From an interview with Tadeu Toussaint, Senior Art Director, Mydoh, RBC Ventures
Tadeu Toussaint was born and raised in Brazil and, in 2017, he moved to Canada with his wife to study design with the hopes of finding new career opportunities as an art director. He and his wife also wanted to start a family and believed Canada could provide a better, safer environment to raise their child. After extensive preparations, including passing the IELTS, applying for college, and gathering hundreds of documents, they landed in Toronto. Tadeu has since successfully re-established his career as a senior art director and, with his wife, is now raising their young daughter. Here, he shares how he prepared to move to Canada, re-established a promising career in a new country, started a family, and is now looking ahead to a bright future.
I came to Canada with my wife in 2017 when I was 32 years old. We’d been together since 2008 and had been discussing getting married and starting a family, but felt that Brazil was not a great place to raise children. That’s one of the reasons we considered moving to another country. I was also at a point in my career where I believed I couldn’t go any further if I stayed.
I’d been a designer since I was 23 years old, and had explored many areas of design. My last job in Brazil was as an art director for a motion design studio. I was often working 50 or more hours per week, working late nights, and I knew I would have to put in more hours to continue to move up in my career. It was too much. I was super tired and didn’t want to work even more hours to get a promotion.
When we started looking for a new place to live, we took a lot of factors into consideration. Where could I get a good education that added to my professional utility belt? Which skills did I want to learn and how could I learn them? Where could we live that was stable and safe so we didn’t have to worry about our kids going outside to play?
My wife and I researched extensively online for two years to narrow down our choices of countries to live in. There were a few countries we considered, but we chose Canada. We liked the environment it offered: clean water, lakes, good weather, and clean air. Canadians seemed to be super polite and we wanted to be in a place where people were friendly. I also researched the job market for my industry and it looked promising in Toronto.
The application process is hard work
I’m not going to lie. My preparation to relocate to Canada was hard work and stressful. There’s a lot of documentation you need to gather and prepare to move to a different country. But before I started the paperwork, I had to pass the IELTS English language test. This was my first hurdle.
I don’t like writing tests. I’m a self-learner so I didn’t want to take classes. I wanted to do my own thing. I was kind of a rebel back then! But when I looked into writing the IELTS, I realized my English was good for conversation—on a street level—but not at an educational level. Since I was applying to a college in Canada, I had to pass the IELTS academic test which is tougher than the general test. I wasn’t prepared for that, and this was my biggest challenge.
I hired a private teacher and prepared for eight months to write the IELTS. Once I passed the test, I could apply for college. And I couldn’t apply for a study visa until I was accepted into the program. That meant I had to do a proficiency test for the college to prove my design expertise. I sent scans of my drawings along with more paperwork, including all my school records from 25 years ago that had to be translated to English.
You can get lost and buried in the paperwork. I had 250 pdfs saved for me and my wife. We hired an immigration agency to help with the application. We found it too much to do alone, especially if you have other things to do in your day-to-day life, like a full-time job. It’s super stressful to prepare on your own because you never know if you’re doing something right or wrong.
You’re making an emotional investment to move somewhere else. And all of that can go wrong because of one misplaced word or mistake. We decided to avoid that risk and use an expert.
You also need to be patient with the process because it can feel like it takes forever. You have huge expectations and your anxiety level can rise when you don’t get a response as soon as you’d hoped.
Arriving in Canada was exciting and scary
When we stepped off the plane in Toronto, it was a great experience, but also scary. We didn’t know anyone. Thankfully someone from my college picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at an Airbnb we rented for the first few weeks. We didn’t want to rent a place permanently without getting to know the area. It was early April when we arrived, and still a little cold and rainy. I remember it rained the entire first two weeks.
We moved here a couple of weeks before I started college so we could get our bearings, like what bus to catch for college and where to buy groceries. The day after we landed, I opened a bank account, got a cell phone, and my Social Insurance Number (SIN). You need to get things in order to start your life here—you can think about visiting the CN tower later!
One of my biggest milestones was getting a car. I lived in midtown, and the city completely changed for me. Having a car in Toronto cut my commute to work from over an hour each way to just 20 minutes. My life was easier with the car.
