My older brother’s name is Sattam; he lives in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. He is 27 years old, and has a Bachelor’s degree in ITM (which stands for Information Technology Management) (O’Brien, 1999). He and I are very close; ever since we were children, we have spent a great deal of time together. Growing up in Riyadh, we did everything together – we went to school, spent time with friends, cleaned up around the house, etc. It was a very rare thing when we would do things apart. This led to a great deal of closeness, and as such our own childhoods and history are closely intertwined; his story is my story as well. To tell the story of Sattam and who he is means to gain insight into who I am in turn, and why he is such an inspiration to me.
Growing up together, as my older brother, he always felt an obligation to take care of me. When I was born, he and my mother would take turns holding me, and he would make sure every day to put me in my crib. He was hesitant at first about having a younger brother, since he was afraid that he would start losing all the attention from our parents, but he soon learned to love me for who I was. He loved helping to raise me as a baby; according to him (and my mother), I would never put up a fuss or cry whenever Sattam would hold me or take care of me. Sattam believes that this is one of the things that made him decide that he wanted children someday; he loved looking after me even as a child.
Once I got older, and we spent more time as equals, Sattam would bring me to school every day, helping me find my classrooms. After class, he would find me and bring me to the school bus, and would help me with my homework every night. He had taken all the same classes with the same teachers, and so he still had many of the schoolbooks. He would let me use them, which saved our family a lot of money. In terms of our friendship, we shifted between friendliness and animosity, as brothers do; Sattam’s opinion of me would change every year depending on the friends he would make. As he got into sixth grade, he took care to not hang out with me, since I was younger and therefore uncool. Sometimes, on occasion, he would help his friends pick on me; however, he knew that hurt me, and would often make sure to console me after school.
In school, Sattam loved learning about science and technology; while he did not like biology or literature, he really took to math. Geometry, algebra, and calculus were subjects that he knew were really difficult, but he challenged himself to learn them. He knew it would become quite useful in his future line of work, as he has always been fascinated by computers and how they function. His grades often suffered; he had a hard time grasping the difficult and complex concepts of mathematics that he was being shown. However, he started a regimen where he would read ahead in the chapters of our mathematics textbooks and figure out the problems beforehand, working them over and over again until he got them right. Once he mastered the concepts, he would even make up his own problems so that he could solve them. It was at this point that he was able to become a mathematics whiz, and he felt extremely proud of the grades he soon got from his teachers.
What was particularly helpful to him in learning about computers was our own computer at home. By the time I was born, we had an Apple IIE with a dot matrix printer, which fascinated Sattam to no end. He would spend hours and hours looking through the menus, learning how to type in DOS, learning shortcuts and about the various programs we had. There was even one day when he opened up the panel to look at all the circuitry and hardware inside. Our parents were furious that day, and told him never to do it again. He, of course, said yes; however, the only lesson he learned that day was that you should put the cover back on the computer after you were done looking at it.
This kind of hard work is at the cornerstone of Sattam’s beliefs; he believes that you have to know what you are doing and become skilled at it in order to succeed. This is not a straight correlation between skill and success; one can become skilled without becoming successful, but Sattam believes that you do not stay a success for long if you do not have the skill to make the most of your opportunities. To that end, Sattam dedicated himself to learning everything he could about computers and how they worked. By the time he reached high school, he was the friend everyone went to about fixing their computer; he even made a small side business out of it. He would charge friends a few dollars and he would take a look at their computer, or their parent’s computer, to see what was wrong with it. It got to the point where he would make the rounds throughout the neighborhood checking in on everyone’s computers. This small job gave him a sense of fulfillment, as well as a decent income between that and the various jobs he would work in shops around town.
Our family was never wealthy, and Sattam learned the value of money because of this. The majority of what he got for himself, he had to buy on his own; this taught him to earn the money that he had, and he hardly ever spent it egregiously. He had a small shoebox he would put his computer-business money in, which he kept under the bed – whenever he wanted something nice for himself, that is where he would take it from. He saved whenever he could, however; he claims that he still has the shoebox, with quite a bit left from that money he had accumulated as a teenager.
