Ali came to Australia 20 years ago as a refugee with his family. Having fled risk of persecution originally from Iraq and then Iran, Ali and his family jumped on a leaky boat to come to Australia. However, he ended up spending a horrible year in a Nauru Detention Centre before being allowed into Australia.
Ali was 16 when he landed down under and was enrolled in the final term of Year 10 with his non-existent English language skills. He had moved to Shepparton in Victoria where his dad worked as a fruit picker, and he remembers his first week of school.
“I had no idea what people were saying and I would just smile and say ‘yes’. I then spent the next two weeks picking tomatoes before I started Term 4. I took all the Science and mathematics subjects even though I didn‘t know what a lot of them were called. In one memorable chemistry test, I just memorised the answers for specific questions and copied the answers wherever I thought the questions looked like the ones I had memorised and I got the highest mark in the class.”
Early memories of Shepparton housing estates and neighbourhood drug busts were common, but luckily that was about to change.
“We were on a temporary protection visa at the time, so I needed to get a scholarship to get into university, otherwise I would have been an international student, and there wasn’t such a scholarship available. I wrote my own applications and applied everywhere. I was on an orchard, picking apricots when I got my first call offering me a scholarship to go to university and I ended up getting an offer from Melbourne University. A family friend suggested that I apply for a scholarship at Trinity College and just like that I saw all my dreams come to true..”
Ali did his engineering and science degrees at Melbourne University and used the most of this opportunity to give back to the community, for which he also received some valuable leadership awards including Victorian Young Achievers and Goldman Sachs Global Leaders awards.
Ali did a semester overseas at the University of California, Berkeley and it really made him think how grateful he was to experience these amazing highlights after fleeing his home country some years earlier.
All of this played an important part in shaping the person Ali is now, and when he returned to Shepparton from the US, he managed to get a job as a design engineer with SKM (Sinclair Knight Merz) – which is now Jacobs. Ali worked on the Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project (the precursor to the GMW Connections Project) and later moved to Melbourne to work on a number of other infrastructure projects. He then joined the Connections Project as a construction project manager before moving to Sydney to work as an Asset Planner for WaterNSW.
Ali’s passion for business and strategy work, saw him do an MBA and Ali and his family moved again to Barcelona, where he studied his Masters’ in Business Administration at IESE Business School.
“For two years I was in a class of 350 people from 60 different countries, broadening my horizons, working really hard to use the most of this opportunity and all the while enjoying living with my family in Barcelona.
Through his MBA studies, Ali got an internship with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the family found itself back in Australia a little early, just as COVID hit.
“But the first day I got back, BCG called me and said they were going to delay my start by six months and so I ended up filling the time by doing some work for Connections project, WaterNSW and Sequana.” That is where his journey with Sequana initially started, working on the Board Assurance work for Greater Western Water.
“I then started at BCG, a top tier management consultancy firm. My learning curve at BCG was steeper than any other place I worked at. I worked with some amazing people, participated in a high calibre of work with high standards but ultimately, I really wanted to be back in the water and environment space, which is what I am passionate about.”
“I then signed a contract with Sequana in July this year and that has been the start of the latest chapter of my journey.”
Just over one month down the track Ali feels he is where he needs to be; he has the project management skills to excel in his job but he still has a lot to learn in the business development space and he feels this is the right place for him, with the right people around to mentor him for future success.
A key part of his last month has been working on a major proposal and it’s a sentiment to how much trust and faith that Sequana’s leaders have placed on Ali, to lead it.
“It has been a huge learning experience for me, being trusted to put a proposal like this together in my first month. I am really grateful for it and through the process, I have met so many great people and I feel like the most special places are special because of the people.”
Everyone has a genuine interest in doing their best work for Sequana. As Ali says, they aren’t just high performing people.
“They are all really cool people with great stories to tell and experiences to share. I am really enjoying the experience and am excited about what is yet to come!”