From an interview with Gustavo Teixeira, Project Management Associate, RBC.
On a cold Christmas Eve in 2017, Gustavo, his wife and their two cats arrived in Toronto from Brazil. The moment they stepped out of the airport, they could feel the atmosphere was so different. The air was fresh and cold. The city was beautiful, covered in snow. They settled into their temporary accommodation and at midnight, called their families back home, the time they would traditionally exchange gifts. Gustavo graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology in Brazil and worked for eight years with environmental consulting companies. In Canada, he studied project management at Lambton College and turned a co-op opportunity with the Royal Bank of Canada into a full-time position. Gustavo shares his insights on studying in Canada, changing industries, and finding a home so far from home.
My wife and I considered countries other than Canada, but there were a couple of factors that made up our minds. When I was 16 years old, I came to Toronto for three months as an exchange student. The idea of returning has always been in my head. Also, Canada’s immigration system is good. It’s not easy, but it can be facilitated because of the process: you can see your progress from when you apply and along the way. Since I was pursuing a permanent residency, this was important. I could plan and make a roadmap for when I came here. I knew where I was going and what I had to do to get there.
The initial idea was for me to come to Canada and find work. I started looking for a job from abroad, but that was really difficult, so I gave up on that idea, and I decided to study: to go back to school after so many years. I took a two-year course in Project management at Lambton College in North York.
I struggled a little when we first came here. As a newcomer, there are details you just don’t know until you’re on the ground. You have the big picture, the whole picture of Canada or how to move, and you have your plans, but when you get here, you don’t know how to get around in the city, where to go, how to look for a job, those kinds of challenges.
Going back to school was really interesting: it was so new, it pushed me out of my comfort zone. When you come here to study, you find yourself in a classroom with a different language than your own. That is a really difficult experience, but it can help you grow. You can learn a lot. This was the most important aspect of the study experience, besides the course material, of course. Studying in Canada also helped me to find the job I’m in right now.
A co-op is a big opportunity: It’s an advantage that can lead to a career
In my last term in college, we had to find a co-op position related to the course. I applied to several positions in my background industry at environmental consulting companies. I was not having any luck until I saw an opportunity posted on the college site. I applied for a position with RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) and got an interview.
I think one of the reasons they called me in for an interview was because I was part of a recognized college program. It wasn’t a resume out of the blue – out of nowhere. It was a resume that came through a kind of a network. It’s definitely an advantage. It’s important to have these links. I had eight years of experience back in Brazil, and I had worked part-time here, so I had Canadian experience as well. Even if it’s not in your field or your industry, I think it’s important to have some work experience in Canada to help you land a job. I got the position and did well during my co-op: I was getting positive feedback.
“It’s really important to remember that, even if it’s a co-op position, you give it your all, dedicate yourself and demonstrate that you’re interested, that you are learning and that you’re eager to learn more.”
As I was approaching the end of my co-op term, I reached out to my manager and director. At every checkpoint we had, I reminded them that I would be free in the next month or so and that I would really like to work with the team. They offered me a full-time position. I finished my studies by the end of August and started work at the beginning of October. I really enjoyed my work, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.
I’m a project management associate. So I provide support to the project managers. I’m currently working with five project managers, tracking project budgets, all the financials: keeping track of all the resources, all the people, like third party contractors. I also help prepare meetings, prepare presentations, and track deliverables with the project managers, business and technical team members. I’m like the connection point between all areas. So I have to communicate with several teams, several parts of the whole team for the project or for the program.
It’s really different from my background industry and was quite difficult at first. It’s a different language, with all the technical specificities and requirements, it was all new to me. But it’s really interesting. It’s a whole new approach to my career, and I like the fact that I’m learning a lot.
Continuing education, certification and career growth.
Here in Canada, they love certification. So that’s one thing that I’m working towards. I’m looking forward to the PMP (Product Management Professional) certification from the Project Management Institute, PMI. It’s an internationally recognized certification that demonstrates that you went through all of the theory and practical experience in project management.
You don’t need to obtain this to work in Canada in project management. I could have gotten it in Brazil, for example, and brought my certification here. It’s one more thing that can boost your resume, and people can see that you’re serious about project management and really interested in taking that career path.
My career goal is to become a project manager and to have a team that I can work with and manage. That is what I’m working towards. I know this is going to take a lot of hard work. In my position, I have to give all the support that I can to the project managers that I’m working with, so they can have confidence in me and trust me to do most of the project management tasks and just present it to them to confirm or revise. I’m already in the path of project management, and if I can show my managers that I can do it, I think I can get there.
