From an interview with Aishwarya Bhavsar, Senior Marketing Manager, MoveSnap, RBC Ventures.
When Aishwarya Bhavsar enrolled at university to study engineering in India, she quickly learned two things: An engineering degree wasn’t for her, and she was a natural networker. So she applied her extroversion into organizing events, eventually moving on to marketing and a career in advertising. In 2016, Aishwarya joined her husband in Halifax, where he had completed his master’s degree. She didn’t know what to expect or where to start looking for jobs in Canada, so she pro-actively set up coffee meetings with industry professionals to better understand what Canada was all about.
Aishwarya is now the Senior Marketing Manager at MoveSnap, an RBC Venture designed to support real estate professionals in helping their clients have a great moving experience. We thought, who better to ask about her experience moving to Canada, changing cities, and building her career? This is Aishwarya’s moving story.
Moving to Canada, I knew I needed to learn the culture, I needed to know the people, and I needed to learn how things worked here. In my first year in this beautiful country, I focused on getting to know people and finding internships. I considered it an opportunity to completely reset and not think about getting a full-time job right away.
Moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia was a 180-degree shift from Mumbai where you are surrounded by people at all times. While I love Mumbai, Halifax felt like a positive change. The people are really, really warm and you’re surrounded by nature––literally living by the Atlantic Ocean! People greet one another on the streets and even in elevators. All of that made me feel very welcome. The only thing I feared was whether I could cope with the severe winters, but I actually happened to enjoy the snow, so it worked out.
A big challenge moving to a new country is that you don’t always have family and friends close to you, and that’s what I missed the most. Also, the time difference doesn’t make things easy––my friends and family in India are ready to go to bed when I am ready to start my day. I am a people person, so I love having friends and family around, and I didn’t have that when I moved to Halifax. Fortunately, the industry contacts and people who I met professionally were all very welcoming and kind; they were my first friends in Canada. Being a part of the close-knit community helped me make great connections, helped me understand Canada as a country, and what I could expect.
I have always been fascinated with the digital world and social media, so I was naturally curious to learn more about digital marketing and pursue a career in the same field. To get started with a strong foundation, I completed Google and Facebook-certified advertising courses online and, once I was confident enough, started reaching out to professionals at digital agencies through LinkedIn. I got the opportunity to do two internships before landing a full time job at an agency as a digital media coordinator. I immersed myself and learned digital marketing on the job. I loved it.
There’s a vast difference between India and Canada in terms of work-life balance. While I had enriching jobs in India, the work culture back home is about dedicating as much time as you can to work, often leading to 12 –16 hour days. Of course there are long days at ad agencies in Canada, but not as often. Another big difference is the daily commute. Back home I would travel almost 2 hours to work and the commute wasn’t easy either, given the hot weather and crowd. Whereas in Halifax, I could walk to work in just about five to ten minutes.
I started craving bigger opportunities and wanted to accelerate my career. We had been toying with the idea of moving to Toronto for about a year before we finally decided to move. It just felt like a good choice at the time as Toronto offered a wealth of career opportunities. This meant that I had to say goodbye to my friends, yet again. My husband got a new job in Toronto and I was able to move within the same agency. We both had jobs waiting for us, which made the move financially smooth sailing.
Moving from Halifax to Toronto
Since my husband had to start his new job, we decided that he would move to Toronto first and get a headstart on finding us a rental apartment. We booked professional movers, and I stayed back to ensure everything was organized for the movers. The plan was that I’d hand the keys back to the landlord, and bid adieu to Halifax. Life had other plans. One day prior to the day I was to fly to Toronto, we learned that the movers we hired were not coming––their truck was stuck in Newfoundland due to a severe snowstorm. I canceled my flight, called my husband and said, “The movers aren’t coming!” We had to quickly devise a plan B. He flew back to Halifax the same day and we decided to rent a small trailer, load all our moving boxes, and have the road-trip of our lives.
Because it was month-end, all the trailers were booked and we were left with the largest truck they had. I think it was a 26-foot truck. Looking at that beast I said, “Who’s going to drive this? What do we do with the truck?” My husband said, “Let’s take it for a spin!” We drove around Halifax and he said, “I think I can do it.” And that was that. We called our friends, who were at an office party, and explained what happened. Everyone came in suits, my girlfriends were wearing skirts and stilettos, and they helped us load up our boxes into this huge truck. It was November 30th, and it was freezing cold.
As we were driving out of Halifax, a snowstorm started. The truck was swaying with the wind and I could hear the boxes sliding all over the back of our truck. I decided I would not open the back until we got to our final destination, Toronto. It took us two and a half days to finally get there, sleeping at motels along the way, and leaving the truck on the main road whenever we stopped for coffee so we didn’t have to navigate small parking lots. We reached Toronto on a snowy night and somehow managed to get all our stuff into our new apartment. We were exhausted.
