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(Don Hammond/Design Pics/Corbis)

Business Education

This business program changed the future for these newcomers to Canada Add to ...

These five newcomers to Canada felt stalled in their careers and decided to take Rotman's Business Edge program, which helped teach them some of the soft skills they needed to advance their careers in Canada. They explain why they took the program and what they learned.

Andres Ravo, 40, Cali Colombia

Occupation in native country: Sales manager in the export market

Occupation in Canada: Corporate account executive at Holman Exhibits

Why did you choose the Business Edge program?

I got engaged with the Business Edge program when I was looking for a way to boost my professional career in Canada. I had been working in Canada for three years but felt that I was stuck and would not be able to reach the career levels I aspired to. I luckily received an invitation to attend an information session at the Rotman School of Management. There I met with the team and heard about the success stories of other participants. I realized that Business Edge was the tool I needed to reach the professional levels that I had hoped to achieve when I moved to Canada. I found that the program would offer me a customized solution that would help me to excel within the Canadian workplace. The program is tailored to enhance soft skills like team work, communication skills, managing intercultural dynamics and understanding the unwritten rules at work which are valued by Canadian employers. Another strong factor that influenced my decision was that the program was being offered by the Rotman School of Management which I knew would definitely add value to my credentials.

What skills did you get out of the program, and how have they contributed to your career?

The Business Edge program really helped me to steer my career and develop key competencies in areas that are critical for career success and integration in Canada. I’d like to highlight not just the curriculum but the coaches who, with their passion and professionalism guide each individual to build up on his or her strengths.

The program helped me to develop the skills and strategies that I needed to navigate difficult workplace situations that were often caused by cultural misunderstandings. I was quickly able to move into a more fulfilling role even before I completed the program.

In my case I believe the big turning point was the confidence I gained throughout the program and as a result today I’m working in a role that is aligned with my qualifications and experience. I am also far more confident about my professional value and the benefits I bring to my organization.

Luiss Zaharia, 45, Bacau, Romania


Occupation in native country: Operations manager

Occupation in Canada: Supervisor of client administration at the start of the Business Edge Program and after the program: Manager of real estate secured administration

Why did you choose the Business Edge program?

I remember seeing the ad for the course and thinking that it was ideal as it included communication. My communication style in English needed improvement. I was lacking confidence on how to better convey messages.

I wanted something other than language and grammar, something geared towards business situations. For example how do I appropriately disagree with a proposed idea? How do I suggest a change in a project or how do I make appropriate small talk, or deliver an engaging presentation? These are situations where the stakes are high and nuance is everything.

Another part that attracted me was managing my career. I needed help to clarify my goals and take the necessary steps to transform my ideas into action.

I was not convinced that I would gain much from the business culture portion of the program. I already had six years of work experience in Canada at that time and I have always been an intuitive learner and wondered if that part of the program was necessary. It turned out I couldn’t be more wrong.

I was also attracted by the prestige of the institution. Rotman is globally recognized and has a reputation for quality which would be evident in the course content and instruction.

It has been the best decision I have made with respect to my professional life in Canada.

What skills did you get out of the program, and how have they contributed to your career?

The program helped me with the unwritten rules of a Canadian workplace. It taught me about networking in Canada, how to build critical relationships from a Canadian perspective, as well as how to gain workplace visibility.

When I decided to take the program I was aware that something was missing in my approach to career development but I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly it was. The course showed me how to solve the puzzle.

Who knew that in English there are seven layers of politeness to request something? In my native language it is sufficient to add please to any request for it to be clearly understood and professional.

My confidence in my professional value increased. I now know that I am equipped with culturally appropriate communication skills.

I learned and have achieved proficiency in networking with industry influencers. As a result of the program I have an in-depth understanding of the business culture and this helped me navigate difficult situations that arise in any workplace. The program showed me how to recalibrate my leadership skills for the Canadian market. It also made me realize that if I want to have a career it is my responsibility to actively and strategically manage it on an ongoing basis.

Smita Kumar, 36, Bombay, India

Occupation in native country: Broadcast media marketing; Senior manager of marketing and brand solutions with News Corp.

Occupation in Canada: Advertising account and media manager with advertising firm Barrett and Welsh

Why did you choose the Business Edge program?

As a new Canadian, I had the opportunity of working in a small media company. I was pleased at having a job in Toronto, though I soon realized the scope of the job was limited. The nature, size and type of projects were a lot smaller than what I felt capable of. I felt the need to broaden my horizons but just did not know how to accomplish that.

Being new, I had no network and no one to help guide me. All efforts were exhausted on job search websites, and I performed miserably (in hindsight) in the few interviews I did have. From research in my own industry and just by living in Toronto, I knew there is a bustling business environment and I was perfectly capable to perform in it, but it was too daunting to enter, mostly because I did not how to and had no clear strategy.

