From an Interview with Princeton Ebanks – software developer, teacher and writer
Princeton Ebanks came to Canada from Jamaica in November 2018. He is a software developer, teacher and writer. He is also the central character in a story familiar to newcomers the world over – leaving friends and family behind to pursue a new life in another country. His narrative features the twists and turns of balancing jobs, contributing to society and writing his future chapters in Canada. This is Princeton’s story.
The move from Jamaica was a big thing. Changing your life like that; it’s a huge move here – uprooting all that you’ve known in your life to move to a new country, a new culture. So, although you have an idea, anything can happen – and you’re just not sure what’s going to happen.
My main goal when I left Jamaica was essentially to broaden my career horizons. I’m a software developer. We do software development back home but on a small scale. Most of the software we use we actually buy off the shelf, or at best we customize. So I was looking to be more involved writing software on a day-to-day basis and working on bigger software development projects that would have greater impact. And that’s why I’m here.
When I first arrived back in 2018, I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get a job. I had some money saved back home, and the first thing I needed to do was to transfer that money. I needed to get that money here. I needed to have it in a savings account so that during the time that I was job searching, I would have money for food, rent, and that sort of thing.
First things first: Open a bank account
I remember when I landed, I got all of this newcomer stuff, and they gave me a bunch of documents about all that you need to do upon arrival. And one of the things was, obviously you have to open a bank account. So, opening a bank account was the first thing up for me. I did a Google search for the best bank for newcomers, and RBC was number one.
I went to RBC Newcomer branch in Brampton to open an account. The person who onboarded me, I want to say Wanzi, I think – yeah. After we finished the banking part of it, she spoke about Beyond Banking, and Arrive. She told me how Arrive helps get newcomers up to speed in terms of being familiar with the Canadian workplace, job boards, and creating your Canadian resume.
Format your resume the way Canadian employers want it: Be specific
So, that same day, I had my resume looked at and received a very good piece of advice based on the fact that I have experience teaching as well as in software development: They said, “Do two resumes instead of one. You have extensive experience in two separate areas.” That’s the first time I heard that bit of advice. I followed the advice from the Arrive people and created two distinct resumes, formatted the way Canadian employers expect it to be. Once I had that done, I began applying for jobs. The advice came through.
When opportunity knocks, answer it
So I always pictured myself working in software development. I didn’t imagine that my first job would be teaching part-time in Toronto. (In Jamaica, my first job after leaving college was teaching at the community college!) That opportunity came from creating two resumes, one for my teaching experience and one for software development: A hiring manager saw my teacher resume, they called me up on the phone, we spoke for a minute, and they asked me to come for an interview.
It was a bitterly cold day when they asked me to come in, but I got myself ready, put on my thick coat, and went for it. I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a little bit more formal interview process, but it was very relaxed. They made me feel comfortable, relaxed, and because I was relaxed, I was able to deliberate and answer their questions fully – and they hired me.
Shortly thereafter, I landed my full-time job as a software developer! I was thinking that within a year, I would be working as a software developer. I landed on November 23, 2018, and I started my second job in my field of choice in March 2019. I feel blessed and fortunate.
The Canadian work environment: If you have the experience, you’re in a good place
In my opinion, the career environment in Canada is definitely conducive to newcomers. If you have experience and you know your stuff, you don’t have to worry. Send out your applications and get yourself ready to do the interviews. People are generally not out to trip you up or make you fear, but to help you be your best in an interview. They’re saying, “Okay, feel comfortable, feel at home – let’s see what you can do.” I really appreciate that, and I thrive in that kind of environment.
I believe that for any newcomer coming to Canada, if you have experience, you’re in a good place. If you’re in the technology space like I am, you’re in a very good place, because technology is booming in Toronto. There seems to be a high demand for software developers. If you don’t have experience, then you can always start somewhere like going back to school. You’ll find your niche here, and you’ll make your mark. Just do good work.
Learn more about our job search checklist for newcomers to Canada
Reaching your goals and finding your place in Canada: You’ve made the right move
I’m happy I made the move. Initially I wasn’t sure about work culture, what it would be like here in Canada. I was thinking, “Okay, it’s a ‘first-world’ country with huge organizations. You’re just like a number, people are not that friendly” – that sort of thing.
The company I work for is a big company, not a huge company. We’re big enough, and the camaraderie is here, and we are close, we are more like family, which is what I’m used to back in Jamaica, and I really like that. The team that I work with here, they’re very knowledgeable and very willing to share their knowledge. I’ve learned a lot. I feel like I’ve grown as a developer almost 100% just being here, just being around the guys that I work with.
The other thing that I like is that people seem to be genuinely nice. Even just going through a door. So, you’re walking into the subway station, you’re going through a door, and the person in front of you is holding it for you. And it’s consistent; everybody does it!
Keep a positive long-term outlook: Focus on future chapters
I am very optimistic about the next twelve to eighteen months. My life goal in Canada is to become a successful member of Canadian society, contributing meaningfully in the areas of technology, public policy, and literature.
I’ve been trying to write a novel for about the last five or six years – it is not easy. You’re doing it for the long haul. And writing is one of the most lonely jobs you could ever do. It’s just you and the screen, or a blank piece of paper. All I really need is the discipline to sit down and write regularly – every day, basically, for another year and a half, and I should be there.
I’ve always seen myself as searching for that perfect balance between art and science, to be the ultimate artist. It’s more like an aspiration than what I am right now. And the fact that I’m writing code and writing science fiction, I think the two essentially balance each other perfectly. So, I’m a software developer in search of his story – in Canada.