From Refugee to Employer: A Success Story with Valuable Lessons

by Gerhard Stähler in — August 2017
Few events have captured the imagination in recent years like the arrival of refugees who came to Europe in large numbers in the summer of 2015. Ever since a polarized public seems only to discuss whether humanitarian duty outweighs the expense of welfare and integration courses. Often completely forgotten: the women and men who arrived brought enormous opportunities for their host countries with them, not just challenges.

Humble Beginnings

Just eleven years old, with a suitcase, and the equivalent of €100 in his pocket: that is all Amir Roughani had when he arrived in Berlin in 1986. His parents sent him there to spare him the ravages of the Iran-Iraq war. Fast forward to 2007: Vispiron GmbH, the business he founded, employee nearly 400 people in the technology sector. What explains Amir’s rocket-like trajectory? What can we learn from his story?

Because Amir spoke no German at the time of his arrival, he was initially sent to a “Hauptschule”, a secondary school that does not grant degrees allowing a university education. During his apprenticeship to be a chemical technician, Amir would argue with his parents on the phone about whether the Herculean effort to qualify for university and get a degree was worth it. His parents never let up – and Amir soldiered on.

After finishing his degree, Amir got a job as a Key Account Manager. The uphill climb continued, though. Amir notes, “I always had to go an extra mile to get the same level of acceptance from my boss compared to my German colleagues.” As a young man with a foreign-sounding name, Amir encountered a great deal of scepticism.

The breakthrough came with the collapse of the Kirch-Gruppe, the media company that was Amir’s employer at the time. Sick of struggling to prove himself as an employee, Amir mustered the courage to strike out on his own. He founded AXIS Engineering GmbH, the predecessor to the Vispiron of today.

No investors were willing to help him. Amir scratched together the capital for his start-up from his redundancy, a loan from his parents, and a bank loan intended for another purpose.

Blog 2017 Refrugee Cover

Past Struggles that Formed a Well of Strength

Vispiron GmbH provides engineering services in areas too financially risky for other providers. The current focus in on system services for the electricity market, which is currently subject to extreme swings on account of the move towards renewable energy sources.

Taking chances is baked into the DNA of Vispiron, which marks it clearly as the brainchild of its founder. “Leaving your comfort zone, changing, and reinventing myself time and time again is great fun,” remarks Amir.

Today Amir uses his business and his voice to promote renewable energy. In doing so, he contributes to society as a campaigner for the environment and the employer of several hundred people. His contribution goes even further, though: Amir is also a living role model and a reminder of the potential inside people who arrive as refugees.

Talentor Partner Shares Fascinating Stories in New Book

In the new book, “Vom Flüchtling zum Arbeitnehmer”, Gerhard Stähler of Talentor Germany and his co-authors explore the opportunities and limits of integration projects. Amir’s story is just one of the fascinating and inspiring examples and case studies included. More than just inspiration awaits readers: practical tips and suggestions also help companies tackle very real challenges – and reap measurable rewards!

To speak to Gerhard about this topic contact Gerhard Stähler, Geschäftsführer/Managing Director of Kaiser Stähler Rekrutierungsberatung GmbH – part of Talentor International
Phone +49 (0)6174 9619 300, Email: gerhard.staehler@talentor.com