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Here’s a tip of advice: the next time you’re having a bad day and the world feels scary, consider introducing yourself to Kais Ebrahem: he’s the person you’re looking for.
Kais has been at HP for close to 20 years and he’s very active within the community. As part of HP Corvallis (US), Kais is a dedicated mentor to interns and colleagues alike, a member of several Business Impact Networks (BINs), a proud volunteer for the Racial Equality Task Force, and someone who happily raises his hand when his teammates need someone to help out.
And Kais will raise his hand even if he’s not an expert in the problem. He’s simply committed to helping those around him no matter where he goes.
This is the result of a lifetime of cultivating an important perspective on life. Kais is originally from Iraq, and when he left his home country for the US, he left many of his family members behind. His goal in leaving Iraq was to complete his master’s and doctorate degrees in the US so that he could return to his role as a professor at the University of Baghdad and pursue research.
“My parents didn’t have the chance to go to school,” Kais said. “They never learned how to read or write. And I wanted to get my Ph.D. to make them proud.”
But Iraq descended into wartime that off-and-on spanned multiple decades and left a trail of decimation in its wake. Because of these wars, Kais lost his mother and one of his brothers.
It would be 23 years before he was able to return home again, and when he did, the life he once knew no longer existed. So, he stayed in the US.
It was there that he found his career and a self-proclaimed new family in Corvallis and at HP. He eventually received his doctorate from Oregon State University in plant physiology and plant chemistry and started working his official dream job in the early 2000s as a chemical tech at the Corvallis site.
This meant he could spend every day behind the wet bench, mixing chemicals and refining formulas in pursuit of the perfect ink. And he hasn’t left the lab since.
“Every day I wake up in the morning, and I’m so happy to put on my clothes and go to work.”
“My wife is a teacher and one day she asked, ‘Why are you so happy to go to work?’ And I said, ‘I’m going to make a difference. I’m going to make a new ink. You will see it in your school and you will see it in your books.’ I’m lucky enough to work at one of the most advanced labs in the world.”
While many would look for new roles during a 20-year career at one company, Kais has chosen to remain in his same role because of the vast learning opportunities and sheer satisfaction he derives from his craft.
Any extra compensation he receives as part of his annual review goes back to his family in Iraq. “I am a king in America, what else do I need? I have food, I have friends, I have clothes, I have work, so I try to give back when I can.”
As his work has progressed over the years, Kais has also developed rheumatoid arthritis in his hands, which can complicate things at the wet bench.
Enter the HP family. “I always tell my team I would be worthless without them,” he said. “They help open lids, they lift the heavy things—these people are my family. You go to the Corvallis site and it’s about respect, no matter who you’re talking to. And respect is like air. You don’t normally feel it, but when you take it away, everyone immediately notices.”
Since he’s both older than 65 and immunocompromised, Kais acknowledged how scary the pandemic was for him at the start. As he sat at home watching the news, he thought it was going to be bad. “We got maybe six or seven emails by 3 p.m. that day,” he said. “They were preparing us for what would happen at HP and we were told to be flexible and expect change. So we did. I had a lot of questions running through my mind, but come Monday morning, we were prepared, we split into two shifts, and we never stopped working. And I’m so grateful to all of our site leaders for keeping us safe.”
When asked if he had advice for employees, Kais had many wise words but these ones stood out the most:
“The whole world is facing challenges we’ve never seen before. Be extra nice to your colleagues right now—each one of us is suffering differently, so don’t try to compare pain.
Just lean into compassion, empathy, and kindness. Take the earbuds out of your ears, put the phone down for a couple of minutes, and look them in the eyes. I was so scared on 13 March, so afraid I would catch [COVID-19].
But this is why we must be kind, we don’t know how people are doing. We need to care for each other. Especially now, as our Black friends are suffering, as our sick people are suffering, we need to have compassion and listen to each other.
We’re all responsible for being part of the solution.”
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That’s what it’s like to be part of HP.