Gurpreet Bajwa’s story is a true personification of the realization of the Canadian Dream. It serves to reaffirm that persistence and a positive attitude can overcome the barriers to any immigrant’s achievements in their new home. After all, the Canadian Dream isn’t merely the chasing of wealth, but the hope that one can reach their true potential once again in a foreign land.
Gurpreet had a growing career in Punjab, a state in India, before choosing to move to Canada. As a Systems Administrator for the Government of Punjab, he played an important role in India’s innovative project which helped provide satellite-based remote education to rural parts of the country. Despite such distinguished achievements, Gurpreet and his family always dreamed of living overseas. While they had applied and were approved to go to Australia, Canada was their first choice. They landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in 2010. To his surprise, even though he spoke and understood English well, adjusting to life in Canada was more difficult than Gurpreet expected. “My problems were three-fold. To be honest, I had difficulty understanding the Canadian accent, it was tough fitting into the local community and it took some time getting used to the Canadian work environment,” he said.
Even in Brampton, surrounded by people from his own community, there were times when he felt alone because people were busy and could not always make time for him or his family. As part of their job hunt, Gurpreet and his wife visited settlement and employment agencies. That is where he learned about Humber College’s IT Infrastructure Bridging Program (formerly known as Mobile Systems Integration Bridging Program) which is delivered through the School of Applied Technology in partnership with the Community Outreach department. “The program content was practical and easy to follow, especially the course on Networking and Server Management,” said Gurpreet. Because of the program, Gurpreet was able to learn more about his chosen home. He decided to travel by bus to Humber’s North campus which was an hour and a half each way. Gurpreet maximized his time by studying on the bus and becoming familiar with the local streets.
In class, Gurpreet was a great student and enjoyed the program, especially the instructors. “I was very happy with the teachers in the program. They saw that I took interest in the program and they took an equal interest in me,” he said. A memorable moment was when Program Co-ordinator Danish Khan challenged students to be the highest scorer in the program’s Networking course in order to be considered for an upcoming Teaching Assistant position. Gurpreet worked hard and scored the highest marks, securing that post. “Even as a student, Gurpreet was professional. He was always focused, so I had no doubt that he would be successful going forward,” says Danish.
The professor that Gurpreet assisted also happened to be the Infrastructure Manager at the TORONTO 2015 (TO2015) Pan Am/Parapan Am games. As a result, Gurpreet enrolled in and was accepted as a volunteer for the games in IT Systems. As a TO2015 volunteer, he was involved in planning and working with a variety of vendors to provide IT support for the upcoming Games. The role was a great learning opportunity for Gurpreet, and in the summer of 2013, it eventually transitioned into a full-time job as a Service Desk Support Analyst.
As Gurpreet’s experience may be similar to others who are new to Canada, he has some advice for newcomers to help them in their transition.
Gurpreet advocates volunteering wherever one can. Besides volunteering at TO2015, he devoted his time to the Brampton Public Library, where he taught the elderly how to use computers.
Secondly, take the bus. Taking public transit helped Gurpreet talk to more people and improve his communication and soft skills. “Even if you are good with your tech skills, improve your soft skills,” he suggests. “You may speak the English language, but accents, cultures and expressions here are totally different. You will not land a job without soft skills because you need communication skills to convince someone that you possess the technical skills,” he believes.
Taking the bus also helped Gurpreet to save money. He says the first six months are crucial to a newcomer and any money that is saved can go towards planning for their Canadian life. Lastly, Gurpreet feels that newcomers must expand their network. That is one good way to get a reference, which is imperative when it comes to the job search.