Networking is necessary to find a job
While college helped me land my first gig in Toronto, it was just 50 per cent of the reason. The other 50 per cent comes from your willingness to put in the work with dedication and passion. I feel this is really important.
One thing I learned here is the necessity of networking. It’s something we didn’t have to do much in Brazil. But I needed to network in Canada to get a job, otherwise people wouldn’t pay attention to me. That’s an important piece of advice: try to build a network here.
Reach out to people on LinkedIn, go to recruiters, and book a coffee chat with them. Make a wish list of employers you’d like to work for and find ways to connect with them. Go to workshops and meetings. I did all of these things.
As a newcomer, it was really hard to introduce myself to people but it’s something we need to force ourselves to do. I’m a little bit shy if I don’t know the person, but I had a basic introduction prepared so I could just replace the name of the person and company name. I’d also find a topic that interested the person I was reaching out to by reading their profile and used it as an ice breaker before getting to business.
The culture here is different. In Brazil, we don’t start with small talk or casual conversation, we go straight to business. I find adapting to this change a struggle sometimes.
Maintaining your cultural roots
You don’t change your personality when you move, but you adapt to the culture you live in. That’s me right now. The way I ask for something at a restaurant here is different than how I would do it in Brazil. If I ordered something here like I do in Brazil, people might think I’m rude. But if I ordered something in Brazil the way I do in Canada, people will say, “what’s wrong with you?”
Canada embraces cultural differences. Here, we have tolerance and that’s really good. It’s needed for the entire world, I’d say. But if you strip me of my Brazilian side, I don’t know who’d I’d be. We still want to keep in touch with our roots, especially for our daughter who was born in Canada. We talk to her in Portuguese because we want her to know her roots and to be able to talk to her grandparents who don’t understand English, and to interact with family and friends when we visit Brazil.
Landing your first job in Canada
When I got my first job here, I already had a lot of experience from my years in Brazil, and this was taken into consideration. While graduating international students typically start as interns, and then move up to a junior role, then intermediate, I was able to start as an intermediate art director right after I graduated in Canada. I skipped two steps and went straight into an intermediate role at an ad agency where I worked for over two years before becoming a senior art director at RBC Ventures. This opportunity came through a connection at the agency I was working at—she had left the agency for a role at RBC and told me about the job opportunity when it came up.
A bright future ahead
When I look back at everything that we planned seven years ago, I see I’ve accomplished a lot of good things in Canada. It’s important to take a step back and see my milestones. You need to have patience as a newcomer because you want things to happen as quickly as they do at home but you face a different scenario.
Now, I’m eight months away from applying for my Canadian citizenship. I have new goals and expectations because of my daughter. Everything is focused on her future. Before it was on me and my wife, but now we have someone to take care of. I have a better work life balance here. I sometimes have to put in the hours, but at the end of the day, I get to see my daughter develop and grow. I believe if I was in Brazil, I wouldn’t have the same opportunity.
For the future, I want to keep learning, meeting new people, and staying on top of trends for my career. It’s always been my goal to learn as much as I can, and this is what I will continue to do as I build my life in Canada with my family.
Top tips for moving to Canada as a newcomer
Hire an immigration expert if you need help with your application
Preparing to move to a new country, from writing tests to gathering paperwork, is a lot to do alone, especially if you have a busy day-to-day life. It can get super stressful because you can never be sure if you’re doing something right or wrong during the process. Hiring an immigration expert makes sure everything is completed properly. Bear in mind that this isn’t a requirement, but it can make the process simpler.
Be patient with the process
Waiting for an answer can feel like forever sometimes. If you sent your application a month ago and still don’t have a response, your anxiety level goes up. You set a lot of expectations on this and it can be emotionally overwhelming. But the process takes time, so stay patient. Once you start your new life in Canada, things can also move more slowly than they would back home because you face different circumstances.
Build a professional network for your career
You need to network to find a job in Canada. It’s not easy, but it’s important to reach out to people on LinkedIn. Look for common interests so it’s easier to connect, and meet with recruiters. Also seek out events to attend like workshops, meetups, or career fairs.
Don’t underestimate the weather
Wear as many layers as you want to wear. Don’t come to Canada and think, “Oh, now I’m Canadian, I’m just going to wear one jacket”. Dress warm. If you’re moving from a warmer climate, you’ll find the winters are very cold here.