My name is Steffan Warner and I’m originally from Bridgetown, Barbados in the Caribbean. I came to Canada in September 2011 for my undergrad degree in Mineral Resource Engineering at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I currently work with RBC as a Senior Manager in the Transformation & Strategic Initiatives team.
This is my story.
I left Barbados when I was eighteen to pursue my studies in Canada. My story is quite unique in a way because after four and a half years of studying engineering I did not think I’d end up working at a financial institution.
My first experience with the job market in Canada was when I began searching for an internship/co-op position during my undergrad degree. The job search phase was difficult mainly due to the dearth of jobs in my field and the fact that I lacked ‘Canadian experience.’ Adding to my woes, at the time, the oil prices and commodities market crashed impacting jobs in the mining, oil, and gas industry.
I eventually learned about a job opportunity at RBC in a department called Strategy & Transformation Services—an internal consulting group for the bank. They were looking for a new graduate engineer who was from an ethnic background and could contribute to the diversity in the organization while also providing a different way of thinking going forward. At first, I was skeptical about applying for the job because it didn’t necessarily require me to apply all my learnings from engineering. But upon introspection, I figured that I had nothing to lose and there were some aspects of the job profile that piqued my interest. Hence, I decided to move forward with the job application.
The co-op department at my University helped me with my resume, cover letter, and interview prep. I had 2 interview rounds and received an offer for a 6-month internship with RBC in Toronto. So I moved from Halifax to Toronto to start my job. Considering my performance on the job, after the initial 4 months, RBC offered me a full-time position on the team. I continued working in the same department for approximately 2 years before being promoted to Manager. I’ve been in this role for a year now and I’ve enjoyed being a part of the organization.
Moving to a different country requires you to be adaptable
Reach out to people in-person
When I first came here, my LinkedIn profile was pretty much non-existent. At RBC, I’ve had the opportunity to network with people from different walks of life, join varied communities, and interact with individuals not only from my department but across the organization. This helped me build my professional network in Canada. An interesting fact is that most of my professional connections have stemmed from personal interactions rather than virtual ones! And hence, one of the key pieces of advice I‘d like to give newcomers is to attend networking events and career fairs where you can actually meet people.
Communicate; don’t let language and cultural barriers hold you back
In the initial days, I faced some challenges while trying to integrate myself into the Canadian culture due to language barriers. I had the Barbadian accent that some people found difficult to follow. But after a while, they were very understanding and kind. Make an effort and begin by taking small steps towards understanding different cultural norms. Generally speaking, I found people to be very open, welcoming, and interested in helping you succeed.
Moving to Canada, completing my education, and taking up the job with RBC were some of the best decisions I’ve made! The number of people I’ve met, the things I’ve learned, the experiences I’ve had, and the opportunities I was given—it’s above and beyond what I had imagined. So I’d like to advise fellow newcomers to be open-minded and not to be afraid to ask questions. It all begins with adapting to the environment!