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Refugee assistance at Roche in Germany

By offering a variety of entry opportunities, Roche wants to enable refugees to take their first step into the German labor market.

Jobs as the Key for Integration

By means of a variety of entry opportunities, Roche would like to facilitate refugees' first step into the German labor market. Working together with people from different cultures and developing together with them is an asset for our company with regard to diversity and inclusion.

Some refugees are currently being employed in internships, practica, and occupational preparation situations. The job areas vary greatly. In coordination with their supervisors, employees volunteer to provide mentoring in their departments.

Three of them are telling their stories here.

Muhammad Siraj - „The most important thing in my life is, very simply, my life itself.“

Muhammad Siraj it 27 years old and is on a four-week internship at Roche Pharma AG in Grenzach.

Muhammad Siraj
Muhammad Siraj und Betreuerin Angela Wassmer

Mr. Siraj, why did you come to Germany?

"I come from Pakistan. My home is the North – the border area with Afghanistan. Maybe you know Peace Nobel Prize laureate Malala? She is also from my region. There, it is very dangerous. The Taliban have been raging there for decades. I had to leave my home because I received death threats from the terrorists due to my work as an interpreter for the US ISAF mission. I have been living in Grenzach since September of last year."

Is your family still back there?
Unfortunately, yes.  My father worked as a speaker for the region and was very active in the fight against terrorism. However, when my brother was abducted and killed, the situation escalated, and I decided to leave the country. Since then, the Taliban have left my family and me alone. But I still worry all the time."

Do you have a lot of contact with your home country? And what does your everyday life in Germany look like?
Sometimes I phone my family. Here, I also have friends from Pakistan. We cook together – and we like cooking German dishes, too. Besides, I am practicing my German all the time. Meanwhile, I have also started helping other immigrants learn. For this purpose, for example, I am using series that I found on YouTube.

What exactly do you do at Roche? Was it difficult to get settled in?
I have a Master's degree and specialize in finance. At Roche, I am doing a four-week internship in various situations. Everything is very different from the way it was at home, but since I have been able to gather international experience in the past, I have adjusted quite well to a global company such as Roche, after all.

What was your first impression of Roche?
The training is very practical, and not just from books. In Pakistan, everything was very theoretical. At Roche, I am getting responsibilities right away that I am allowed to work on independently. I think that's great, because it allows me to still learn many new things. In addition, everything here is state of the art and modern. I find that impressive!

And how do you get along with your co-workers?
Generally, I get the impression that Germany is a very warm country. Nobody discriminated against me due to my origin. I have been received with respect and open arms everywhere. My co-workers are very professional and very qualified. I can only profit from their knowledge.

And a final question, Mr. Siraj: What do you wish for your future?
The most important thing in my life is, very simply, my life itself. In Germany, I am now safe, and I need not be afraid of the terrorists' threats. Here, I can be free, and that also means peace for my family. Of course I miss the country of my childhood, but Germany is now my second and final home.

Photographer: Oliver Welti
Interview: Christine Zimmer

Mujahid Ahmed - „A life is not worth living if you have to stay at home all the time.“

Mujahid Ahmed is 19 years old and is going through career entry qualification at the Training Center at the Mannheim site.

Mujahid Ahmed
Mujahid Ahmed und Betreuerin Marina Bergbold

Mr. Ahmed, you are now 19 years old. Did you come to Germany all by yourself?
Yes, three years ago I came to Mannheim from Pakistan without my family. I had a lot of problems in my home country, and it was not possible for me to stay there. Here, a mentor supports me, and I was able to go to school and take language classes.

Which school did you go to?
I went to the Hauptschule (lower secondary) and graduated from it. Next, I will graduate from Realschule (secondary school). My goal is getting an apprenticeship to become an office manager (Kaufmann für Büromanagement).

I can imagine that it is not easy to live in a foreign country as a minor. What does your everyday life look like?
Of course, it is difficult without parents especially in a totally different culture, a totally different system, and without knowing the language. I went through hard times here, but I am glad to have learned from them. They have advanced me in life.   

Can you explain what you mean?
In Germany, there are many opportunities to learn something and to get on in life. However, you have to accelerate and be diligent in order to reach your goal. That is not always easy. It is also important to have a lot of experiences. A life is not worth living if you have to stay at home all the time. In Pakistan, my freedom was very restricted. Here, people are all equal, and everybody has the right to express their opinion.