Finding your place in Toronto
Unlike Halifax, Toronto is a big, bustling city. It reminds me of Mumbai in so many ways. I was excited about coming to a new city, but at the same time, was a bit nervous too considering that this was a whole new chapter in my life. Living in Toronto, I learned about the city by experiencing it firsthand. I was amazed to learn how diverse it really is. I have been able to connect and become friends with people from so many different countries and cultures. It’s the diversity that binds us together, and I love that about Toronto. Toronto also has an amazing food scene. The Indian restaurants here are so authentic that I really feel close to home. If you are a foodie like I am, Toronto will not disappoint. You will be able to find options to satiate your comfort food cravings, enjoy street food delicacies, and sample the fanciest cuisines from around the world!
I didn’t think I knew many people living in Toronto when I first moved here. However, as soon as I posted “Hey, I’m moving to Toronto!” on Facebook, I got this influx of messages saying, “I’m in Toronto, too.” It was a pleasant surprise. Colleagues I had worked with, friends from university, and personal connections from India were back in my life, in sync, in Toronto. A dear friend I used to work with and her husband actually helped us scout for neighbourhoods and find our first apartment. They helped us with our very first move too
The one thing about living in Halifax that I loved was the closeness to natural beauty. So we knew that wherever we settled in Toronto, we wanted a piece of nature closeby, whether it was a conservation area, a ravine, or even a park. Before moving, we identified potential residential areas we would consider living in by finding green areas across the city on Google Maps. There’s a park close to where we live that connects to the trail leading to Evergreen Brick Works in the Don Valley.
The rent in Toronto came as a big shock to us. We were used to paying $1,100 for a two bedroom house in Halifax with an ocean-view, while a two bedroom apartment in Toronto was around $2,500!
Moving from small agencies to a large company
I learned a lot working at digital agencies, small and large. It gave me the exposure and opportunity to craft digital strategies and manage campaigns for clients across diverse business verticals. This helped me understand business models, marketing strategies that work (and don’t) and improved my communication skills. I truly believe experience is the best teacher.
Before moving to Toronto, I made a list of digital agencies that I aspired to work at. I started networking with industry professionals just like I had in Halifax. I connected with them via virtual calls and also arranged coffee chats by reaching out through LinkedIn. Not everyone responded, but so many did. I wasn’t always successful in connecting with peers who worked at the agencies on my list, but I was fortunate to have met folks who helped make introductions and connect me with people in the industry. They said, “You know what? Why don’t you talk to this person?” And that’s how I got connected. It’s my networking skills that have helped me all along. All the jobs that I’ve had so far started with a conversation, never with a job application.
Aishwarya’s tips for newcomers moving to Canada
Adjust to managing your household
I know people who have gone back to their home country because they couldn’t manage the extra work involved in running a household in Canada. In countries like India, it’s not uncommon to have househelp to do dishes, laundry, and even cook for you and your family. In Canada, most people work full time and do all their own chores. That could be a big cultural change, so be prepared for it.
People in Canada are welcoming and willing to help. Just ask.
You’ve probably heard that people in Canada are nice and welcoming, but wondered if it’s true. In my opinion, most Canadians are. If you need assistance or aren’t able to navigate a situation, ask for help. Especially when language is a barrier, it might be a bit (or a lot) outside of your comfort zone, but you will need to learn how to talk to other people. It’s going to be challenging , but it’s also important.
Reach out and make connections that last
At most jobs, you work with people. So, understanding what kind of work culture you are going to be a part of is far more important than the job description. You can learn about the culture and the company through networking and having meaningful conversations with peers in your field. Making connections is important irrespective of if you’re thinking about it from a job perspective or just getting out there.
Take time to find the right neighbourhood for you
There also are many online platforms where you can learn about neighbourhoods, and people you might ask will have their own opinions of what a neighborhood is like to them. The best judge of where you would like to live is you. I recommend walking down those streets yourself, if possible. Before our recent move, we explored many Toronto neighbourhoods, but ended up moving only two blocks from our previous apartment. Our neighbourhood just ticks all of the boxes for us.
My moving experiences brought me closer to the job that I have right now at MoveSnap. Learning about MoveSnap, I realized how helpful it would have been if I had access to it when we were moving to Toronto from Halifax. MoveSnap is a personalized moving support platform that helps make your move easy, whether it’s across town or across the province.
MoveSnap will help make your moving experience a smooth one by organizing your moving tasks, offering live help from moving experts and saving money with great offers from big-name brands.
When you move to Canada your quality of life is enriched, but it’s not easy to settle in a new country. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. I was very apprehensive, even doubtful when I moved to the country, but I met a lot of people who were kind enough to help me and guide me through the process. It’s the tough times and challenges, the high times and low times that help shape the person you will be. Having lived here and learned so much, I feel confident today, and proud to call Canada my new home. Just remember to reach out to people and build your own story.