Being Muslim in the workplace

How Aamer Trambu brings his whole self to work (and you can too)

Photo of Aamer Trambu, IT asset management consultant, with quote saying, "My message to Muslim professionals is that you will be uncomfortable, but when you do feel uncomfortable, raise your hand and work with your employer to change the situation."

Meet Aamer Trambu, a champion for Muslim inclusion in the workplace and one of EqualityX’s "Top 50 Influential Muslims in the Americas Region.”

The award recognizes and celebrates the achievements of Muslim professionals whose work has brought distinction to Muslim communities and enhanced the reputation of Muslims. As an IT asset management consultant at SoftwareOne, the global software and cloud solutions provider, Aamer is committed to helping Muslims excel in their careers — without sacrificing their faith.

But, this wasn’t always easy for Aamer.

“Being Muslim is not something that we can turn on and off. It’s not something we can leave at the door,” he shares when explaining how, at times, his faith was at odds with his career.

We sat down with Aamer to hear how he’s navigated being Muslim in the workplace, including how SoftwareOne supports him in bringing his whole self to work.

Understanding the Muslim identity in the workplace

“Inside a culture that’s not primarily designed around religion or faith, work takes precedence. Often a company’s profit matters more than the relationship or the profit matters more than the ethics,” Aamer expresses when reflecting on his experience working for corporations in the United States and Canada.

“As Muslims, when we are in a workplace that’s driven by these principles around maximizing profit and growing for the sake of growth, I am forced to take a step back and ask why am I here and how should I be contributing? There is clearly a lot more to life than increasing the price of our company stock.”

He describes how the word “Muslim” means one who submits or surrenders, and as such, Muslims believe in fully committing themselves to their faith in every aspect of their life. This then poses a dilemma when they’re confronted with situations in the workplace that don’t align with their beliefs.

“For example, say your company’s client is a tobacco company. Smoking tobacco is forbidden for me as a Muslim. But the company says, ‘No, this is our client. We have to support them.’ As a consultant, I’m then scratching my head,” Aamer says. “As Muslims, we can’t just separate our job from our faith. Tobacco is evil. It causes harm, and I will not enable this tobacco company to increase the harm they are already doing to society.”

The friction of faith vs. company

With his Muslim identity present in every aspect of his life, Aamer has faced various conflicts in the workplace over the years.

“One early obstacle was finding a place to pray. Muslims pray five times a day. We start our morning and end our night in prayer. So, I’d ask my company if there’s a place to pray and they’d say, ‘Go use the meeting room.’ But then the next time, there’s someone taking a call in the meeting room,” explains Aamer.

He also recalls how he felt unseen when previous employers would schedule lunch meetings during the month of Ramadan, a time when Muslims fast. The same would go for company events that involved alcohol, something that Muslims do not consume and can’t be around.

“It made me and my Muslim colleagues feel like we just don’t belong,” Aamer says. “Muslims often are left feeling like our faith is causing a lot of discomfort or inconvenience to others in the organization.”

How Aamer brings his whole self to work

Following the September 11 attacks, Aamer recalls experiencing a watershed moment.

“It’s important for me to call this out because I really had to ask myself: What does it mean to be Muslim? Am I really doing what is right? I had to ask these existential questions to really lay the foundation of who I am,” he explains.

From that moment forward, Aamer set himself on a path to be able to bring his whole self to the workplace. He shares the principal ways in which he’s able to do so.

Understand your Creator

“I keep finding Muslims who feel really lost, embarrassed, or ashamed about their identity. That’s a problem because that means they don’t know themselves, they’re not proud of themselves, and they’re not going to benefit themselves or others because they’re not coming from a place of strength,” Aamer says.

When he felt confused about his own identity, Aamer started to ask himself: Who is my creator? What is he able to do? He points us to this video, The Kingdom of Allah - Know Your Creator, as a powerful resource that supports him when he feels off-course.

“A clear understanding of our purpose in life will really help us to get to the right place.”

Find a workplace that will make accommodations

When Aamer joined SoftwareOne in early 2023, he was immediately introduced to one of their diversity representatives.

“She made sure I was comfortable,” Aamer recalls. “It meant a lot that she went out of her way to say, ‘Hey, I understand what your values are, and I want to make sure you feel included.’”

Between the DEI team and Aamer’s direct managers, these initiatives involved everything from designating a place for Halal meals to reaching out to Aamer’s colleagues before a meeting to communicate that the Islamic faith does not permit shaking hands with the opposite gender.

Aamer was also able to spearhead a resource group for fellow Muslims at SoftwareOne using an existing tool at the company, Viva Engage (previously called Microsoft Yammer). The group is called the Muslims and Allies Community at SoftwareOne.

“I love it, and any Muslim that joins SoftwareOne loves it. They start at SoftwareOne and they can easily find a community and see that this company welcomes them to embrace their Muslim identity at work. They don’t have to leave their faith at the door, do their work, and then go back to being Muslim again,” Aamer says.

This Muslim and Allies resource group on Yammer also helps non-Muslims in the workplace to understand and appreciate the experience of Muslim professionals through education and awareness.

“It helps build empathy and a basic understanding of the faith,” Aamer says. “Those things really help make Muslims feel included.”

Practice gratitude

Aamer and many people of the Muslim faith believe that one’s salary does not come from their company. Rather, everything we have today, from the air we breathe to our homes to our families and beyond, is a gift from the Creator.

“Too often we take life for granted, so I would advise other Muslims to realize that you owe your life and your existence to someone else. And the only thing that your Creator is asking is for you to submit, to surrender,” explains Aamer. “That surrendering includes praying five times a day, being grateful in many ways, and being an excellent employee, not just a good employee, but one of the best employees.”

Speak up for yourself

“The bottom line of what I want to get across to other Muslims is that it’s okay to be uncomfortable, and it’s okay to speak out when you’re uncomfortable. It’s okay to ask for help,” Aamer tells us.

“Give the benefit of the doubt to your manager. Give the benefit of the doubt to your senior leadership. Because somewhere, even in their hearts, they’re uncomfortable, too. All it takes is one person who raises their hand and says, ‘Something doesn’t feel right here.’ And together you can work with them to create a workplace where you are proud of being yourself, a practicing Muslim.”

If you’re looking for a workplace that’s inclusive of all religions, including the Islamic faith, explore career opportunities with SoftwareOne here. You can also stay connected with Aamer Trambu on LinkedIn here.
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