STORIES OF COMMUNITY RESILIENCE

Episode Description

Mahdi Gholami works as a volunteer at 3ZZZ 92.3fm for the Iranian Radio Program. Arriving to Australia in 2015, Mahdi studied IT whilst helping with his family business – first a restaurant, and then transforming into a transport company.

Mahdi now works as an IT technician, and enjoys helping people, not only with technology but also with navigating migration to Australia. This episode discusses changing careers, and field of study and how this was influenced by migration and the pandemic and the challenges of visas and migration processes. 

Produced by Moh Javin. Moh first arrived to Australia as an Asylum Seeker in 2012, previously working in Iran in the film industry as a set designer, actor and dubber.

Moh is also a member of the 3ZZZ broadcasters, and enjoys radio presenting, theatre, acting and dubbing. 

Transcript

Please note: Transcript is automatically generated and may contain errors.

Moh
Hi everyone. This is Mohammad from 3ZZZ and I’m hosting another episode of Stories of Community Resilience. Here with us is Mahdi. He’s a friend of mine and we are going to talk about his career change in Australia. How are you going, Mahdi?


Mahdi
Thanks for having me in the show. Yeah, I remember when I was back in Iran, I really used to care about the way people pronounce
my name. I was really saying that you should say Mahdi as it is, but here, because people can not pronounce the H in the middle, they usually call me Maddie. And so Maddie , as you know, is like the short form for Madison. And when I introduced myself over the
phone or like when I just text to people, I tell them “I’m Maddie”, they expect to see a girl because like, Madison is a girl name. Yeah, but I’m not Madison. Definitely. They get surprised to see. Yeah, you can see my moustache. [laughter]


Moh
It’s a nice surprise.


Moh
Mahdi, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you came to Australia and how this story actually started?

Mahdi
I came here with my family back in 2016. I was living by myself about 6 or 7 months to just doing some exploring and doing some research before the family can completely join me. I’ve been through different industries that we’re going to go through them during the show. Now I am an IT technician.


Moh
Do you like your job?


Mahdi
Yeah, I really like it. I really liked it. So generally, I think it is has been one of the most important industries last few years. It has a really big impact on our daily life. Now, with all the smartphone and everything with the phones and the artificial intelligence and everything we can see these days. Yeah, that’s true. It really impacted or created by it. But on the other hand, I like enjoying doing my
job, like spending six, like seven, eight hours a day on one monitors.


Moh
That’s not great, but, you know, as long as you like it.


Mahdi
I do. See my sister always consider me as a boring person to just spending all their time in your room with doing that. But yeah, I really like
it.


Moh
She’s really supportive.


Mahdi
The thing is, we always have this conversation because she is a real estate agent and I really, uh, don’t appreciate what she does.


Moh
Really. Maybe you should. Maybe you should. And maybe then she can just change her. [laughs]


Mahdi
She can definitely make much more money than me. But I really prefer and enjoy what I’m doing. But all the time we have this kind of conversation that.


Moh
A typical brother and sister. What was your first impression of Australia when he first came here?


Mahdi
Actually, because I’ve heard about Australia and I expected it to be much more modern country, which like the picture I had in my mind was something like New York with all those tall towers and buildings and big shopping centers and everything. But I think especially here when you go to to the suburbs, it just gets really, uh, look like a big farm, look like a big village kind of thing. And I really but, but the thing is, even and after this year now, I really like the quiet area. I now I really prefer living in a suburb than being in the CBD with all the traffic and everything. But I expected it to be much more busier in the first place.


Moh
Are you from Tehran?


Mahdi
Yeah, Tehran, Yeah.


Moh
For anyone who doesn’t know about it, Tehran is a super populated city, a lot of tall buildings, everything, huge traffic and yeah, unbelievable.


Mahdi
The population of the city is just as big as the whole country. Here we have about, I think, 17 or 18 million.


Moh
People in the state of Tehran. Iran, 17 to 19 million people. Yeah. So what did you study back in Iran?


Mahdi

I was studying Bachelor of Psychology. When I say psychology, people get excited, but when I continue that story, things changes. I
left it uncompleted, because I was just when I meet, my visa was granted, I had a limited time to come here to start my studies and everything here, so I just left it uncompleted as it was and even didn’t ask for any documents or any proof –


Moh
So you you had to rush to Australia and you couldn’t continue studying here because you didn’t have any documents?


