21st February 2023
Salim’s Success Story: The benefits of diversity at the workplace
As a workplace that takes corporate social responsibility seriously, Traffic Lab cooperates with different organizations. We want to make a valuable contribution to the society. One of these organizations we have a partnership with is Foreningen Lige Adgang, an NGO that strives for more equality within our society, education and on the job market. Their projects are diverse, ranging from mentoring young adults and migrants to courses in intercultural competence for companies. One project is the “The Student Job Program”, that is helping people with a refugee background to get a student job in Denmark.
The setup is just as any other student job, except for a little extra sparring with the NGO, if needed.
We were lucky to welcome
Salim, a student of Software Engineering from DTU, for a 6 month student job. He started in October 2022 and if you
keep on reading, you can read how he experiences his job at Traffic Lab.
Motivation to join the Student Job Program
Salim is currently on his
6th semester Bachelor in Software Engineering at DTU. His motivation for joining Traffic
Lab was firstly to get practical and relevant experience to supply his
theoretical knowledge at the university.
Secondly, he was curious about how a Danish work environment functions.
Expectations to the job and the company
Before starting at Traffic Lab, Salim didn’t have any specific expectations, he just hoped to get tasks that would be relevant for his education. From the NGO, he received an introduction to Traffic Lab and how we work, however he didn’t have any expectations to the company at all. Instead, he came with an open mind, thinking “It’s a chance for me, why don’t I use it?”.
Now he feels very lucky to have a student job, where he achieves relevant experience. About finding a job like this alone, he says: “To be honest with you, it’s not as easy for me as it is for others, as I have a refugee background.” This is where the NGO Lige Adgang comes into play since they know the difficulties migrants face in finding employment and they actively support them in their endeavors.
A warm welcome to a Danish workplace
It’s the first time Salim is in a workplace where he can gain relevant experience. He has worked in various fields, but this is his first job in an IT department.
He had a very warm welcoming, “people are very friendly and very happy”, he says, which made him feel good. Salim enjoys the flat hierarchy, joking that it took him a week to figure out who is in charge. He points out that the flat hierarchy is a very big plus, because it creates a stress-free work environment.
Moreover, Salim noticed how people smile at him when they meet him in the office. It should be noted that this reflects his own attitude. He is open, always polite, and friendly, so it’s natural to meet him with a smile.
Building a future career in Denmark – Saying “yes” to life
It’s a huge benefit for his resume because he has a relevant student job, Salim explains. Aside from that, Traffic Lab provides him insights to different areas that are part of his studies: frontend, backend, database and data engineering.
Salim underlines, how much he values the relation to his manager, who is, although extremely busy, always available for any kind of questions.
He appreciates the input that he receives both in terms of working in a Danish company but also specifically regarding his profession.
“Every day when I am going to sleep, I ask myself What did I learn today? and I find something. I want to develop myself more and more, that’s why I listen to a book half an hour in the morning and in the evening and try to find out, where I can apply the knowledge, I gain from there in my real life. We should never say no to life. Sometimes it’s not that easy but we should face it.”
Overcoming challenges and doubts
Even though Salim is fluent in English, he says this was something he was nervous about before starting at Traffic Lab. Traffic Lab is an international company – we currently have more employees from other countries than Danes which is why our company language is English. When Salim came to Denmark from Syria in 2015, he focused on learning Danish, as most refugees do to proceed with their education or career. Salim learned Danish within the impressive time of only six months. Therefore, he hadn’t practiced English much in the past years, as his whole education and daily life is in Danish. Nevertheless, his worries about not being proficient enough in English were completely unjustified since he has no problems communicating with his colleagues.
Takeaway for companies: Welcome a student with a refugee background to the workplace
“Every company should try something new; it’s about giving a chance to people who are trying to develop themselves. They are normal people.”, Salim says.
Many people with a refugee background arriving to Denmark already have a solid educational background (in 2015, 28% of the Syrians coming to Denmark had completed more than 13 years of education1). However, often they have to retake their entire or parts of their education, which was the case for Salim. He says “it’s hard, I’m 25 and I still study”. However, by attending the 6th semester of his Bachelor’s, Salim is still ahead of the curve. In 2020, the average age of students entering higher education was 25.2
From experience, Salim knows about the struggles people have with a foreign name in finding a job in Denmark. It’s not just a perception but a fact: Studies have shown that there are considerable discrimination in the hiring process in Denmark: There is a ”callback ratio of 1.52 for job interviews between applicants with traditional Danish names and Middle Eastern names. This means that applicants with Middle Eastern names on average have to apply for 52 per cent more jobs to receive the same number of callbacks as applicants with Danish-sounding names.”3
This is why it’s even more crucial we support projects like this – to advocate for more equality on the job market and give people a chance who don’t have the same chances as others and spread the word about how beneficial it can be – for both the employees and the company.