Hussein Mohamed had just graduated from high school when he was driven from Somali amid a violent civil war.
As a refugee in Kenya, he spent six years selling gasoline and other provisions so he could earn a modest income. In 1996, seeking a better future for himself and his family, he boarded a plane, flew 16 hours across the Atlantic Ocean, and set out to create a new life in the Twin Cities.
Nearly two decades later, the father of seven has become an active and enthusiastic leader for other Somalis who have made their homes here. He’s also become a home owner and gone back to school, studying business management at a local community college.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy. Mohamed held several jobs, as a dishwasher, janitor and taxi cab driver, before realizing that he had a calling for customer service. He’d taken the bus to work and knew a friend who was a bus driver at Metro Transit. So he applied and called until he got hired. At the time, he was one of just a few Somali-born operators.
After 14 years of driving, his message to others looking for a rewarding career is simple and unequivocal: working at Metro Transit is the opportunity of a lifetime.
“This is a job that brings hope to people from all over the world, including myself,” Mohamed said. “I send a lot of people here, telling them that the best company in the world is right at their doorsteps.”
Indeed, Mohamed has played a leading role in Metro Transit’s efforts to recruit drivers and to encourage ridership among the local Somali community. He does so both as a representative for Metro Transit and as community organizer who takes it upon himself to help Somali youth and to keep his peers informed.
“My father was a chief back in Somali so we always had people around and it taught me how to be a leader,” he said. “Helping people is my life.”
Mohamed offers a helping hand to those he works with as well. After being trained through Metro Transit’s peer support program, he is often called upon to work with operators who have gone through a traumatic event or are facing challenges.
“It’s all about making someone love their job when they’re down,” said Mohamed, whose warm demeanor and outgoing personality has earned him the nickname “King.”
While the job has its challenges, Mohamed said his best advice to himself and other operators is to simply take it one day at a time and to let things go easily. “When I leave home, I put my job number one so I have a fresh mind,” he said. “When I sit in the seat and press the gas, it’s a new day and it’s exciting.”
A ten-year safe driver, Mohamed has worked several routes throughout his career. Lately, he’s been driving Route 16, which continues to provide local service on University Avenue.
His hope for the future is to earn his degree, continue building his career and to expose more of his fellow Somalis to the opportunities available at Metro Transit.
“You can tell just from my face that I’m happy and grateful,” Mohamed said. “I call myself a Minnesotan now and I look forward to raising my family here. This is my final destination.”
Operator at a Glance
Name: Hussein Mohamed
Hired: Oct. 8, 2001
Employee Number: 2406
Routes: Mohamed has driven several local and express routes, usually in Minneapolis and its immediate suburbs. Most recently, he has been on Route 16 with local service on University Avenue.
Garage: Heywood Garage (previously spent time at the Martin J. Ruter and South garages)
Hobbies: Mohamed used to play soccer, but today he dedicates much of his time to his family, school and community. “My hobby is moving – constantly moving and talking to people,” he said.
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