From an interview with Nilson Junior, Senior Growth Marketing Manager, RBC Ventures.
Nilson Junior is Senior Growth Marketing Manager with Ownr, an RBC Venture dedicated to helping entrepreneurs in Canada start, manage, and grow their business. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Advertising and Marketing from the University of Pernambuco in Brazil. Nilson has worked in marketing and advertising on both the agency and client side, and across industries that include travel and hospitality, sports teams, and startups. At 18, an opportunity at Walt Disney world in Florida sowed the seeds for his future abroad. That opportunity started a journey that would eventually lead Nilson to Canada, by way of Germany. From Walt Disney to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and beyond, Nilson shares his story of seizing opportunity and how one journey led to another on his way to making a new life in Canada.
I’ve always been a creative person. In college, I studied advertising and marketing. I learned about an opportunity at Disney World in Florida: they had a program where young people from other countries go to the U.S. and work at the park during the wintertime. They would usually select people from countries that have a lot of tourists: so they could help these visitors in their native tongue. I didn’t know how to speak English and I had never been abroad, but I started to learn English on my own. A couple months later, I got a letter from Mickey Mouse saying I had been selected.
It was an amazing experience! It was my first time abroad: it was a whole new world from where I came from, and for the first time I thought, “Hey, maybe I want to live abroad. Maybe I want to leave Brazil and live elsewhere.” But it was a limited-time program and after my four-month stint, I returned to Brazil.
I learned a lot about customer service at Disney. They are number one in the world at this, because the client is number one all the time. Working for Disney, you go out of your way and above and beyond to create experiences—magical moments, as they call them.
Back in Brazil, I started working for a beach resort group with hotels at beach destinations around Brazil. There, I applied what I had learned from Disney to my day-to-day work. I created campaigns and systems to provide the same level of customer service for this resort chain. When someone would reach out to us using the website chat, over the phone, or on social media, we went above and beyond any other resort in Brazil. Instead of just replying to an inquiry with the price and booking information, we would say, “We’re going to send you a little taste of the beach.” And we would send a drink or sandals or a t-shirt. This reflected in our sales. We shifted business from Travel Agents to online. We even won an award from Trip Advisor for our campaigns.
One day, I got a call from a woman who had seen our award-winning work. She worked for a startup in Hamburg, Germany, that was expanding to Portuguese-speaking countries. For the next two-and-a-half years, I worked as Marketing Coordinator and Business Developer for Portuguese-speaking markets and flew back and forth between Germany and Brazil.
While I was in Germany, I created a YouTube channel to record and share my travels with friends and family. What started out as a hobby soon became a side hustle. At one point, I had 50,000 subscribers, and I started to get invitations to go to other places just to make and share videos about my experience.
Starting our Canadian experience in Winnipeg
We were unsuccessful in getting my fiancé a visa to move back to Germany with me, so I returned to Brazil. After getting married, we both realized we wanted to live somewhere else and started researching. Around that time, I got a call from a travel agency in Brazil that takes Brazilian students to Canada to study. They asked me if I would go to Canada for a few months and shoot videos for them. I had never been to Canada, so I replied, “Sure, let’s do it.”
In January 2017, I came to Canada, and it was an amazing experience! I called my wife and told her everything about Canada, how I fell in love with the place, with the people, even with the weather. I returned to Brazil in February, and we started packing our bags. We applied for a student visa for my wife, and two months later we were back in Canada. In Winnipeg, Manitoba.
We had friends there who said, “Come to Winnipeg. It’s basically the cheapest place to live in Canada right now and with the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) it’s easy to transition from a work visa to Permanent Resident status.” They just forgot to tell us it was one of the coldest cities in the entire world and that it would snow for eight months of the year. It was a nice surprise, but they forgot to mention that little detail. Of course we survived our first winter in Winnipeg.
Our first home in Winnipeg was right downtown: which was the best place to be as a young couple. There were summer festivals with music and beer gardens, and the city had a lot of advantages. Housing was very affordable, so we moved out to our first proper house ever. It was a great Canadian experience to live in the suburbs for the first time as well. We were surrounded by families, and our first Halloween was amazing. My wife went over the top with Halloween decorations and she was so happy to see kids dressed in costumes coming to our door. There is nothing like this in Brazil.
