Born: Khartoum, Sudan
Primary language: English, Arabic
Work: Senior Electrical Application Engineer at Cummins
Education: North Carolina A&T; Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering
Family: Mother, father and two brothers in North Carolina. Grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins in Sudan.
Hobbies: I love playing pool (billiards). I also love soccer, and I play a lot of volleyball here in town.
● Why and when did you come to the United States?
I came to the United States on July 16, 1999. My dad had been in the United States since 1990 and he saw an opportunity for us to come here and build a better life and get a good education.
● When did you come to Columbus?
I came to Columbus in 2008, to work at Cummins. There is a funny story about that. After I interviewed and got the job, I was told to fly to Columbus, Indiana, to start work, but when I went to book the flight, I couldn’t find an airport. I called the human resources person, and she told me I had to fly to Indianapolis and then drive here. That’s how much I knew about Columbus when I first moved here.
● Tell me about your work.
As a senior application engineer, I work a lot with external customers registering complaints for power generating engines. I work in Columbus, but I also travel to a lot of international sites like Germany, Holland, Spain and also in the United States.
● What do you like best about your job?
Not knowing what is out there when you come in every day. When you come in there might be an urgent issue you have to respond to right away. Of course, you also have other things you were working on from the day before. At the end of the day, when you can solve an issue for a customer and you see the gratitude that they express, it is very rewarding.
● What were some of your first impressions of the United States?
When I came here (at 15 years old), I had never been out of the Sudan, except for a few months in Egypt right before we left. The first thing I thought is, “What did I get myself into?” My country was not very developed at that time and we came to New York for a few weeks before going to North Carolina. It was just so big, with all of the skyscrapers and the traffic and the people.
● What were some of the most difficult things to adjust to?
When I started school it was much more structured and some people do well in that environment but it was very different. There was also a language barrier because I didn’t speak English when I came to this country. I loved television and I watched all the time, but I didn’t know what they were talking about. School was a challenge because not only did I have to learn a different language, but I came from a place where we write right to left, so I had to adjust to that also.
● How have people reacted to you in Columbus?
I first came for an internship, and my apartment wasn’t ready, but I had a friend at Cummins who was already here, so I stayed with him. A few weeks later, we had the big flood in Columbus. I lived in an area that was affected by the flooding, and there were some people who worked at Cummins full time that knew that. They came and knocked on my door, just to make sure I was all right and to see if I needed anything. For them to go out of their way for a new person in town meant so much. I knew I was going to be OK and that I came to a community where people really care about each other. You are not just a number here.
● How do you stay connected to your home culture and your friends and family?
Fortunately there is this great tool called Facebook that allows me to reach out to people in Sudan. Every once in a while I get a message from someone who will ask if I am Ayman, who went to school in Sudan and we will reconnect. It’s wonderful. I just got off the phone with my cousin and I try to call there every few weeks. Our culture, Sudan and the Middle East, is really not well-represented in Columbus, but we have adapted very well. We have the new mosque in town now (on Chestnut Street) and it has given us a place to pray and prepare for our holy month of Ramadan, which is coming up.