Influential Interviews: Alaa Abdelhamid uncovers construction stories

The documentarian talks about overcoming self-doubt, honing his interview skills and amassing millions of views.

* Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a series of interviews conducted with winners of SiteNews’ recent awards program, Construction’s Most Influential People.

Some people talk about doing something, and others simply go do it. Alaa Abdelhamid felt like construction workers needed more of a spotlight to tell their stories and get the recognition they deserve. Rather than wait for someone else to take action, he did it himself.

Abdelhamid began his mission to unearth and celebrate the stories of construction workers and companies by staking out coffee shops and hardware stores. His media brand, Behind the Hard Hat, now has dozens of interviews with blue collar workers and the effort has amassed Abdelhamid more than 20,000 followers on LinkedIn. His videos have garnered millions of views and prompted him to launch a web-based platform where construction workers can share their stories and highlight the unsung heroes of the construction sector.

SiteNews: Early on, your work with Behind the Hard Hat involved approaching strangers to ask for interviews. Did this make you nervous and if so, how were you able to overcome it?

Abdelhamid: Yes, I was very nervous and stressed. Doubts would creep into my head like oh what if I get rejected? what if I pitch it to them and they laugh or think this is stupid? A lot of what ifs, but I remind myself of the mission and why I started this, the long-term goal, and convince myself that what I’m feeling is a short-term feeling that will go away and is not important in the grand scheme of things.

SiteNews: How have your interview skills grown as you have gotten more videos under your belt and what sort of lessons have you learned about what makes for a good interview?

Abdelhamid: In the beginning, I was shy about asking direct questions right away and bringing up topics like mental health. I would have a 20-minute conversation that would lead up to my question. It’s like setting the stage and slowly building up but that would often take a lot of time and get exhausting. As I interviewed more workers, and my confidence built up, I would not waste time and ask what I was thinking right away, and if the person was not comfortable speaking about a certain topic I would not pressure them.

A good interview is one that you would not feel is an interview. It’s almost like a story, you would watch it and feel that this person was talking to you as if they knew you and were drinking a cup of double-double coffee with you on-site every morning.

What elements are critical for a compelling piece of content?

Abdelhamid: This might seem cliche, but authenticity. My best videos came from workers who were real – meaning they did not care that the camera was on or how people were going to perceive them, they were going to tell it as it is. Unfiltered and raw.

If you could book an interview with anyone in the construction sector, who would it be and why?

Abdelhamid: It would be my dad, as he inspired me to pursue to a career in construction. He worked in the mechanical sector of the industry since he was 13.

Why do you think it is important to share stories about construction workers?

Abdelhamid: It’s important because it spreads awareness and appreciation towards the people who build our cities and communities. Often cameras and spotlights are on athletes as they are looked at as a source of entertainment and motivation as they work hard to be in shape and produce at a high level, but construction workers work harder and in my opinion, have a great sense of humor too but no one was able to highlight and celebrate them before or give them a platform to speak and share their voice and views on topics. Why do we listen to athletes but not to the people who built our world?


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