Mahdi
Didn’t ask for anything because I was not expecting that. And on the other hand, like, the thing is, uh, psychology was not really my field. Uh, I had to, I ended up in psychology. I was just aiming to do medical science, but I couldn’t get qualified for that in Iran.


Moh
Yeah, in Iran there is a huge example. Everyone, if you want to get to university and medical science is one of the most popular ones. We have more than 2 million people applying for that exam every year, right?


Mahdi
Usually every year. Yeah. Something about that number. About like 2 million medical.


Moh
It should be among the first 50,000 or so.


Mahdi
Uh, something like that. Yeah.


Moh
Did you want to continue study the same field psychology in Australia, or what was your initial thoughts about studying or continuing studying or starting a career in Australia?


Mahdi
Not really. I was not planning to do the psychology like medical science was one of the main reasons that even my family decided to come here. They just were encouraging me to study medical science career back in Iran. And then they said that, okay, then. Now you are not qualified for that. In Iran. You can go to another country and then you can just do your just chances in there to do medical science. Okay. Came here. And first of all, I was just planning to go to Melbourne Uni again, couldn’t get qualified. Then I went to Monash University. I studied a semester of Bachelor of Science and everything was going very well. But as you know, for international students, university fees are like crazy. On that time I was paying about 20K for per semester, which is only 12 weeks. Makes it about 40k every single year, and this amount is being increased by 500, 700 every year as well. So it’s just getting increased as well. So basically that was the dream. That was a good dream, but I couldn’t afford my dream anymore. And then I shifted to another field and I was thinking just then, like less emotionally and more logically, I was thinking that what would be a kind of area that I can afford and also I’m gonna start loving it. And then I just ended up doing it.


Moh
Well, that $40,000 is a lot of money.


Mahdi
It’s a lot of money. It’s a lot of money.


Moh
And the very first time I met you and your lovely family, you guys had a food business. You had like a small kind of a restaurant in Carlton, I think, Right.


Mahdi
It’s in Fitzroy was in Fitzroy and next to Carlton. Yeah that was the other side of the thing. So that was my like the jobs, apart from the unique things that I was doing. After a few months, the family decided to open a business and I think the between all those types of businesses that they could open, which was restaurant, which was one of the most difficult and challenging businesses in here when you are new to the country, everywhere you go, you see restaurants and cafes and everyone is happy and making money and everything looks good. But as soon as you start it, I start serving the food and things like that. Everything is going to change. You know, being in a restaurant as a customer is completely different story when you are there as a owner.


Moh
I can imagine, Yeah, it’s a lot of work and a lot of work. What happened with that restaurant? Because you guys were going all right. I think in the beginning.


Mahdi
Yeah, it was from the beginning it was a bit challenging. First of all, is that that area of Brunswick and Carlton are like very how to say
that maybe there is not many Iranians around and we should have been able to communicate and cater for like Australian people,
especially younger generations that are in that area. And the problem is my parents couldn’t speak English much and I had to do all the translation and everything. I remember that I couldn’t leave my shift even for like five minutes or something, because at that time somebody would come up to the shop and just was trying to order something and if I was not there, they couldn’t do that. So I had to
be in the shop all the time. And so basically as one person, like it’s a team job, you know, it’s like you need to be a team to be able to run the restaurant. So it was challenging, but we added a few other Persian items trying to like serve Persian foods to attract our community to the restaurant after a while. And we could survive in the first few years. But then Covid came. So we started back in
2016 and it was just getting better at the end of 2019. But then Covid came and yeah, everything changed.


Moh
How And you were studying at the time you were studying the Bachelor of Science at the same time as you were working in the
restaurant, right?


Mahdi
Bachelor of Science was a short period of time. It was just like one semester. But then, yeah, I started I started my IT course and
yeah, I was doing it like part time and part time. The other part time.


Moh
So when you were in uni, your parents had to run the restaurant by themselves and it was a little bit challenging because of the
language barriers.


