I first came to Canada almost a decade ago as an international student.
My family is mainly from Kolkata, India and when I graduated university, there was an opportunity to continue my education abroad in a foreign country.
My dad and I went to an Overseas Education Consultant to explore countries which offered the best academic opportunities to International Students, we looked into U.K., New Zealand and Australia. We were leaning towards Australia since we have family there, but then the agent brought up Canada and that it had great programs and was very open to immigration. That’s how my journey here started.
I’d done my undergrad in economics and international trade at Delhi University and was looking for programs to complement my existing education, which led me to an International Business Management Program. The education was different from what I was used to — it was more practical, there were more projects, and the course content was more industry-driven. It was a very general program that had a little bit of everything, like a tasting platter. I was good with numbers, and I liked math so I chose to major in accounting.
When I was in my last six months of the program, I was chosen to be a part of the Entrepreneurship Council launch at Conestoga College, a program to help entrepreneurs from across the world explore what educational opportunities Conestoga had to offer. The council was the first of its kind and it was super exciting. There, I happened to meet one of my greatest mentors. She helped me understand the Canadian employment landscape, prepare for interviews and also used her connections to help me apply to different banks. I come from a highly educated family and English is our first language, so I didn’t need help with that, but she showed me how to present myself, how to relate to a recruiter, what to say and what not to say, what resources to look up and how to create my resume. Finding a great reference when you are a newcomer is hard and she provided a great reference. That’s how I got my first job as a bank teller at Scotiabank in Cambridge, Ontario, in 2014, two years after I arrived in Canada.
I really, really liked it. I could see the opportunities right in front of me within that one big branch. One of the best things about the bank is that if you grow within it, you can soon reach a level of employment that qualifies you to apply for the next status in your immigration journey under the National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
I was in an entry level job, but I had supervisors, advisors and private banking personnel at my branch. Executives also came in. You could see places where your career could go. I remember seeing an executive in a red suit with red heels and she was holding a Gucci bag. I thought to myself, “Maybe one day.”
I was quick at picking up policies and I was great at my job. I got hired part time, but I was the go-to person for anybody who called in sick or wanted to take a day off. They knew I would be there. It was the culture within Scotiabank that empowered me to think I could achieve more and become a leader there one day.
Once I graduated and was available full time, I asked my manager to consider me for an advisor position so I could be hired as a salaried employee. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything at the time available for me in Cambridge. I spoke with HR and was told they were hiring in the Prairies. Funny enough I didn’t know what a “prairie” was; I thought it was maybe the name of a town.
I had to think about it. It was in a different province, but the job was full time, as a financial advisor, where I’d have my own clients. I weighed my pros and cons, it was a hard decision but that was the risk I was willing to take and I decided to move to Edmonton, Alberta.
I landed in Edmonton at 9 p.m. on December 21, 2014 in the middle of a snowstorm. I had to wait at the airport for two hours before I could get a cab. From there, I went to the apartment I’d found online, just hoping it existed. The house was there, and I got a warm welcome with hot food prepared for me by the landlady. The next morning, I started my new position as a financial advisor trainee and a few months later, I was promoted to an intermediate financial advisor.
During that time, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of good people. I was always out and about, and I never missed an opportunity to volunteer for events and meet people. I visited Banff and Jasper many times and learned to drive on the Anthony Henday. By the fall of 2016, I was able to apply to be a permanent resident.
Around the same time, I was thinking about next steps in my career and that I wanted to be closer to the head offices in Toronto. Within a few months, I secured a job as a senior financial advisor at a flagship branch in Etobicoke. Two years later, I was promoted to assistant manager, and then to manager two years after that. When you become a branch manager, you have the opportunity to interview your own people, you have to create your own team. It’s like the whole branch is under you. That was a milestone moment for me. I said to myself, “This is the day when I am on the other side of the table.”
Last year, I got my Canadian citizenship, and six months ago, I was promoted again, this time to Scotiabank’s Senior Manager of Customer Value and Segmentation for the New to Canada program. I work on policies, procedures, platform development, strategy and anything else related to multicultural banking. My director says that every time I talk about newcomers and international students, there’s a sparkle in my eyes.
I’m very passionate about everything here because I walked the same path. I see the importance of immigration to our economy as a whole, and I see so many people who struggle. I’m all for streamlining the process for newcomers and providing them with better banking solutions.
I used to be a very polite person in the sense that both my mom and dad are very successful professionals and I come from a very disciplined and strict kind of family. Now I understand how important it is to also be bold. Don’t think that because of the way you look or talk, or because you’re different, that you’re any less. You’re unique the way you are.
This first person story was authored by Ms. Aaina Singh, Senior Manager, Customer Value and Segmentation, at Scotiabank.
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