Is your work at Roche such an opportunity?
Yes, I am learning a lot, for this is an environment that allows making mistakes. That is very important for me, because it's the only way that I can keep improving all the time. If I have a question, I am allowed to ask – even a hundred times. Everybody respects what I can do, and me.

Can you tell me more about your work at Roche?
Until August, I am doing a 6-month entry qualification year in the Training Department. There, I support my mentor, Marina Bergbold, with Recruiting.

And when you are not at Roche: What do you do in your free time in Mannheim?
My friends and I like exploring our new home. We have already been to the Black Forest and Lake Constance. I like seeing how people live elsewhere.

We have been talking a lot about what you have already experienced. But what do you wish for your future?
I would like to stand on my own two feet. That means learning an occupation, integrating in Germany, and above all, not having the feeling as if I had missed something. That's what I fight for every day.

Photographer: Thomas Kauffelt
Interview: Christine Zimmer.

Zakiya Sulaymann – „I feel at home in Germany“

Zakiya Sulaymann is 41 years old and is doing an internship at Roche Diagnostics in Penzberg.. 

Zakiya Sulaymann bei der Arbeit
Zakiya Sulaymann und ihre Betreuerin Dr. Torres-Nagel

Ms. Sulaymann, how are you doing after your escape from Syria?

We are meanwhile feeling very good in Germany, and we have settled in well. In 2014, we came to Germany via Turkey and Bulgaria, and we have been living in Bad Tölz for two years now, my children go to school and kindergarten here, and they meanwhile speak German better than Arabic. My husband is a pharmacist and initially had a temporary job at a company in this area, but now he has a permanent employment contract. I am doing an internship here at Roche, and I am teaching an Arabic class at my children's school. We no longer need support from the state, which makes us very happy.

Are you still in contact with your home country?

Yes, a little. My family no longer lives in Syria. They are currently fleeing, in Lebanon and Turkey, but my husband's family is still in Syria. The situation there is very difficult and dangerous, and our thoughts are always with them.

What does your life look like here in Germany?

We are very happy in Germany, my children are doing well, and we have found many friends here - among them also many Germans. Germany is meanwhile like a second home. The people here are very nice and always friendly. That has helped us find our bearings here. I feel very good here.

What exactly do you do at Roche? Was its difficult to get settled in?

I work on developing molecular antibodies in Penzberg. Many things are quite new for me, that is sometimes not that easy for me, but I am always supported and instructed at Roche, that makes it a bit easier every day. By and by, I am settling into a routine at work. I am really very happy that I got this opportunity. I studied biology in Syria and worked in the microbiological control lab for drugs at a pharmaceutical company. But I studied a long time ago, and there are so many new things to learn. This is a great opportunity for me.


What was your first impression of Roche? How were you received?

Roche is a great company. The work is interesting, and my coworkers are nice, friendly and helpful, including my bosses. Especially my mentor, (Ms.) Dr. Torres-Nagel, is very patient with me and explains everything to me. In my opinion, Roche is a great company. My wish is to do an internship in the training area in order to learn new methods in biology.

What are your wishes for the future?

I am glad that my family and I can be in Germany, and that we are building a new life, step by step. However, the final decision whether we will actually be able to stay here has not yet been made. Unfortunately, our application for asylum has been denied, and we might be sent to Bulgaria at any moment. We are currently safe her, but we are living in fear that we might have to leave our second home again.

Photographer: Nadine Weinmann
Interview: Lisa Knoll 

Mahdi Ahmadi – “Roche motivates me to give my best at work every day.”

Mahdi Ahmadi is 26 years old and has already been working at Roche since April 2016. Currently, he is completing an internship in the areas Pharma Biotech (Fermentation) and Diagnostic Operations (Enzyme Production) at the Penzberg site – and is now looking forward to his training as a Chemical Laboratory Assistant, which he will start in September.

Sigridur Valgeirsdottir is the Department Head in Pharma Biotech at our Penzberg site and accompanies Mahdi Ahmadi as a Mentor.

Iyad Abu Madi
Iyad Abu Madi Betreuerin Jana Gaßner

Mr. Ahmadi, why did you come to Germany?
Originally, I come from Afghanistan. However, my life was in danger there, so I decided to leave my home. In total, I was under way for three months, the trip was difficult. Unfortunately, I had to leave my family behind. In the meantime, I have been living in Germany for one and a half years.

How do you like your work at Roche?
Roche is a great employer, I am happy to be able to work here. In particular, the good collaboration with my colleagues motivates me to do my best every day.