Mahdi
It was and, but the thing is, at that time it was more, uh, like we tried to change the menu completely. So in the beginning the menu
was more like breakfast and Aussie style kind of thing. But after that it was like more like more than 90% of the menu was Persian
food. So then they –


Moh
Could attract Persian community.


Mahdi
Yeah, they could –


Moh

And I was one of them. Yeah.


Mahdi
So I think that was the first time we met?


Moh
First time we met. Yeah. You were working? Actually, the very first time I went to the restaurant. You were? And there was your dad and mom. Yeah. And because they are from the same area that one of my. My grandparents are, and they were, like, making the kind of local food from that area I was really attracted to. Never had anything like that in Australia. So it was really, for me, a big surprise. How did Covid change the business? How did Covid change everything for you and your family?


Mahdi
That area like Carlton and Brunswick area, have lots of foot traffic, mainly because of the bars and the clubs and all the social gatherings and things that were there. And basically for about two years, everything was shut. So people just didn’t come to Fitzroy anymore. So like Fitzroy and Carlton are those kind of area, uh, apart from the people who live there every weekend, every single day you get so many people, so many visitors from other suburbs. But during the Covid, nobody was not just visiting, uh, Carlton and Fitzroy. Because it isn’t worth it. Everything was shut and I think even after a while people start getting used to their cafes in their own area. Before Covid, if they wanted to go clubbing, they would definitely go to Carlton or to try an Italian food. They would go there, but then after a while they would just try their local local restaurants and things like that for a while and then they get used to it. It is
good that a local business like in Covid and you could never say that all the businesses, all the businesses have been impacted, but some of them could improve the business and grow the business, and some of them are not that successful.

Moh
Yeah, that’s correct. What was you like mentally? What were you thinking? What were your goals in when Covid hit? Like, Did it change anything in your mind because you wanted to become an IT technician back then? Right? And you were just working at the same time with your family to be able to afford, um, the university. What what changed in your mind? Like, I remember that when Covid hit, I had to stop working for seven months and I started thinking about a business that’s not going to actually be impacted by
anything like Covid in the future because we we were thinking that this going to be the face of the future of the of the planet forever, like it’s going to be a Covid, a pandemic and not a pandemic going to hit and change everything. So for me, myself, it was like, okay, maybe I start a business that I can do from home. What were your thoughts?


Mahdi
In the beginning. If I started doing some YouTube videos and things like that to start making money from home, but I was not doing well actually. And then because the restaurant was shut and we were in the position that, although the restaurant was shut but we still
had to pay the rent for the restaurant and other expenses, so we started looking for work, apart from the restaurant. So then I that was the time that I started becoming a delivery driver. And on that time, uh, so that was my second job here after, like, doing running the cafe and because basically, uh, if you remember those days, there was a specific groups of people that they were classified as essential worker or something like that. So delivery drivers was a part of that. So first few months, no, I was at home, same as everyone else. But then when I started my delivery driving job, I was just working all the time. It was not like even delivery job was much more busier than other times of the year because people started online ordering and online shopping and things like that.

Moh
Yeah, I can imagine. Did you like doing that?


Mahdi
Yea it was good. It was had some positive sides, but one of the problems I had as a delivery driver is that some people, like don’t
respect delivery drivers as same as their customer or other kind of people. Like for example, I remember in so many I was doing, food delivery for a long time. When you go to a restaurant as a customer, they start respecting you. They just start greeting and
everything. But some restaurants, when you go there as a delivery driver, they don’t even say hello and they just ask you to go and stand in the queue and don’t make any noise or anything. It’s just the feeling you get. And then like next next week you go there as a customer, then they just treat you well. I don’t treat them too. I just expect the restaurants to treat delivery drivers respectfully.


Moh
And we have a lot of students even nowadays that are working as uh, food delivery in Melbourne as.


Mahdi
Well. I remember once I was in a reception and I was asking for somebody to do the delivery and the reception was starting. It was called the person that I wanted to give the delivery to, and you remember that they start the way that “there is a gentleman here doing a delivery.” He has started his sentence like that. “There is a gentle.” And then he stopped and turned that gentleman to a delivery driver. You know what I’m saying?


Moh
Like he’s a gentle delivery driver.