As I read about the program I realized I wasn’t even aware of the themes they covered and so decided this is most definitely something I needed – cultural fluency, developing and managing critical relationships, language fluency and career action planning.

What skills did you get out of the program, and how have they contributed to your career?

Communication: Although English is a universal language, the program taught me how to adopt a language that is clear, polite, concise and humorous. We learned terms that are frequently used in the workplace and we could adopt to get our message across. The program showed us how (Indian) English from our own culture actually came across as aggressive and confusing.

The art of networking: As part of Canadian business culture, networking is of prime importance, though it’s not as important from where I came. The program taught us the importance, need and simple tricks and behaviours to better network. It really helped open my mind and overcome an innate shyness. As I took more to networking, I got a new job.

Business culture: The program showed me how different Indian business culture is from Canadian business culture, the latter is extremely polite and there is no hierarchy-driven behaviour. This really helped me understand that I did not need to be nervous. I was encouraged to interact more with senior staff. I saw the difference almost immediately.

Ongoing career management: The most important takeaway for me is to constantly invest time in managing my career. From ‘Canadian resumes’ to researching key people for informational chats to volunteering and participating in activities that give visibility.

Laura Burtan, 32, Romania

Occupation in native country: Account manager of business banking

Occupation in Canada: Field operations specialist with Royal Bank of Canada

Why did you choose the Business Edge program?

I felt there was something missing from my approach to finding a successful career path here in Canada. The program provided me with the tools and knowledge to help build that professional confidence needed to advance in my career: effective networking, communicating up with managers, gaining visibility in the workplace.

Through a structured and supportive process the program also offers participants access to professionals who can help them create a personalized career development plan. It’s an efficient support system for new immigrants who have started their careers in Canada and are looking for professional advancement.

What skills did you get out of the program, and how have they contributed to your career?

The most important skill I acquired from the program was how to efficiently communicate with management. I learned that I am responsible for my career advancement and that I need to have my goals clearly set and have an action plan to follow.

You have to be proactive in communicating and engaging your managers to gain their support. It is important to let them know that you have a plan for your career, to show them how you will contribute and bring value to their organization and know how to ask for their support when needed.

In my case, I specifically asked my manager to arrange for a job shadowing opportunity with a training co-ordinator, because this was a role I aspired to as the first step in advancement. He was able to arrange that for me and I gained valuable insight on what skills and experience were required for that role. Eventually when the opportunity came for advancement he referred and recommended me for an interview which resulted in my first promotion.

Since graduating the program I continue to apply in day-to-day work situations the skills I’ve learned. In the past two years I was promoted twice and currently hold an operational leadership role with Royal Bank of Canada.

Maria Belmessova, 30, Oskemen, Kazakhstan

Occupation in native country: Marketing manager

Occupation in Canada: Marketing communications specialist

Why did you choose the Business Edge program?

The program was highly recommended by a friend and I did my own research and spoke to a few graduates. Everyone raved about the program and how it significantly changed their perspective on career and life in Canada. That was exactly what I was searching for, a program with more hands-on knowledge that will help me build on my international degree and experience. What I didn’t know back then is that the knowledge, the connections, and the positive outlook I would get from this short program would help me skyrocket my career in a short period of time.

The schedule was intense, we had two to three evening sessions each week dedicated to a specific topic. I could practice what I learned the next day in the office and that’s the best way for me to learn.

Overall, the Business Edge was the optimal balance of the useful knowledge and skills I was missing as an immigrant. It was done at the convenient times and made me feel empowered again. This was one of the best choices I have made in my professional life.

What skills did you get out of the program, and how have they contributed to your career?

It’s a well rounded program; it teaches you practical tools like résumé writing and e-mail communications, as well as the cultural aspects of managing upwards and interpersonal communication standards in a professional environment. My greatest takeaways were: a solid career plan and my professional confidence, as well as friendships that I will foster for years to come.

The program helped me indentify my strengths and a step-by-step career plan and gave me individual professional coaching. I also got advice on how the hierarchy works in a Canadian workplace, how it’s different from what I was used to, how to gain visibility and promote myself while remaining a good team player.

I also got priceless personal connections with my colleagues through peer coaching and an active social life outside of the classroom. This is one of the most important things any immigrant misses as they leave their friends and family behind – the network of personal connections. This program introduced me to 49 new people who made my network 49 times stronger.

Three months after the program I found my current position as a marketing specialist and finally started to work in my field. That was something I didn’t believe was possible before the program. It saved me time and frustration and opened the door to the better future.

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