Gaining a New Perspective

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Name: Mohammed Al Charakh
Profession/Industry: Microbiologist
Current U.S. Position and Company Name: Senior Microbiologist, Idaho Bureau of Laboratories
Country of Origin: Iraq
Education: Master of Zoonotic Diseases, University of Baghdad
First Job in U.S.: Medical Interpreter
Story Author: GTI Volunteer Erik Olson

Coming to Boise with his wife and three children in March 2015, Mohammed Al Charakh left behind a “beautiful life” and successful career as a laboratory owner and veterinarian in Baghdad. Because his laboratory worked with several foreign companies, Mohammed explains that the security risks and threats to himself and his family became too great for them to remain in Iraq. In 2010 he applied for refugee status with the International Organization for Migration. The process, including multiple interviews, background checks and medical exams, took five years. Finally, with the assistance of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Mohammad left Iraq with his wife and three children and moved to Boise.

After settling in Boise, the IRC helped Mohammed find a medical interpretation certification program and his first job in the U.S. as an interpreter. He also started volunteering at the Idaho Humane Society, hoping to reclaim his career as a veterinarian. However, the certification process is long and expensive for someone whose education and experience was obtained outside the U.S.

To help Mohammed in his quest to reclaim his career and put his education and skills to work in the U.S., the local IRC office referred him to Global Talent Idaho (GTI), which was still a relatively new program at that time. Working with GTI, Mohammed received training in writing a U.S.-style resume and cover letter, interview skills, and completing online job applications. GTI also helped him submit his first application for a position as a Microbiologist at the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (IBL). While he didn’t get that job, the IBL recognized his skills and experience and, together with the Idaho Department of Labor and GTI, set up a 6-month internship as a Biorepository Technician.

Both GTI and IDOL worked closely with Mohammed during his internship to help him adjust to American workplace culture. Mohammed’s dedication and work with GTI paid off and after his internship ended, he successfully applied for a part-time position as a Microbiologist. Today, Mohammed has a full time job at IBL as Senior Microbiologist, which he started just one month ago. According to Amanda Bruesch, Laboratory Improvement Manager at IBL, “Mohammed has been a real asset. He is a highly skilled scientist and has contributed greatly to the work we are doing at IBL. We have gained a new perspective from working with someone who has a completely different background and experience.”

Looking back, Mohammed emphasizes the impact that GTI and the Department of Labor made in assisting him in his career, “the people at the Department of Labor helped me very much [during the internship],” and describes how Gina Finley, GTI’s Program Manager, helped him at every step along the way to revise and update his resume and prepare for his job interviews.

Mohammed does miss volunteering at the Idaho Humane Society, but is happy to be busy with his job and his family in Boise.

If you would like more information on Mohammed’s story, please see the related story from the Idaho Inquisitor in the link below.