From One to Another
Above: Jasmin (right) fled his native Bosnia in 1993. In 1999, he began working at Elite Flooring in Norcross. Now, as warehouse manager, he is able to help hire other refugees, like Hayder, who recently arrived from Iraq.
When Jasmin Gredelj first interviewed two New American Pathways clients for a job in 2014, he was already well acquainted with the refugee resettlement process. Jasmin, Warehouse Manager at Elite Flooring’s Norcross headquarters, and his brother fled war in their native Bosnia for a camp in Croatia in 1993 and were eventually approved to come to the U.S.
“For me the biggest challenge was language because I was not speaking any English,” Jasmin said. Although looking back he would have liked to go to school—he was only 18 at the time—he entered the workforce after just three weeks. Over the next few years, he moved to higher-paying, less strenuous positions as he improved his English.
In 1999, he started working at Elite Flooring, a flooring contractor company founded three years prior, and he has been there for 17 years and counting. Even as an entry-level warehouse associate, he found the value in the experience he was getting.
“This was a job that was interesting to me. Dealing with the numbers, I like dealing with the numbers, measurements, you know. And I was trying to do my best.”
Over the course of about four years, Jasmin took every opportunity he could to build experience in various tasks within the warehouse, from cutting carpets and baling carpet pads to cleaning around the dumpsters. His work ethic caught the attention of the Warehouse Manager at the time.
“He saw I’m willing to work. So even he brought me a computer and put it on the desk over there, he said, ‘If you need to find something, you know, you can go in the system.’ So I didn’t ask him any more about some material, I would go in the system and find it on my own. Stage it, cut it, everything.”
When that manager left the company, he recommended Jasmin to the owners as a team member who was ready to take on more responsibility. Since 2003, Jasmin has managed the Norcross warehouse operations of Elite Flooring and the company has grown into the $50+ million company it is today.
Then, almost two years ago, Jasmin took a chance on another new arrival looking to enter his first job in the United States. Hayder Al Jarah had only recently arrived from Iraq when he began the job with Jasmin as his boss.
“It took me like six years,” Hayder said of the screening process he went through to be admitted into the United States. “I was under threat back there because I had worked with the companies that were related with the U.S. Army.”
Although he arrived under different circumstances, having studied and worked in software engineering in Iraq, it is clear that Hayder’s experience has brought him to the same conclusion as Jasmin: professional success is only achievable through hard work and constant learning.
“No pain, no gain,” Hayder said. “You have to work hard so you can get what you want. This is the important thing: nothing is easy.”
Like Jasmin, whose strong work ethic and determination drove him to overcome his language barrier and attain a level of professional responsibility, Hayder is beginning to put this philosophy into practice. He recently moved into his own apartment and, after getting married later this month, plans to begin taking classes in preparation for one day reentering the field of software engineering.
In the meantime, Hayder’s manager sees potential in him to move up within the field in which he’s already working.
“Because he’s a hard worker, he’s a smart guy,” Jasmin said. “I’m just trying to get him to be responsible and learn about everything in this business so one day if I leave, I know he can replace me.”