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Creating Career Tracks: Five Questions with Mahmoud “Mo” Osman

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Mahmoud “Mo” Osman says he owes his career to Fordham. That’s why he’s made it a priority to help other alumni pursue their dream jobs.

When he was only 3 years old, a military coup forced Osman and his family to flee their native Sudan. After short stints in several Middle Eastern countries, the family joined Osman’s uncles in the United States and settled in the Bronx, where they had to start over again financially.

“We were fortunate, but we were also pretty humble while I was growing up, and it gave me a different perspective on many things,” Osman says. It also meant that being accepted to Fordham College at Rose Hill with financial aid and support from the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) was a huge relief to him and his family.

Entering college undecided about his major, he stumbled onto economics while fulfilling a core curriculum requirement.

“I was always been good at math, but I wasn’t necessarily a fan of it, because I questioned the need for all the formulas. This class gave me a reason to apply those formulas and logic,” he says. “Economics included politics. It included math. It was everything I loved.”

Now an associate and global alternatives product specialist at JPMorgan Asset Management, Osman traces his professional success back to that Jesuit curriculum and to his first work-study job in Walsh Library, part of his financial aid package. “I had jobs before,” he says, “in fields like retail, education, and politics. But that was really my first office type of experience. And that eventually helped lead me to the Office of Career Services, where I really learned what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.”

After several internships, he landed a position in a two-year rotational program at JPMorgan right after graduating in 2014.

“I owe a lot to Fordham, and that’s why I give back however I can. There’s a kid in my shoes out there, a kid from the Bronx who isn’t afforded the luxury of being able to pay for college, and that sucks,” Osman says. “We should be able to help them out.”

Osman has helped by contributing to scholarship funds at Fordham, sponsoring receptions for Fordham alumni who work at JPMorgan, and participating in events run by MOSAIC, Fordham’s multicultural alumni affinity chapter.

In 2016, he joined the advisory board of the newly formed Fordham University Alumni Association (FUAA). The thing he’s most proud of is helping launch the Alumni Career Fair with fellow members the FUAA’s networking and engagement task force. It’s an opportunity for alumni to network with each other and with the University’s employer partners.

“We were lucky to go to an institution that focuses on job placement, on interview training … and that takes a true career-oriented approach,” he says.

Osman is committed to enhancing that support by creating opportunities for Fordham alumni who have not yet found the right path, or for those ready to take the next step. The third annual Alumni Career Fair will take place at the Lincoln Center campus on March 4. More than 100 alumni of all levels of experience have already signed up for this year’s event, and more than 25 employers across industries—some of which will be sending Fordham alumni as representatives—are set to attend.

“It’s amazing to see this event materialize, to help arrange this forum for alumni relationships,” he says.

What are you most passionate about?
I would say philanthropy, honestly. Just giving back in general. It’s always been a pillar of mine. Not only does it help other people who are less fortunate in whatever situation, but I think it’s a good reminder of what you’re afforded in life, to be grateful for what I have and understand that there are others without these opportunities. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
One of the first memories I have is from when I was 3 years old and we were leaving Sudan. It was the first time I had been on a plane. I was with my father and I said, “Oh wow, I get to go on a plane!” My dad looked at me and said, “You know, yeah. Enjoy it. Experience it. But also be grateful for it.” At the time, I was so young that it kind of went over my head. But I’ve realized that the idea has grown with me. I think my dad wanted me to enjoy the moment while also being mindful that it was a privilege to experience something like that, especially considering other folks’ less fortunate circumstances (regardless of how unfortunate our own circumstances may have seemed). Now that’s become part of my normal thinking. Aim for the best, listen and be present in it, and enjoy what you have. It’s a way to see through that bubble, that privilege bubble, that everyone has in some way.

What’s your favorite place in New York City? In the world?
Would it be cheating if I said Fordham’s Rose Hill campus is my favorite place in New York City? I don’t want to be cheesy, but honest to God, I was awed during my first visit to campus. I grew up in the Bronx, in a very urban environment, and to walk onto that campus and see this beautiful place with unbelievable landscaping and immaculate Gothic architecture … I was like, wow. And every time I’m there, I have to take photos. I love it. Especially that walk from Dealy Hall toward the library, with that view of Martyrs’ Lawn and Walsh and Duane. You couldn’t get more picture perfect. That’s the image I think of when I picture campus. And the fact that it’s in the Bronx just makes it much sweeter for me.

As for my favorite place in the world, this might be mainstream, but it’s Paris. I’ve been four times total, twice for work in the past year. I can’t speak a lick of French, but I love it. It’s a romantic city, and it’s truly beautiful. There’s so much history behind it, so many sites to see, intricate neighborhoods … it reminds me of New York because it has its own little districts that are each their unique environments, and you can find something interesting in each one.

Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
So, I have two, and they’re both a bit controversial.

The first is The Autobiography of Malcolm X. And the second is The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump. I know, big contrast.

What’s important about Malcolm X … I wasn’t born here, my family hasn’t been in America for hundreds of years. We’re from Africa directly. But I grew up in New York, and I still connected with many of the experiences in the book. His logic for a lot of things, obviously, was a little too extreme. But in the latter part of his life, he was much more welcoming. It taught me about perspective, and how when you’re given new insight you can vastly change your initial perspective. In the beginning of his conversion to Islam, for example, he had a much more conservative position. And then he started to travel and interact with more folks and realized that’s not all this religion is about. He evolved. He actually visited Sudan, and that was one of the reasons I decided to read his book back when I was 12. And I’ve read it every five years since then.

And then for Art of the Deal, I don’t necessarily agree with his political views, but I just think business is always impressive to me. It’s very hard to make it, to be a very successful businessperson. And when someone does it, even if they started with money, it’s impressive. I first read that when I was 14, I think. It really taught me about the passion you have to have, the kind of work ethic you have to have, the things you have to think about, or the kinds of decisions you have to make to progress. From a career or networking perspective or just from a personal development perspective, it’s important to understand how to make your argument, how to weigh your options. I’ll be frank: A lot of the book is self-promotion. But there are some key things in there, and those left a lasting impression on me.

Who is the Fordham grad or professor you admire most?
This might be another mainstream answer, but Denzel Washington. For me, the fact that this guy, a New York guy from Mount Vernon who went to Fordham, found his calling and his craft, and followed through with that and became the success he is today, and also remains a good family man, that means a lot to me. Not that I’m anywhere near the guy, but that’s a good person to look up to and aspire to be like. That’s my favorite Ram.

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