Saif Al-Sammarraie ‘s journey to his new career in financial services in the United States began nearly 7,000 miles away in his native Iraq.
That’s where Saif completed his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, and then began his career working as an instructor in the computer center at the University of Baghdad.
In the face of civil war, in 2006 Saif moved with his wife and parents to Syria, where they lived until 2010. During much of that time, Saif worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as an informational technology expert.
In 2010, Saif and his family had the opportunity to immigrate to the United States, but it wasn’t until a week before their flight that Saif and his family—non-English speakers—learned they’d be going to Washington State. After settling in the Puget Sound area, Saif showed a tireless persistence to seize opportunities for him and his family: he not only enrolled in ESL classes, he also found a job working as a cashier at Target. Then, he enrolled in a local community college, and then transferred to a four-year university, where he earned his degree in Accounting and Finance.
After exploring careers in accounting, Saif soon got wind of another opportunity: the BankWork$ program with our Seattle-area partners, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish.
Then-YWCA BankWork$ Career Navigator Dion Willis – now a Program Manager with CareerWork$ – was one of the first people Saif talked to when he was exploring BankWork$. Part of the Career Navigator role is to help potential students determine whether it’s a fit for their goals; once Dion shared the focus on both the soft skills needed to thrive in a career and the industry-specific curriculum, Saif knew BankWork$ was the right next step on his career path.
Saif’s BankWork$ program began in January 2020. “The program was totally amazing. I learned a lot of new things. I learned about work culture and employers’ expectations for their employees, and what is the right behavior and how important commitment is, even if you have the knowledge of the financial services industry and the technical skills.”
Following his graduation, Saif began interviewing with employers across the region. Like so many people around the country, the ongoing pandemic proved challenging for Saif’s search. But last fall, Saif started his career in financial services as Member Services Associate in the Seattle region with our employer partner Gesa Credit Union. And in June 2021, less than a year after he joined the credit union, Saif was promoted from Member Services Associate to Personal Financial Representative.
“I showed them that I am committed and knowledgeable,” says Saif. “They liked what I had learned from BankWork$.”
“Saif is the epitome of determination and professionalism. He never stopped looking for that right position for him. He is an example of why it’s so rewarding to be a Career Navigator,” said Dion Willis. “I’m honored to have worked with Saif and look forward to watching him maximize his potential!”
“Saif was a model student, showing up to every class with an eagerness to learn, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to support and encourage his fellow classmates,” says Tracy Hinman, BankWork$ Instructor with YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. “We were honored to have him share his inspirational story as the Alumni Speaker at our recent graduation. It is hard for me to put into words how extremely proud we are of Saif. He never gave up on his goal, even when the challenges he faced seemed unsurmountable.”
Today, Saif’s advice to anyone considering the BankWork$ program is to “enroll and change your life. BankWork$ doesn’t only teach you about banking. It teaches you how to adapt and thrive in the workplace and be the kind of employee your employer needs.”
“I know I’m on the right path to build a future for myself and for my kids. I’m grateful for the opportunity I got to come to the United States, to get an education, and then enroll in BankWork$ and, now, work as a banker,” says Saif. “It helps me make sure my kids are on the right path and they can get an education and succeed here.”