My name is Mila Kovalenko and I’m from Ukraine. I moved to Canada with my husband in 2014 to pursue a postgraduate program in web development from Humber College. Having an in-demand skill is always an asset and hence, it was relatively easy to find employment. However, my husband and I took our time with adapting to the Canadian culture and way of life.

This is my story.

A couple of weeks after I finished my course, I found a job with Toronto Star in the role of a front-end developer. I worked there for about four years before joining RBC Ventures as a senior javascript engineer. Although we had our savings to keep us going for a few months, having a job provided the much-needed financial stability and helped reduce stress.

Building our social network in Toronto happened organically: Many people I first met were my classmates. One of them was from Ukraine and she had moved here before me. We ended up living in the same neighbourhood and she introduced me to her friends.

When my husband and I had just moved to Canada, our English wasn’t very good. An interesting experience was our first Halloween. Our landlord informed us of the local tradition where children go around the neighbourhood for ‘trick or treating’ and we were expected to prepare candies to give away. In order to avoid interaction with other people, my husband and I decided to not stay home and spend our time elsewhere. Later, we moved to a condo so we didn’t have a similar experience. However, this year we moved back into a house so we’re now buying candies and looking forward to Halloween!

In hindsight, the root cause of our lack of confidence in social interactions was the language barrier — we were comfortable with reading and writing in English but speaking made us nervous. I recollect my husband being very apprehensive on phone interviews. But it’s just a matter of time, once you start interacting with other English speakers on a daily basis, you slowly become more confident.

My advice to other newcomers is:

  • It’s good to be fluent in English but if you aren’t, you can consider occupations such as becoming a developer or taking on non-customer facing roles.
  • Try to limit your expenses in the initial months, until you find a job. Take some time to figure out your monthly income and expenses and plan your budget.
  • If you’re considering switching careers and becoming a developer, don’t be scared. The web development course I pursued had people from varied industries, some with no technical background and they all ended up with successful careers as developers.

My husband and I received our Permanent Residency (PR) two and a half years ago and we’ve just applied for Citizenship. In comparison to European countries (which are geographically closer to relocate to from Ukraine), we love how Canada welcomes immigrants and is open to people of diverse cultures and ethnicities—it was one of the key reasons we decided to move here and we’re very happy we did!