “Should we stay or should we go?” Given that our property back home was lost in the war, we decided to start over in the U.S. At just 7 years old, I was translating for my parents and helping them navigate daily tasks and life in the U.S. As a result, I had to learn to be autonomous and independent much more quickly than the average child. This resilience and grit paved the way to Google, which — as cliche as it sounds — has always been my dream workplace. Today, I’m an Analytical Lead Associate for the Large Customer Sales team.
Miher: I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. As a child, we were forced to flee our homeland from drought, famine and war. Eventually, after being separated from my father for almost five years, we were reunited in Antwerp, Belgium, which became my new home. I vividly remember the day of our arrival and being so excited to go to school and play with other children. After graduating university with a focus on finance, I didn’t initially consider working for Google — but after some research, I gave it a shot. During the interview process, I was so amazed by the culture and decided to pursue working for Google, which gave me the opportunity to work in a dynamic environment with amazing people as an Account Strategist.
Augustine: The Liberian Civil War forced many into exile, including my family. In 1993, we sought refuge in Ghana and I spent most of my formative years at a refugee camp there. As a kid, you’re almost unaware of the magnitude of suffering around you because mothers everywhere, like mine, do everything they can to provide a sense of normality. Fast forward 13 years, I found myself in Oklahoma City where the possibility of college and a career now seemed within reach, but the potential of working at Google seemed impossible. Upon graduating from college, I started my career in technical recruiting and it was this opportunity that exposed me to the larger tech industry. After three years, I eventually landed a role with Google as a technical recruiter and never looked back.
How has your background influenced your work?
Augustine: I’ve always looked towards my community for safety. Navigating a new culture and custom in the U.S. at the age of 15 strengthened my ability to connect with different people. Whether I’m engaging with senior leaders and peers or volunteering on a project, my ability to connect with people and build authentic relationships has been the single most important way my background has influenced my work.
Miher: Since I was young, I’ve had to learn how to navigate new and unknown environments. This helped me to develop a good understanding on how to gear my communication towards a diverse set of people with different needs and interests — especially when working with colleagues, clients and stakeholders.
What motivates you at your job?
Mustapha: For me, my motivation to succeed is akin to my motivation to survive. Coming to the U.S. as a child, we had no money to support ourselves. No generational wealth to lean on. No English skills. No degrees to obtain jobs. The reality for many immigrants — refugees in particular — is that you are simultaneously responsible for your own survival in addition to that of your parents and future children. My success is directly correlated to three generations’ ability to live with comfort and dignity, and there is no plan B or backup to lean on.
Augustine: I’m inspired by the opportunities for growth. Once upon a time, opportunities were scarce and the possibilities of a brighter tomorrow were faint. I remind myself of the opportunities I’ve been afforded, and how showing up has had a material and substantive impact on my family.
What advice do you have for people who want to work at Google?
Miher: Be yourself and be confident. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, guidance and mentorship from others. There is so much we can learn from each other!
Augustine: Remain authentic and work tirelessly on improving your strengths. There is no “average” Googler, so lean into your unique strengths. If you can optimize for that, there’s a place for you at Google.
Mustapha: Tap into your empathy, compassion, creativity and your patience. The rest will follow.