Mays Kalo, U.S.
“The most important thing is to be respectful and understanding of others– if you do that, anything and everything can be resolved.”
Mays Kalo first came to the United States in 2014. For the first 25 years of her life, Mays lived in the Arabic-speaking cultures of the Middle East and hadn’t needed to learn to speak English until she found herself in a small, conservative town in Ohio for her husband’s education. While her husband drove back and forth to Cincinnati for school, Mays stayed home with her children. As a result, she had few opportunities to speak with native English speakers.
Describing this period of time as “tough,” Mays knew she had to find a way to become more engaged in her new community. Seeing cooking as one of her strengths, Mays decided it would be a fun way to gather people and create a community. She decided to prepare dinners and plates of food for her neighbors and immediately noticed a change in her reception among the town’s residents.
“By taking initiative and preparing food for events and to sell at community gatherings, people suddenly saw me as a businesswoman. In the Middle East, I wouldn’t have received the same commendations for my entrepreneurship. This kindness renewed my will to learn and to do more in addition to caring for my children. Building my cooking business was a great opportunity that helped me learn English.”
In addition to her cooking business, Mays befriended a visually-impaired neighbor who spoke English with her on regular long walks together. Her English and business savviness improved, and after her husband finished up his studies, they moved to Washington, DC for his job. Once she arrived in DC, she pursued her MBA from Bay Atlantic University and began her career in international development.
Throughout her travels to many countries, Mays developed an open-minded perspective. She dreamed of joining a company that valued the impact of its work and the well-being of its employees as much as its bottom line. Her difficult time in Ohio inspired her to work in an industry whose cause and mission is dedicated to improving the mental well-being of others. “My aim in this life is to help people and see the smile on their faces, and to work and live for a good cause.”
With over 17,000 employees and 400 offices globally, Mays is excited to work as a Contracts Administrator for a large U.S. firm like Tetra Tech because of the personal and professional growth opportunities offered to its employees. “Day by day, I fall more in love with the work. I’ve picked up the processes and I love seeing people smiling in photos from the field. I would love to help fellow Middle Eastern communities one day and I believe I’ve found a good home to do so.”
Joining Tetra Tech hasn’t been free of challenges, however. Mays was nervous that her colleagues weren’t going to perceive her as a peer because of her background. However, as she learned more about Tetra Tech’s culture, she became more comfortable and now feels she truly belongs to a second family. One of the most nerve-wracking moments of starting her new job was being called up to introduce herself to the entire company during an office wide staff meeting. She was very nervous to speak in front of so many people, but when she saw that everyone was smiling at her and nodding along encouragingly, Mays knew that she had landed at a company where she felt accepted and welcomed with open arms.
Despite the learning curve of any new job, Mays quickly identified the key to success at Tetra Tech: “The most important thing is to be respectful and understanding of others– if you do that, anything and everything can be resolved.”