I was growing in my job experience and my wife was really enjoying studying in Canada. I got a job offer a couple of days after I arrived in Winnipeg with a hospitality group that had three restaurants. They wanted to bring all their marketing and advertising in-house, and they hired me to start this process. At the beginning, I did photography, videos, even consulting with the chefs to ensure the menu items looked great on social media. We grew, thankfully, and I was promoted to manager and built a team to help me with the whole thing. Three restaurants grew to five.
Being in the right place at the right time
My next opportunity was to manage email marketing for the Canadian Football League (CFL) team, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I became so passionate about it and went to Blue Bombers games all the time. I loved the environment and the stadium. I was working in ecommerce, but on game days we would work at concession stands across the stadium. There were 50,000 fans.
I’ll never forget one amazing experience: I was running from one concession to another when the Canadian national anthem began to play. Everybody just stopped. No matter what they were doing. It didn’t matter if they were in the bathroom or walking to their seat or getting a hot dog. When “O Canada” started, everyone stopped right where they were. I had seen nothing like it.
I was extremely lucky to be with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as they made their way to the 107th Grey Cup Championship in Calgary. I got to go to Calgary to watch the game, and I was on the field with the team and all the employees, celebrating this incredible Grey Cup victory. It was their first championship in 27 years.
Nilson’s top five tips for success as a newcomer in Canada
1. Do your own research
Every newcomer’s journey is unique. There are so many ways to come to Canada. You can do Express Entry, you can look into Provincial Nominee Programs, you can come as a student, and you can come with your family. The important thing is to do your own research to figure out which path makes the most sense for you. Online resources like Arrive offer information, tools and expert advice to help you understand what’s best for you and your family.
2. Learn about Canadian customs and enjoy the diversity
Enjoy your new country instead of living like you’re in your own country with a new setup. Integrate into Canadian culture and get involved in your local community as fast as possible. I started to learn about local and national politics, and I was really interested in the customs and the way that people like to live. I also started to discover amazing new food. In Winnipeg, for example, there is a huge Filipino community that has amazing food and great people. When you go to Saskatchewan, you have something different, go to B.C., you have something different again. Enjoy.
3. Believe in yourself
Canada is an amazing country with people from every place you can name. You need to believe in yourself. When I was thinking about coming here, a lot of people told me that I would have to work in a different field, that I wasn’t going to be able to work in marketing because I didn’t have Canadian experience. I kept working in marketing, and my wife kept working in hospitality, and we got jobs in our fields. And we were very happy with the work we got. As long as you are committed and work hard, there’s no way to stop a resilient mind when you set your sights on something.
4. Don’t be afraid to speak English
It’s natural to be nervous about saying the wrong thing or using the wrong verb or whatever. The problem is that if you don’t speak English; you get yourself into this box that’s really limited. Just do your best: don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. People are super nice and they understand that it’s not your first language. It’s okay; you’re in the learning process. If you are good at what you do and you have some proficiency in the local language, it could be English or French, I think you are going to be successful.
My wife studied here in Canada. When she started out, her English was very, very basic, but now she speaks English much better than I do because of her studies and because she was open to learning. So do whatever you need to improve your language skills. Keep your eyes and ears open, try to listen as much as you can, and it will get better.
5. Do what you want to do
I get comments from friends back in Brazil all the time asking me, “What is like in Canada? Am I going to be able to do the same job? ” The first step is to understand the job market in Canada and how it works for you. I have had no complaints. I have worked in jobs that I love so far. But Canada also offers the opportunity to evaluate your career and what you want from life, and maybe start something new. My wife left marketing to pursue hospitality and is very happy.
If you’re ready to come to Canada, don’t hesitate
People back in Brazil say to me, “I might want to move to Canada. Maybe in two, three, or five years.” I tell them that Canada is super receptive to immigrants. If you have the chance to come to Canada, do it as soon as possible. If I knew how much better my life would be and how much happier I would be here in Canada, I would have come here sooner.
My life is here now. I’ve been to too many countries already and don’t think that I’m going to move anymore. I love Canada and I love Toronto, where we now live. And now, of course, we have our 10-month-old baby. I just love that he’s Canadian. We hope to gain Canadian citizenship next year.
Call Canada home as soon as you get here. There will always be cultural differences, and for some people, language will be a challenge. I know I’m never going to speak English the same way that Canadians can, but I love this country so much and feel 100 per cent at home in Canada.