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Sergio Smith Gomez - Infrastructure Specialist, Rogers Communications

What did the journey here in Canada look like before you secured a job in Canada?

It was a very tough beginning for me. I had a family to support and bills to pay, so I applied for jobs in my profession right away. When I applied for jobs in South America, I would quickly be called in for interviews. When I did the same thing in Canada, there were no calls and no responses. I realized that in Canada there were many very skilled and experienced network engineers from around the world, all going for a limited number of positions. It is a very competitive market.

I am a qualified IT engineer who worked for multinationals in South America but when I saw the reality of the market here, I felt I was at a disadvantage. I was starting from zero with no friends or family here to help me. So I pivoted my initial strategy and decided to make quick money in a 'survival job', not in my field, in order to improve my English conversation skills on the job. I found a job posting for a taxi/rideshare app company. I took all my savings and bought a used car and went for the taxi job.

Unfortunately, I found out that even survival jobs here are extremely competitive. Many overqualified people were lining up for interviews for these types of jobs. And to make it worse, I couldn’t pass the interview because my car didn’t pass the inspection test. My car and plan had failed!

So I had to come up with a new plan and I settled for another survival job. I have a Master's degree, was an experienced IT manager but now my job was delivering food in my used car! This experience with survival employment as a newcomer to Canada made me realize that life can change in a brief click. I found each day was a new discovery of who I am, as I made a new start in Canada. I took these challenges in stride and continued to research new ways to get back in to my field.

Did you know about Humber College's IT Infrastructure Bridging Program before you arrived in Canada?

Back at home, we don’t have these type of programs. I found out about it for the first time when I went to the newcomers centre in a small town. A bridging program helps experienced and internationally educated newcomers to be updated with Canadian knowledge. It helps them understand the market needs, so they can find employment in their field. When I discovered these type of programs, I felt that I could now see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I was told at the welcome centre that I should first focus on improving my English. Spanish is my first language, some of my working life was in Portuguese so now I had to relearn English and communicate in a country that has so many international people speaking English with so many different accents and expressions.

I went to the newcomer English class and saw many qualified people learning English at a slow pace. I realized I could not wait two extra years to relearn English. I would then have to get all the Canadian qualifications such as my high school diploma, college - 2 years - then transfer to university - another 2 years. I had already borrowed money and had credit card debt. I have kids. I already have a Bachelor's in electrical engineering and an MBA, so this was not the route for me.

At first, I could understand only about 70% of spoken English in Canada because of the diverse accents that I encountered everywhere. One of the advantages I would find in the bridging program, was that it allowed me to work with globally-educated classmates and teachers, and I learned quickly that I could confidently understand about 85% of spoken English by graduation.

Why did you decide to enroll in Humber’s IT bridging program?

I drove 2 hours to attend a Humber Information Session with the IT bridging program coordinator, Pritam Shrestha and 2 more hours to get back home. At this session I realized this was exactly the path I was looking for. This bridging program would save me time and allow me to get back into the workforce in my field.

I explained my specific situation with Pritam and he asked me a few questions about my qualifications and professional background. Luckily, I already had my qualifications (education transcript evaluated by WES) and language assessment scores. If I didn’t have the documents ready, I knew I would have to wait for the next semester. I was in a hurry to get Canadian education, find work and couldn’t wait. I then went to the technology skills test, passed, and then the interviews and passed again. I was in!

I then had a challenge to figure out how I could commute four hours per day, back and forth, from where I was living in Southern Ontario to Toronto each day for class. I knew I would have to find a way. Driving in Canadian winters was very tough, initially. In my country, we have rain for winter, here in Canada there is ice, hail and snow storms. I found it exhausting to commute back and forth. I have a small tattoo of a Japanese fish that reminds me about persistence. I kept telling myself the bridging program commute is hard but it is only hard for four months! I also made some friends in Toronto and stayed a night or two with them because I didn’t have enough money for gas or the extra hours of slow driving during big snowstorms. I now realize that 4 months time investment and hardships in the bridging program now gave me everything I have today in Canada.

What happened to your employment prospects after attending the IT Infrastructure bridging program?

The good news is that I secured employment even before I graduated! I was interviewed during Humber’s bridging job fair, received a job offer and started my employment. It happened because Humber’s job developers held an employment event for the bridging students and that's where I first met SOTI Inc.

Before the interview, I looked up SOTI's current openings which included an interesting role as a technical support specialist. I found this job posting just before the interview and was ready because I felt confident from recent mock interview practice and one-on-one support from my employment advisor. Because of my updated IT knowledge in the bridging program, I was able to handle all the technical questions. I also showed how I would fit in their culture and inter-cultural teams because of my experiences in the bridging program. Also my second and third language was seen as an asset in this role. The SOTI recruiter who met me at the event introduced me to the hiring manager and hired as a Level II technical support specialist.

For me, the role of SOTI was a great experience and environment for learning. Another plus of both the bridging program and SOTI was that it helped me build my network. I used to travel and live abroad and I know that social/relationship capital is crucial and Canada was not the exception to this rule. The recruiters here want to know who you are, who likes you and who trusts you. The bridging program helped me raise my relationship capital fast. SOTI helped me build on it with my experience working with big international clients. Then, after 10 months of working, I found that I had recovered my self-confidence.

When I applied for a role with Rogers Communications (a leading telecommunication provider in Canada), I could show that I was known, liked and trusted by fellow IT professionals. With Rogers Communications, I had to go through seven interviews and the final one was with a Vice President. Without bridging and SOTI, I would have never made it through the beginning stages or even been invited to an interview. Previously, I had tried many times to get a job with Rogers and failed. With the help of the bridging program and my experience at SOTI, I passed all seven interviews and I now work as an Infrastructure Specialist with Rogers Communications!

In the past I had tried to get a job with Rogers and failed. My profile did not make a good fit at that time. Then, I thought “sometimes, you can have done all the steps to get success, but it only is reachable when it is the correct time”. I feel persistence, adaptation and self-evaluation are the keys of success. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” – Charles Darwin.

What advice would you give to internationally educated IT Infrastructure professionals who are newcomers to Canada?

Go to Humber College bridging programs for these benefits: You will update your knowledge with things that the Canadian market is expecting you have or know. You will learn technologies that are in demand. You will get to know people pursuing the same dream and this will encourage and motivate you to strive even harder.

Lastly, you will find great mentors and professors in the program helping you every day. Humber’s employment team, Kim Morrison (IT Job Developer) and Shashi Bhat (IT Employment Advisor) gave me some game-changing tips that helped me get invited to more interviews. They helped me understand the Canadian workplace.

I found new ways to analyze and understand my IT skills, build a better career plan and find the motivation to keep going.

If you are interested in the IT Infrastructure Bridging Program please see more information and register here:

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