Mahdi
Yeah, that was just a delivery driver. Can be a gentleman. Come on, guys.


Moh
So I remember that back in the days, the government used to give support to businesses. Did you guys, uh, could get like. Did you get any kind of support from the government for your business, Their family.


Mahdi
Heart that was covering the business expenses and coming from the business side? Yeah, it was really helpful. It it really helped us to survive on that time. Uh, but on the other side, there was some, uh, government support for like individuals, same as job keeper and those kind of things. And because we were not, uh, permanent residents, we were not usually qualified for most of those.

Moh
Yeah, I understand. So it was a little bit hard on you guys for the business as well and your family as a whole.


Mahdi
It’s very difficult.


Moh
When actually did you finish your study?


Mahdi
Study was finished back in 2022. Last year, I think. Yeah. But it took very long because. So first of all, I just changed universities a few times, as I mentioned. And also because I was doing like here in Australia, Bachelor is going to take three years, but because I was just doing it part time. So it just took longer. It took like from 2018 to 2022. So it took me like four years to finish that.


Moh
And after that you started working as an IT technician?


Mahdi
Yeah, about, uh, it took me like 6 or 7 months to find the job.


Moh
How many job interviews did you have to do?


Mahdi
Uh, I was a bit lucky. Maybe I shouldn’t say a bit. I was, like, very, very lucky. And one of my, uh, university lecturers, was helping me a lot to find the job. So she introduced me to a recruiter, a job recruiter, and then they helped me to find the job I had. I’ve applied for maybe five 600 different roles and I got rejected. That’s the fun part.


Moh
Of 600 different roles?


Mahdi
Yes, because basically you see the job role and they expect you to have work experience that I didn’t have and my university was not like a top level university. And I guess being an immigrant sometimes might impact your chance.


Mahdi
And I can understand that because, um, people expect somebody to be more firm. Because when you see an immigrant name, you are not sure that that person has been to the country for like a month or have been here for a few years. If you if he or she familiar
enough with the culture here or is just, you know what I’m saying? So all those factors just going to impact the chance but yeah my university lecturer she helped me a lot to find a job as well.


Moh
And we were just talking before the interview. You said that you’re satisfied even though the pay is not great, but you are satisfied with the job that you’re doing.


Mahdi
I really like that. Because, uh, I like it is just the thing that has all different industries have impact on our daily life. But I guess that you can have like five, six years of your life or even the whole part of your life without maybe seeing a lawyer. But IT is not like that every single day. We need it equipment, we need smartphones, we need it advices about our life. So this is an important role of our part. And I really enjoy some people say that I really enjoy meeting new people. I’m not one of those kind of person. I prefer to spend most of my time with my computer, with my emails, doing the technical stuff and uh, being less involved with, uh, newer peoples.


Moh
Would you say that this is your dream job being an IT technician?


Mahdi
It is at the moment, yeah, it is.


Moh
You work from home or are you in the office?


Mahdi
Work from home. That was one of the other good advantages after Covid. Before Covid, if you tell people I’m working from home, it was something like you couldn’t even imagine. But now we are having so many people working from home.


Moh
Covid changed a lot of things. It’s just one of them. During all these years, you and you still, uh, kind of involved with the family business or you just on your own?


Mahdi
Uh, the family business after, like, Covid. There was a few other problems with that, but finally we just finished that business and got rid of the restaurant, and then the family business turned more into a transport business doing, uh, like doing transport, transport between businesses, things like that. So we got a truck start doing those kind of deliveries. And then that was that part of my time
because my father couldn’t speak much English again, I had to start getting my truck driver license first in order to help him. I never in my life last like the previous 25 years. I would never imagine myself as a truck driver because I always think that I’m not those kind of person. But then I started doing that for about one year. I really enjoyed that. But yeah, that was a challenge as well. There were lots of challenges in that as well.


Moh
Are you satisfied with your life at this stage?


Mahdi
I am. I really am. Definitely. Every state of your life. There are some things that needs to be improved, and I have so many aspects of my life that I need to be reviewed and need to be improved. But, uh, in a holistic view, I like the person I am at the moment and I like
the country that I live in at the moment. And yeah, I generally like my life.


Moh
And what are your goals for the future? What would you like to achieve in the future?


