ELM Employee Spotlight: Marwan Al Masri

For Marwan Al Masri, the kid from Lebanon, beset by the uncertainties of youth, the pieces of his life kept falling into the right places at the right times, like an amazing puzzle composing itself.

They first arrived when Marwan was out of high school and trying to get on with his education. The family couldn’t afford college, but he’d won a scholarship to a university in France. A month before he was scheduled to leave for France, he was with a friend, filling out some forms for the American University of Beirut, a distinguished school established in 1866. The form asked for the applicant’s preferred course of study.

“Electrical engineering?” his pal said.

Naw, Marwan said. What would be the point? He was on his way to France next month.

 “I’ll put it in anyway,” his friend said. What could it hurt?

A week before his trip to France, Marwan received a phone call. Not only was he accepted at American U., he was awarded a scholarship. Then he had his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

That door had barely closed when the next one opened.

Marwan had graduated with distinction from American U. and was trying to decide what was next.

“I had two choices,” he said. “I could continue at American U. or go into the military.”

There’s always an uncle.

“Then my uncle in Massachusetts called,” Marwan said. “He said there was a foundation that occasionally gives scholarships.”

And there went Marwan, off to Boston University with an academic scholarship, and then a master’s degree in computer systems engineering.

Next came the job hunt. It included a convenient website that invited seekers to list themselves, and that in turn resulted in a phone call from ELM Electrical.

 “I didn’t find them,” he noted. “They found me.”

Next came the prescient engineer, and Marwan’s plan.

“I still remember the first engineer I worked with,” Marwan said. “His name was Mike, and he was asking me – ‘How long you think you’re going to be here for?’ And I said, you know, not more than a year. And he’s like – you watch. You’re going to be here for 20 years. And I said, no way…”

Marwan’s plan was simple and basic — get some experience in the field, put aside some money and head back to Lebanon, to home and family.

“And I’m here for 16 years now,” he said.

The reasons are quick to mind.

“I love it for many things,” he said. “First, the flexibility I have.”

Being able to work remotely out of Boston for about a year, until it suited him to move back to headquarters.

“I can do things at my own pace, as long as I get them done,” he said, “and I get to do all sorts of things – program PLCs, computers and robots. A lot of intense, fascinating things. I love to solve problems, and to make things work better, and I love the idea of automation.       

“And I feel appreciated.”

ELM’s Apprenticeship Program

“And we did that for project purposes,” Project Manager Tim Rzeszutek was saying of a particular area of ELM Electrical’s vigorous and demanding Journeyman Apprentice Education Program. “But we also saw a lot of value just because we were giving ’em in-house training that was more focused on what we do.

“Ultimately,” he added, “it was better training than what they were receiving at their local tech schools.”

“Journeyman” may have the sense of middle-of-the-road or routine, but in this context it means “pro” and “big league.” The ELM journeyman can go to a wall box spouting a bewildering lion’s mane of wires – some white, some black, some bare – and determine which go with which, make the connections, and the homeowner merely comes to a neat cover on the wall, flips this switch for the ceiling light, that one for the counter light, and plug the coffee pot in that plug. The miracle of electricity is so simple – if one doesn’t think too hard about it.

 But those learning to deal with it have to think very hard about it.

“There are a lot of guys that are so willing to help you,” said Alex Pedro, ELM apprentice. “Drop everything. Classes are great. Shop is great. I love it. It’s really amazing.”

“Here at ELM, we started out like every other electrical contractor – register our apprentices, send them to night school, and that worked well for a lot of years,” said ELM instructor Paul Asselin. “As the company grew, our needs changed and we started the current program a couple years ago. They’re taught the same lessons if they were to go to night classes. But we have the added advantage of having a hands-on lab where our employees, our students, can actually put their hands on material, build projects on the wall, make things work, get that gratification. They’re our employees – they’re our greatest assets.”

Apprentice Alex Alfano took quick aim on joining ELM. “I never had a lot of electrical experience,” he said, “so I wanted to go through this program so I could learn a lot more through the book and get some hands-on experience as well. We started by going through the book… If you don’t have a lot of experience, but you’re willing to work, they’ll put in the time and effort and train you so that, One, you’re trained correctly, and Two, they’ll have an employee they can teach so that you’ll come out a journeyman.”

Added Pedro: “ELM is training their employees the right way – not cutting corners. And I think that’s what we need more of in this world. Like, doing things the right way.”

And said apprentice Jared Borja: “We’re very taken care of here. Everything at our disposal, everything we could possibly need to do our own job correctly and become full journeymen.”       

And Instructor Matt York underlined ELM’s goal and success with the journeyman program.

“The investment from the company is substantial, it’s never-ending,” York said. “It seems like so much of  the company’s profit gets reinvested back into employees. I don’t know how I could put a value on that. I really do love it.”