What I love about consulting is the human contact. I never wanted to be an independent contractor – even at the height of the SAP revolution, with people earning crazy money. For me, I love the camaraderie that comes with being part of a team. Like many, I found the days alone during the Covid confinement difficult to adjust to. My husband was steeped in medical work and disappeared to the hospital each morning, often before I awoke, arriving exhausted late in the evening.
In a normal year, I would catch up with the Itecor new joiners through our regular Town Hall sessions or other social events. The years 2020-2021 were different, and it seemed we’d recruited an army of people who were simply names on CVs to me.
Mohsen Salhi was one of those names. And so, when I was asked to interview him for our series on “Our Consultants”, I had no idea of his incredible life story and the journey that brought him working for us.
An interview by Helen Bally – part of a series of Our Consultants at Itecor
Mohsen was born and raised in Tunisia in what he describes as a modest village, lost in the desert, far from the cosmopolitan city of Tunis. He did very well in school and was selected for a German-Tunisian exchange program. Invited to the German embassy, he was given the choice of studying in Munich, Hanover, or Heidelberg. He had absolutely no idea what any of these places were like, but he had heard of the football club Bayern-Munich so that’s how he made his decision and at age 19 he was sent to Germany to study in Munich.
Changing at Frankfurt airport he was bewildered by the moving walkways and escalators that he was seeing for the first time. These first days were spent trying to understand the world around them – especially the prices. It seemed like you needed a month’s salary just to eat for one day.
Once in Germany, the students were put through an intensive language course for a year – it was important that their German was not just good, but excellent. He went on to graduate with a master’s degree in Information technology and his career in IT was officially started when he was taken on by a high-tech company that he’d worked for during his studies.
Living the Dream
After a few jobs where he developed his IT and Project management experience, he had the chance to be taken on by the BMW Bank as the technical program manager of an ambitious European-wide project (I since learned that the BMW Bank is the financing arm of BMW – a huge organisation with an annual revenue of over $550 million). The goal of this project was to harmonize the business processes of all BMW subsidiaries in all countries, ultimately reducing the time for leasing enquiry-to-response from days to seconds. It was a great opportunity which Mohsen threw all his energy into. “The team worked really well together – from the CEO to people from all countries – we were always travelling. Nearly every week we were somewhere else”, he remembers.
And then with no warning, disaster struck. While on holiday in Tunisia in 2004, Mohsen tells me that one day his body just collapsed. He had no idea what was happening to him “I could speak, but I was absent. I couldn’t walk. I didn’t know what I was doing”. Rushed to the hospital, the doctors diagnosed a cerebral hemorrhage. They had to work quickly to save the situation.
Recovery from the operation was long and delicate and it was six weeks before he could return to Germany, where Mohsen found himself physically and psychologically destroyed. Although he was assured that eventually, his body would re-learn its coordination, he found it difficult to walk and even more difficult to rely on other people to support him, despite their well-meaning. “My colleagues were nice”, he tells me “They brought me my food to my table… BMW even gave me a pay rise that year”. He had had the perfect job, great career, great colleagues and now this had happened.
Zürich and a new beginning
Mohsen had often visited Zürich and liked what he saw. He decided to change his life completely and start fresh in the IT industry in Switzerland. “By the time I arrived in Switzerland, my coordination issues were almost over. I had many tricks to hide this, like making sure I sat out of line of sight of my manager”.
He married and developed a steady career and reputation as a fast-thinking, thorough QA and Business Analyst.
Arriving at Itecor
In the summer of 2020, he joined Itecor as a Test Manager, even though in the strange world that was 2020, he never met his Itecor boss face to face.
Today he is working as the Test Manager and Business Analyst on a wide-reaching project for the SEM (State Secretariat for Migration SEM). He describes some of the challenges the project is trying to solve, which seem incredibly interesting to me: how do you ascertain the identity of people at a European level; how do you connect Visa and police systems; how do you cooperate at an international level for the flow of people. And, of course, he faces the usual challenges many of us do on QA projects – how do you get time and visibility for QA efforts amid all the other priorities.
Finishing our interview, I am touched by the humanity and emotions shared over our conversation and I resolve that I need to turn more of the “names on CVs” into colleagues with lives.