Making your home in Canada
One of the most important and challenging parts of settling in is finding your home in Canada. It was a real pain point in the beginning. We had temporary accommodation for a couple of months, but because we arrived in winter, looking for an apartment or a house was really difficult.
During this period, I searched online, but that was not working. My wife and I went out in the snow, searching for places: calling, knocking on doors to find a place. After weeks of searching, we were out looking at apartments and about to give it up for the night when we passed by a building. There weren’t any signs for rentals, and it was nearly 10 pm, but I said, “Let’s take a last look over here.” We just rang the buzzer for the building superintendent, and she said, “Come on in, we have one apartment that’s available next month, and there are other Brazilians living here.
We had no credit score or credit history. We’d never heard of this back in Brazil. We didn’t know if we could rent an apartment without a credit history; we were afraid landlords might not rent to us, or they might ask for a large sum of money in advance as security. But she accommodated us. She was an immigrant, too (she had arrived 20 years ago). I thought later, maybe because she had other Brazilians living in the building and they were good tenants, she thought these new Brazilians would be good as well. She just asked us for first and last months’ rent, like regular renters. It was amazing. We were very lucky.
Housing is more expensive in Toronto than I had expected. In the end, I went a little bit over my budget for rent, but I was able to find a nice place. The prices are really high nowadays, but try to find a place that you will be comfortable in for a year or two. Don’t sign for a small basement apartment with the wife and kids and expect you’ll be moving in six months, because in six months, the rent everywhere will have increased. It may be more money than you have planned, but try to find a place that’s not too cramped or in too inconvenient a location. Try to find a good place considering your budget, but not the worst one because you might be there for longer than you planned.
My goal has always been to have a good job and find a nice place to enjoy a better quality of life with my family. Working from home these past few months has made me think more about buying a house and maybe moving to a smaller city just outside Toronto. Fortunately, RBC was fully set up for remote work when the pandemic hit. So, it was mostly bringing the equipment home, the screen, the computer and everything, and just doing our work as we’re doing before. In the beginning, it was difficult, but I’ve adapted quite well to it, and now, I think I’ll be working from home more in the future, even as people go back to the office. It’s really about adapting to the new environment.
Since the pandemic is an international situation, most people are adapting to the digital, remote situation. Start to prepare yourself for phone and video interviews and improve your digital presence. It will be very different from in-person interviews. Conversations on the phone can be quite difficult, especially in a new language. Coming to Canada post-COVID will be very different for newcomers. Be prepared, and you should do well.
Read more about how to make your dream home a reality in Canada.
Understanding finances in Canada will give you a headstart
In the beginning, I didn’t know anything about credit and credit scores in Canada, for example. I think my credit was really bad because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I had to spend on my credit card or not – it was all new to me. But then I learned about how to build good credit, and now it’s improving. Try to learn about credit scores and how to build those.
Also, opening a bank account here is not that hard, but find out the basics of banking; how bank accounts work, like savings and chequing, so when you arrive, you have a place for your savings and an account for your expenses. That’s important. You don’t have to get really in-depth with the stock market and investments, just the basics: credit, debit, chequing and savings accounts. If you research those, you’re going to be good in the beginning.
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It’s not easy. Go with it. Fight for it. If you really want it, you’ll make it.
I got some messages from newcomers that were really direct to the point, like, can you find me a job? This is not the way you’re going to find a job in Canada. If you want a job in Canada, you first have to try to get to know people and try to make a conversation, understand their needs, and make them understand your needs as well. Tell a little bit about your story, your objective, and if you have a path that you’re thinking about. And ask for advice, that’s when you’re going to get some help from people. Don’t rush to ask for a job; circle around it a little bit.
Some newcomers have the misconception that they’re going to arrive in Canada, and in two or three months, they will have landed a qualified job just like they had at home. They don’t want to work in construction jobs, or they don’t want to work serving coffee, or they don’t want to work in the liquor store. They just want to come here and just resume their life from home. It’s just not that easy. So, be prepared. At least for the first few months, you have your savings to last six months, but you may have to take a survival job, an entry-level with lower pay. It’s going to be a little bit hard, but it’s worth it.
Another misconception is about the weather – that Canada is winter all year. Summer in Toronto can get really hot! Don’t think you just have to bring your winter coat. Be prepared for spring, summer, winter and fall. Enjoy all the seasons here.
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