Was it difficult to get settled?
In Afghanistan, I studied Pharmacy, therefore, I felt at home here at Roche in Penzberg immediately. Thanks to the support of my many helpful and friendly colleagues, settling in really wasn’t very difficult. Only the language caused me some problems at the beginning. Meanwhile, it is hardly a problem./p>

And what do you do in your free time, when you aren’t working at Roche?
In my free time, I often go for walks or exercise in the gym. In addition, I like getting together with my friends and doing something. Since I’ve been in Germany, I have been studying German intensively. I am currently attending a language course three times a week.

What are your hopes for your future?
I hope that I can stay in Germany, complete my training as a Chemical Laboratory Assistant and subsequently continue working for Roche.

Ms. Valgeirsdottir, you are the Mentor of Mr. Ahmadi. What is special about being the Mentor of a refugee?
The goal of the mentoring program is to create a professional future for refugees. The role of Mentor is a great pleasure for me. What is special is that we mutually enrich one another. Mr. Ahmadi‘s support and mentoring is, in fact, a cooperation between Pharma Biotech and Diagnostic Operations in Penzberg. Together with my colleagues from Pharma and Diagnostics, I support Mr. Ahmadi in his internship and act, among other things, as an interface to the Human Resources Department. He in turn has taught me a lot about life and the culture in Afghanistan. In addition, I understand the situation of the refugees better now and it has once again been confirmed how important it is to get involved. Even after his internship, we definitely want to stay in touch.

You were both recently at the filming of a TV ad for the initiative "Wir zusammen", weren’t you? Can you tell me more about it?
Ahmadi:
Yes, the filming was a lot of fun. Even though the weather wasn’t so good, it was a positive experience. I met a lot of new people and was in Berlin, the location of the shoot, for the first time.

Valgeirsdottir: My highlight was meeting and sharing experiences with the other refugees supported at Roche and their Mentors, who also travelled to Berlin from the Penzberg and Mannheim sites. It is great to see that all of the interns speak very good German, have already had good training and demonstrate a lot of potential.

Photographer: Maik Kern
Interviewer: Tamara Walther

Ibrahim Ferik – „My co-workers made sure from the start that I felt comfortable. They integrated me into the team and treated me like an equal member.“

Ibrahim Ferik is 29 years old and is currently on a 3-month practicum at Roche PVT GmbH in Waiblingen.

Ibrahim Ferik
Iyad Abu Madi mit Kollege

Mr. Ferik, you arrived in Germany last November. Since then, you have been living in various refugee shelters in Baden-Württemberg. Would you tell us about the impression of your first months you spent here in Germany? I am from Aleppo, Syria. That is in the northwest of the country. The journey was long and arduous. Accordingly, I am very happy that I can now build a new life for myself in Germany - a life in safety?

I am a mechanical engineer and was fortunately able to successfully complete my studies in 2011, before the violence escalated in my country. With this academic background, I am of course very glad that I was taken to Baden-Württemberg. The state enjoys a great reputation worldwide for its innovative and successful engineering industry, which is opening up great career perspectives and opportunities for me, too."

Opportunities like your current practicum at Roche PVT in Waiblingen?

„Absolutely! Shortly after I was assigned to my current refugee shelter in Stuttgart-Plieningen, I started looking actively for a practicum slot that corresponds to my academic and professional background. It was a social worker at the shelter who approached me and told me that Roche PVT provides refugees with the opportunity to do a practicum and is accordingly open to applications from qualified and motivated applicants. Together with a friend I then promptly started revising my C.V. as well as my other application documents.

My application was successful! I was invited to come for an interview and shortly after, I was already told that I would get a 3-month practicum in the Research & Development /Mechanical Development department.“ 

Time for an initial verdict: Do you like your work at Roche?

„Yes! The work is a lot of fun. My tasks are exciting, and the team is very nice and helpful. I enjoy working in an international environment, with coworkers from all over the world. They made sure right from the start that I am comfortable at Roche PVT, they integrated me into the team and treated me as a full member.“

You have been living in Germany for nine months now. What are your plans for the future?

„My plans for the future are comprehensive and complex. My first wish is to see my family again; they are still in Aleppo. Beyond that, my first priority, however, is looking for a permanent job after my practicum. And of course I want to continue to improve my German. In addition, I hope that I can soon leave the refugee shelter and move into an apartment of my own

I would like to lead a completely normal life - just like it used to be in Syria!“

Read here, about how Roche employees in Germany support refugees.