From an interview with Christopher Gonsalvez, Senior Manager, Global Procurement, RBC Ventures.
Christopher (Chris) Gonsalvez is a procurement expert. He worked for major corporations in the consumer packaged goods industry, buying everything from diaper material to labels, adhesives to aerosol cans. Now as Senior Global procurement manager at RBC, Chris procures financial software and consultant services. Throughout his career Chris has built his network and negotiated to get the best value for his employer, in addition to travelling to over 52 countries.
Chris brought his experience to the process of immigrating to Canada. Even though many people told Chris he would have to take a more junior position, his goal was to land a new role at the same level he held in Dubai. Chris shares his story of setting goals, staying focused, remaining determined, and doing everything he needed to make them a reality.
I started my career as a procurement associate with Procter & Gamble in Dubai. In procurement, you meet people from all over the world, build networks and negotiate the very best value for your company. I learned from each negotiation and from the best negotiators. To date, I think my kids are the best negotiators. They negotiate everything and I can’t seem to win at that game.
In 2018, my wife and I applied for Permanent Residence (PR) through Canada’s Express Entry stream. I’d say that we were lucky, but we also worked hard at it. When my wife and I start a project, we see it through and take it over the finish line. I began by checking with a friend who had recently applied for his PR. He said he knew a lawyer. As a procurement specialist, I was going to get the best service for the best price
I spoke to lawyers and consultants from Dubai and Canada. In order to select the right immigration partner, I asked questions like, “What’s the difference between a Provincial Nomination Program (PNP) versus Express Entry?” Some consultants couldn’t distinguish between the two. However, one Canadian lawyer explained the precise difference and explained what they would do every single step of the way.
Most of the consultants said, “We’ll charge you the $3,500 upfront and submit your paperwork. After that, it’s based on the merit system if you qualify or not.” The lawyer in Canada said, “We’ll charge you $500 for your application. That’s the first step.” Once we had enrolled in a draw, they’d charge the next $1,000 and when we got an invitation, they’d charge another$1,000. It was only after my wife and I successfully landed in Canada, the lawyer charged the rest of their cost. That seemed like the best value. We weren’t paying everything up front and hoping for the best. We applied in July and received our invitation in October.
Permanent Residence by the numbers
Canada uses a points-based system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). It selects the highest-ranking candidates from a pool of applications and invites them to apply for permanent residence. Every so often, there is a draw of all applications that meet a certain threshold of points. In our case, that score was 440. So every point you can get counts. Canada typically wants to attract young immigrants, so you lose points with every year that goes by.
During the PR process, I took my IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test three times. Although I got 7.5 the first time, and 8.0 the second time, I took it a third time and raised my score to 8.5. My lawyer said I was wasting money because I had done well and he felt I would get through with my score. Ultimately, my higher IELTS score boosted us to 440, the number we needed to get the invitation.
Sometimes when you’re in the PR pool and you have a score below the required number, but you have the right skill set, you may receive an invitation from a province like Nova Scotia, or Saskatchewan. They like your skills, or the skills of your family, and want you to live there. You commit to living in the province for two years, and after that time you can consider moving elsewhere.
Stick to your goals, even if it takes a little longer
Even before coming to Canada, my number one goal was to get a job at the same level as my job in Dubai. I was offered a job here by the Canadian arm of the company I worked for, but because I didn’t have North American or Canadian experience, the position was in supply chain, two levels below where I wanted to be. I heard from people in interviews that it would be difficult to get a position at my current level. Even family members who moved to Canada and Australia told me my career would take a hit. Given I work in global procurement, I always questioned the relevance of North American experience. I had travelled to 52 countries and was connected with people in the U.S, Europe, and Asia. I understand that as a newcomer, you may have to take a less senior position, but in my role, at my level, it didn’t feel justified.
When we landed in Canada, I decided I would take a month or so to settle in and enjoy time with my family. Then I jumped in and really started looking for a job. I had lots of virtual interviews, but everyone I spoke to came back with North American experience as a caveat. I was told if I don’t have it, they couldn’t offer me the job. After three months, I was getting annoyed by the rejection.
One day, I was mowing my lawn, and I cut my neighbour’s grass too. He offered to pay me, but I said, “No, thank you.” I was just being neighbourly. But It made me think. I was holding out for my global procurement job and my savings were being depleted. One of my cousins had lost his job because of COVID. I thought it would be great to get some income while we were job searching. So we started a lawn mowing business.
I was driving a pickup truck, so my cousin and I bought two lawnmowers, and I put an ad on Kijiji. The business went really well and we grew to 138 clients. We would start at 8:00 a.m. in the morning and because the sun sets very late in the summer, we could mow until around 8:00 p.m. It was hard work; a real physical workout every day, and I didn’t see my family much. When I got home, I grabbed something to eat and then, even though I was tired, I continued to apply for jobs – at my level.
Some people would say, “You’re mowing lawns, but you were in global procurement. Don’t you feel you’ve put your career in jeopardy?” My father even told me he didn’t pay for my Master’s degree so I could cut other people’s lawns. But a great part of the Canadian culture is the dignity of labour. People respect you for what you do and who you are. Whether I’m Chris the lawn mowing guy or Chris from RBC global procurement, it’s the same.
Still, I never lost sight of my goals and I took many job interviews from the truck. I would bring a shirt, jacket and tie and clean off the dirt and sweat before my video call. I would be wearing work boots and sweatpants on the bottom and business attire on top. My second interview with RBC was from the truck, but the interviewer understood. I applied for four different positions and had five different interviews. Finally on September 8, 2020, I started my role as Senior Manager, Global Procurement at RBC Ventures.
RBC is a truly global organization, and they recognized the value that I brought with my international experience. In global procurement you need someone who has been all over the world. My goal is to continue to grow my career with RBC. It has a great corporate culture.
Networking is an important part of your career journey
For me, it’s all about connecting with people. Even when I was cutting lawns, I made real connections with so many people. Some of my lawn mowing clients even helped me get interviews. The real estate agent who helped me get the house we live in today was one of my lawn-mowing clients.
When I first came to Canada, I connected with people in similar industries and roles. I used platforms like Arrive. I met people who were in procurement or supply chain. We may have been applying for some of the same roles, but we became friends. It was during the pandemic and we couldn’t have coffee chats in person, but we’d have virtual chats. I am still in contact with some of those people today.
Beyond networking, Arrive helped educate me about Canada and about how things are different here compared to the rest of the world. As a newcomer, I definitely benefited from learning about the Canadian job market. I also learned about the Canadian housing market, and how Canadian finances work. Where I come from, cash is king. In Canada, I learned, you should spend on credit in order to build a good credit score: I didn’t know this at first, and had only been spending with a debit card for the first two or three months.
Never give up, remain focused, and appreciate your life here.
Canada allows you to do anything and everything you want to, like starting a lawn mowing business or finding the role you want at the level you want. No job is a bad job, and if you need a survival job to bring money home, do it. But don’t settle. Don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal—of where you want to be. Maintain a never give up attitude, be positive and stay determined.
Also, be thankful for what we have in Canada. Be happy for who you are and where you are. For the first few months here, I didn’t have a job, so I wasn’t paying taxes yet. But we still received child care benefits. Canada gave me that sense of belonging from day one, irrespective of where I came from, what I did, or who I was. My message to newcomers is to appreciate the life you have here. It’s really, really, good.