King’s alumni help each other get ahead in the professional world
On a chilly March night, Ali Shajrawi ’11 and Hamza Zaidan ’10 sit in the lobby of a hotel just steps from Manhattan’s historic Grand Central Station. Both have come straight from the office and both are sharply dressed, having outgrown the King’s tendency to wear their ties loosely. They sit in leather wingback chairs in front of a crackling fire, the sounds from the street and the neighboring bar’s happy hour crowd drifting in.
During the summer after his junior year at Wesleyan University, Ali got an internship at Karbone, a firm specializing in renewable energy and environmental markets. His summer at the company’s New York office led to Karbone offering Ali a job the following December. After graduating from Wesleyan a few months later in May 2014, Ali moved to New York City to begin his full-time work at Karbone. Initially, he was hired to do financial modeling but was soon tapped as the company’s new director of research. Karbone spent the next couple of months looking for someone with experience in financial modeling.
After graduating from Williams College in the spring of 2014, Hamza also moved to New York City. He worked at a couple of different companies, putting his economics degree to use and gaining valuable work experience. As his contract came to an end in summer 2015, he had a fortuitous encounter with Ali at a reception in honor of Jordanian Independence Day hosted by Her Excellency Ambassador Dina Kawar.
Ali and Hamza had not seen each other since playing rugby against each other in college. Exchanging news, Ali described his new job with Karbone, and Hamza told him about his work since graduation, including his experience creating financial models, the very same skillset that Karbone was looking for.
Hamza recalled, “I was just out of the job I was previously working at, and I told Ali, ‘You know, I’m looking…’ and he said ‘We’re looking...’”
The conversation stuck with Ali the following week at work. “Every time the CEO would bring up the idea, screaming at someone, ‘You don’t know financial modeling?!’ I was like ‘I know a guy. I know a guy.’ So he said, ‘Okay, bring him in on Friday.’”
That Friday morning, Hamza hopped on the subway in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and arrived at Grand Central Station at 9:00 am, nearly an hour early for his 10:00 am interview two blocks away at Karbone’s office. “I got my coffee, got my breakfast. Then, all of the sudden, I got a phone call at 9:15. Ali asked, ‘Hey where are you?’ I responded ‘Downstairs actually,’ and he said, ‘Good ‘cause he wants you to come up now!’”
Hamza had come well-prepared for the interview, and Ali had offered him specific advice about the types of questions that the CEO and managing partner might ask, as well as a detailed description of the job responsibilities. However, acing the interview turned out to be only one part of the equation. As Hamza later explained, “After the interview, Ali told me that arriving early showed them that I actually wanted the job!”
Ali elaborated, describing his conversation with his bosses immediately after Hamza’s interview. “They told me to give him a call and tell him to start on Monday. I thought ‘Really?!’ We’ve never done that. Usually, it’s like three rounds of interviews. But they said ‘We need him — he fits with the culture, the environment of the firm, he looks sharp. Bring him in.’”
Ali was thrilled with the CEO’s feedback. He had helped Karbone find a great person for the job and helped a fellow King’s alumnus. As Ali started to leave the room, the CEO shouted one final thought on Karbone’s new hire, “‘And if he messes up, you’ll be fired!’”
Hamza summed it up succinctly, “I interviewed on Friday, and I started Monday.”