Home is Palestine but Omar grew up in Lebanon. Like half a million other Palestinians in the same borders, he had refugee status and a limit on what he could do and achieve.
There are nearly 40 professions that Palestinians in Lebanon are legally unable to work in. They can’t own property. They often can’t get work permits or travel permission, or at least not easily. Many live in camps across Lebanon that the United Nations body charged with providing services there says are “characterized by overcrowding, poor housing conditions, unemployment, poverty and lack of access to justice.”
Kids have a way of powering ahead. Omar did, soaking up the opportunities he could find, learning English and studying computer science at the American University of Science and Technology in Beirut and then fullstack development in an intensive program right after undergrad.
He found some good work opportunities in Lebanon, with an international company that ran a bike share app and another food delivery company, but he knew he needed to leave the country to reach his potential and to start building a future. A recent report put the number of Palestinians living in poverty in Lebanon at 93 per cent. That means almost everyone. Lebanese citizens too are struggling amidst a years-long economic and political crisis that saw inflation hit 171% last year.
Omar had a dream about moving to Canada – he doesn’t exactly know why, his twin brother pictured himself in the United Kingdom, but it was Canada for Omar.
Meanwhile, the team at ChainXY in Vancouver was looking for data extraction developers. The Canadian tech firm curates location data that can help restaurants, retailers, real estate agents and others make good business decisions. An ideal developer to join the team would be someone with a rounded fullstack skillset and fluent with Python, JSON, HTML, C#, and React.
The team learned they might be able to find this skillset while making a big difference in someone’s life: They learned about the opportunity to recruit with TalentLift, searching a global talent pool of displaced job seekers, and gave it a shot.
“ChainXY has always prided itself on the diversity of its team. We value the unique perspective and skills that are brought from people of a diverse background. Hiring someone in refugee circumstances fit with our core values,” said Oszkar Breti, the team’s Chief Revenue Officer. He said it was an easy decision to try this hiring strategy. “We know that the skills and cultural viewpoints would bolster our team and help our business continue to grow.”
Omar’s CV was among the first to come across their desks from TalentLift and ChainXY set up an interview to meet him. The team remembers Omar’s curiosity from that interview – his questions about the company, the team, and the product.
He got the job.
“The first thing that came into my mind is that I will leave Lebanon and I will get a better life,” Omar said. He would get to grow as a developer – through the work and professional development opportunities with his new team. He would also have a pathway to Canadian citizenship. In Lebanon, where he was born, Omar only ever felt like a foreigner. A chance to get citizenship in Canada “means I will become a normal human.”
He’s already a Vancouverite. Omar landed in a mild Vancouver in early February. This city of mountains over the skyline, oceanside trails, and people from every background is becoming home.
Why should other companies jump in?
Every team faced with the challenge of finding talent locally can consider displaced peers.
“This hiring initiative offers a unique chance to help a talented individual in need while simultaneously promoting diversity and inclusion in your work environment,” Oszkar said. It immensely broadens the talent pool to include displaced job seekers. For example, those registered with TalentLift are living in more than 100 countries globally.
Omar added that refugee situations can lead people to develop, by necessity, wide-ranging skills and experiences. “This can help your company to be more creative, adaptable, and innovative.”
And, there’s the impact. Oszkar’s own family has roots in displacement, having immigrated to Canada when their homes became unsafe. He knows the scale of impact his team is having.
“Everyone deserves opportunity and if one is in a position to offer it then I’d encourage a person, community, or company to extend it. One opportunity is all that is necessary to make a positive impact in the lives of individuals who have been discriminated against and displaced for being who they are.” – Oszkar Breti, Chief Revenue Officer, ChainXY
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