Though his background is Egyptian, Mohammad Abdel-hameed was born in the western Illinois city of Dekalb. Having parents who were still in school meant he had to spend his childhood moving from place to place, never able to form lasting friendships. But there was a plus side to constantly feeling like an outsider, he says:
“I was always trying to find a way to fit in. This was good because it helped me get along with a variety of different people without taking me out of my comfort zone.”
In 1990, when he was in sixth grade, his family finally settled in Orlando, so his father could accept a medical position in the southeast part of town. His mother opened a medical office nearby, using money she had saved. Mohammad indulged a fascination with electronics and computers, attempting to fix broken appliances and log on to the Internet with the family’s first modem. When he enrolled at the University of Central Florida in 1996, studying computer and electrical engineering was a no-brainer – although he gradually came to concentrate specifically on the latter.
After graduation, he bucked the economic downturn of 2008 to land a job with the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC). After 12 years there, he lauds it as a great place to work:
“I can honestly say that I feel lucky to be a part of such a small but beautiful environment.”
He has similarly high praise for Orlando, which his family has lovingly adopted as home. And though the Egyptian population here is too sparse and spread out to qualify as an actual community, he says, he’ll spy some new faces at an Arab market every now and then and welcome them into a friend network that gets together for group activities every month or so.
That sort of bonding experience is typical for Mohammad, who suspects that being a “people person” may be part of his Egyptian heritage. And it makes him sort of an unofficial ambassador for Egyptians in Orlando, where different cultures can come together and thrive:
“I have the opportunity to mix with people of different heritages, and I always appreciate those differences,” he says.