My brother Sattam was able to leverage his experience and education into a career he loves very much. He currently works as a computer technician at a major company in Riyadh, and says he finds it very fulfilling. After high school, he spent time and money (some of it from his computer maintenance freelance work) learning and acquiring many computer hardware and software certifications (including his A+, CCNA, and other networking certifications), to make him viable in a rapidly growing and changing marketplace (Cisco, 2003). He found these courses very rewarding, and he often studied on his own for the certification exams. However, in the few structured classes he took, he got plenty of practical experience building imaginary computer networks for businesses, learning about switches, bridges, and other computer equipment. It was these skilled, combined with his enthusiasm for the work, that got him his job as an IT technician. He currently works mostly with computer maintenance of individual terminals, but he will also maintain the company’s intranet and external computer networks. He feels vital and important there, and his coworkers treat him with respect. This gives him great confidence that he is doing what he loves to do.
Sattam is a great inspiration to me because of his work ethic and his dedication to his pursuits. He loves technology, and he knows the value of hard work and entrepreneurship. Working from very little, he has worked his way up to a competitive career that makes him truly happy. Though he has moved away from home, he loves living in the same city as his family, so that he can come to see them as often as he can. This closeness has allowed us to remain good friends and brothers, even though we have a bit more time and distance between us. He believes that family and work should be given equal dedication, and that nothing is more important than doing what you love and being with the people you love.
Brother (Sattam) Interview:
Has Bachelor’s degree in ITM (Information Technology Management)
Took care of me when I was a child – would always take turns holding me with mother
That made him want children someday
He would take me to school and help me find my classrooms, then to the bus afterward
I would ask him to help me with my homework, he would do so every night after dinner
In 6th grade, he hung out with bullies who wanted to pick on me, so he picked on me to fit in with them
He loved learning math, science and technology, but his grades were bad
He would study ahead in the textbooks and learn the concepts on his own to get better grades
He loved taking apart our IIE as a child to see what was inside, he would touch the circuitry sometimes which was dangerous looking back on it. He would look at drop down menus, learn DOS codes and commands, and would type and type his homework in word processors
After parents scolded him for opening up computer, he kept doing it, but remembered to close it back up and put the screws back each time
He thinks you can be successful by being lucky, but you need the skills to stay lucky at your job
Made a lot of money fixing other people’s computers around the neighborhood; would charge kids their allowance to get their computer fixed
Kept the shoebox under his bed, with the money rolled up in bunches; he still has most of that money in the shoebox today, to remember what he did
After high school, he did not go to college, but took whatever technical courses he could and studied to take certification exams separately (CCNA, A+, MCSE)
After that, he would apply to as many businesses as he could and show up personally
This is how he got his current job as a computer technician
He feels very fulfilled at his job, setting up networks and fixing computer terminals
Sattam always loved me – would often ask to hold me
I would cry when Mom held me, but quiet when Sattam held me
Mother never had to tell us to get along, until 6th grade with the friends and bullies picking on me
Mother scolded Sattam for taking apart the computer the one time he was caught – she never knew that he kept doing it
She remembers Sattam getting bad grades, but would always push him to do better
She was very proud of Sattam for being industrious and working hard fixing computers for others, especially since it allowed him to keep his other real jobs on the side
She was disappointed that she could not send Sattam to college, but was very proud of him making his way through those certification exams and finding his own job
She is very proud of him and incredibly inspired by his hard work; she feels she is proud of both of us
She remembers one time finding the shoebox of computer business money under his bed, but leaving it alone and putting it back once she found it.
Cisco Systems, Inc., (2003, March 14). CCNA: network media types.
O’Brien, J (1999). Management Information Systems – Managing Information Technology in the Internetworked Enterprise. Boston: Irwin McGraw-Hill.