Mahdi
In the future, probably apart from like the personal growth that I may improve in my career as like an IT technician or probably will start my family and things like that. One of the things that I really learned about and my career is that all people doesn’t have a similar opportunities. And then you have some opportunity. You might be able to help others. So I remember when I was looking for my, uh, I was looking for work when I was saying to my university lecturer helped me a lot. And it’s really difficult. When the university finished, my university lecturer helped me a lot finding the job and supported me in so many aspects. And all the time I was trying to tell her
that what is the way that I can return your favor? You help me a lot. So she told me that there would be one day that you might be in my position and there would be somebody else in your position looking for help, needing help on that day. Remember that I helped you today and do the same thing. It’s not going to be something really big. I’m not going to make a really huge impact on somebody’s life. But if I can make a small change in somebody’s life to help them, that would be a great thing for me. So that would definitely a big part of my life. If I can help people, I would because there were so many people that been helping me before and they led me to be here.


Moh
So she sounds like a very wise advisor. Do you think that you want to keep going in the field? You’re happy to actually continue and grow in it?


Mahdi
Probably. But the thing is, recently, because of the, you know, about the artificial intelligence ChatGPT and all this kind of stuff, and not only the world going to be a very different place in the next few years. Our area is going to be really different as well. Maybe in at the moment in a company there is like a few senior people and lots of junior students like me doing the jobs. But it’s not that hard to imagine. Maybe in the next few years there would be a few junior, a few senior people, technicians and then all the juniors are replaced by artificial intelligence because they could just tell them do and because like junior people doing like a smaller tasks and
those things can be automated and can be done by artificial intelligence. So if I don’t lose my job, if ChatGPT doesn’t replace me, yes, I would like to stay in IT.


Moh
So you think that I might be a threat to this business?As well as it might be an opportunity for many.


Mahdi
Same as Covid, you know that you cannot never say, all the people are going to get impacted on the same way. So definitely artificial intelligence had lots of positive sides is going to improve our life. It’s going to make it more efficient. But on the other hand, so many
jobs can be replaced that those kind of jobs that really doesn’t need a creative thinking, doesn’t need a developing something. Those kind of tasks that you all you just only need to learn something once and just repeat it every single day. Those kind of tasks such as
driving, such as typing, such as translating those kind of tasks, all of them can be really even today, ChatGPT and all those other AI tools have the opportunity, have the capacity to replace those kind of jobs. And that’s going to be interesting and scary in the same
time.


Moh
I’ll get that. So the last thing I want you to talk about is, um. During these past years, 5 or 6 years, you had to endure a lot of problems. You had to cope with a lot of situations. And obviously being an immigrant in another country is just hard by itself. Then
Covid hit changed everything. Do you think all these events have made you a stronger, a better person, and what do you think could
help you to get out of the situation? Because I think that it was really hard for many people during the Covid and after that, especially
for you. You were studying at the same time you had to help your family. What helped you and what are your thoughts of that?


Mahdi
Definitely it made me much a stronger person. So if I can meet the my version back in 2016, when I was a kid, I was a rich kid just caring about myself. And maybe my biggest concern was my homework. I was not worried about any financial issue, any anything, any relationship issue, anything. So it just made me much stronger. And as I said, there were so many people that been helping me as well. So the family was really helpful. I found so many great friends that they’ve been encouraging me all the time and they’ve been supportive in those situations. And also another thing I met is that I’ve made lots of mistakes as well, and I learned from my mistakes. Some of those mistakes are, considering some people as your actual friends, but then they are not your friends. They are just in there to enjoy the opportunities when conditions change, they’re going to leave you alone. So I had those type of friends and then they taught me a lot about life as well.


Moh
Okay. Yeah, that’s something to remember. Is there anything else that you want to add at the end of this interview?


Mahdi
No, not really. It was it was really nice to do the interview. Thanks for having me. Oh, thanks.


Moh
Thanks for being here.


Mahdi
And I hope things goes well for you and for the show.


Moh
Perfect. Thanks a lot, Mahdi. Thanks for being here. It was a great interview and thanks for every single one of our listeners. Thanks a lot. Perfect. See you later. See you later.


Mahdi
Thank you.
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]

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