My name is Marcela Begalli and I moved to Toronto from Brazil in August, 2018. An industrial designer by profession, I specialize in planning and designing experiences. Prior to moving to Canada, I spent over twelve years working mainly with advertising agencies in Brazil. During my journey, networking played a major role in helping me find the right career opportunities. Currently, I work with RBC Ventures in the role of Product Designer.

This is my story.

I thought about moving abroad for a very long time but often the timing didn’t seem right. Given my established work experience in Brazil, moving to another country felt irrational. It made me skeptical about following my instincts and embarking on what, at the time, seemed like an adventure.

I first fell in love with Canada while on vacation in Montreal. Motivated by the thought of having a better work-life balance and a relatively crime-free environment, I decided to emigrate to Canada!

After successfully overcoming some minor bumps in my immigration process, I moved to Canada for good towards the end of August, 2018. Throughout my journey, I focused on networking. Back in Brazil, the advertising community is fairly tight-knit and everyone knows each other — I leveraged those connections while moving and scheduled coffee chats with people in Toronto. These conversations helped me adapt to the Canadian culture and better understand the job market. LinkedIn was also very helpful in the process. Compared to Brazil, I found people in Canada to be very open and receptive to getting to know you.

Getting back into my preferred field of work was always a top priority and hence, I decided to pursue a specialized course in design from BrainStation, a private career-college in Toronto. The course was a full-time program and it was one of the best decisions I made because it helped ease my transition into the country. I received my first job offer based on a demo I did at the end of my course. After that contract ended, I found an opportunity with RBC Ventures purely through networking!

Based on my experiences, here’s some advice I’d like to share with other newcomers:

  • Network! Reach out to people from your own community:
    Sometimes it may be difficult for people from other cultures to relate to your struggles of settling in. This gap can be bridged by connecting with people from your own community who have moved to Canada before you. And as you network, remember that personal and professional relations are often interchangeable, so focus on cultivating meaningful relationships.
  • Find a work arrangement that works best for you — contract or full-time:
    In Canada, many people choose to be freelancers or contractors rather than take up full-time jobs. Each type of employment has its own pros and cons; so as you network, reach out to people, discuss, and figure out the arrangement that works best for you.
  • Adapt to the local communication style:
    Canadians aren’t very direct and it’s natural for them to be polite and merge performance feedback with compliments. Getting used to it might seem difficult in the beginning but once you are more aware of the communication style and related best practices, it’s easier to adapt.

My journey to Canada has helped me rediscover myself in ways that I didn’t think I would. And while I assumed that it was going to be more of an external process of adaptation, I’ve realized that it’s actually internal, adapting to professional norms and blending in with different cultures and personalities in a diverse city that is Toronto!