When Mohammed Wardeh Needed a Hand, He Got It. Now, It’s His Turn to Give Back
For most of his adult experience, Mohammed Wardeh searched tirelessly for a better life—for himself and his family. During this quest, he travelled from his hometown of Damascus, Syria to Aleppo, from Aleppo to Saudi Arabia, from Saudi Arabia back to Damascus, to Switzerland—and finally to New York City and a job with the UN.
After struggling to stay afloat financially in New York, even with a master’s degree in computer information systems, Mohammed and his wife prepared to return to Syria. As they packed, revolution erupted in their home country. Suddenly, they were stuck.
Mohammed’s job as a desktop publishing assistant at the UN gave him some diplomatic immunity, but it was tied directly to his contract. If the contract expired, he’d lose that immunity. And with an expired Syrian passport, he and his family had nowhere to go.
“I was scared to death,” Mohammed said. “I wasn’t afraid for myself, but for my family—for my wife and, at the time, two small kids.”
Luckily, the Wardehs applied for—and were granted—political asylum. Knowing his family was safe provided great relief. It was right at that moment he decided to give back to America by joining the Army National Guard. His service gave him a sense of belonging, but without any prospects for financial security, and a third baby on the way, Mohammed nearly broke down.
“When you work so hard to provide the best life for your family, but aren’t seeing the results, you start looking for even the smallest of favors,” said Mohammed. “In times like that, the smallest favor seems like the greatest gift.”
One chance. One leap of faith.
As Mohammed searched for a way forward, he stumbled across an ad for a coding boot camp at Rutgers University. A light bulb went on.
He’d taken some coding classes in college and loved them. What if this is my chance? he thought—and took a leap of faith.
“I sold everything to pay for the boot camp—my car, everything,” Mohammed said. “This was quite literally the point of no return.”
He saw the money he was spending on the program as his kids’ investment—his chance to give them the life he knew they deserved. This sense of personal responsibility motivated him to reach for new levels of success. His other motivation? The boot camp itself.
“The ideas they teach you at the camp are different. They’re so much more than coding skills. They’re transformative,” Mohammed said. “They teach you how to think, how to live, how to behave as a coder. They mold you into a coder.”
As a result of his dedication and the strength of the curriculum, Mohammed landed a new job as a front-end web developer with the UN before the course was even over. Once he graduated, he immediately began thinking about how he might repay the people behind the boot camp to thank them for handing him a new way forward.
Paying it forward
Mohammed’s experience at Rutgers Coding Boot Camp changed his life. It armed him with the tools to give his wife and children the life he so desperately wanted them to have. No longer did he have to struggle to make ends meet. No longer did he have to decide between paying the bills and putting food on the table. Finally, he could provide for his family in the way he’d always dreamed.
But in recognizing his own dreams, he saw a chance to help others realize theirs.
“In my culture, when someone gives you something, you have to give it back,” Mohammed said, harkening back to a lesson he’d learned as a child. “Giving back is an assertion of who we are as humans—that we’re here for each other and need each other more than we can imagine.”
He reached out to the Rutgers Coding Boot Camp that had given him so much, asking what he could do to give back. Before long, he had a new role—as a teacher’s assistant (TA) for the very same professor he’d studied with.
Mohammed had faced his own challenges head on. Now it was time to be there for others as they dug down deep to overcome their own.
“As a TA, I feel like I’m extending my hand to help others who are just like me build a better future for their families,” he said. “The same outstanding experience I felt, I want to help spread that to as many students as I can.”
To best describe his commitment to helping others achieve unparalleled success, Mohammed points to a quote from Ghandi:
THE BEST WAY TO FIND YOURSELF IS TO LOSE YOURSELF IN THE SERVICE OF OTHERS.