Last November, Bindiya Sanil was about to return to Dubai after two of the hardest months she had ever faced.
Despite having more than 10 years of experience working as an HR generalist and applying for more than 50 jobs a day in Canada, she wasn’t having any luck landing anything and was watching her savings quickly dwindle. To make matters worse, her husband had fallen ill since the couple had settled in Brampton, Ontario in October, and was having a hard time getting in to see a doctor due to the pandemic.
Of course, the ongoing pandemic complicated things in other ways, and she was finding her first winter difficult, especially with no support network here (aside from her husband). Hardest of all, she greatly misses her one-year-old son, who is still being cared for by family back in India (until she can finalize the paperwork required to bring him here).
“My husband and I were emotionally drained,” she says. “I would get up at 8:00 every morning and continuously apply for jobs until 3:30.” As an experienced HR professional—a role that is in high demand in Canada—she was getting calls from employers. “But invariably I would be told that unfortunately, without Canadian experience, I wasn’t a candidate.”
And, much like her husband, who needs to complete a 10-month certification process to work in Canada in his chosen field of occupational health and safety (he starts the program in March), Bindiya has yet to complete the certification required to work as an HR generalist in Canada.
The couple was on the verge of packing up and heading back to Dubai.
Then, Bindiya received a phone call that turned her luck.
She had applied for an admin job with one of Altis’s construction clients, was interviewed for the role and was even willing to relocate to Ottawa if successful. While that position didn’t pan out, our recruiter thought she’d be a great fit for our Newcomer Program, which provides 10 weeks of paid work experience in specific streams, like HR, in addition to skills development, networking opportunities, mentorship, Altis Academy training, candidate marketing and more.
After an interview with program lead Katherine Soler, she was welcomed into the November cohort.
“Every evening, I would think, ‘Let’s go back. My husband isn’t well, we can’t get in to see a doctor, my employer in Dubai is ready to take me back.’ But every morning when I started with Altis, it gave me a boost of confidence,” she says.
“I joined training sessions with new hires—full-time employees who were joining Altis—and I was treated just like one of them,” she says. “It was so professional, and I started to feel like if I had to leave Canada, this is what I would be missing. This knowledge will help me polish my skills and grow in my career.”
So, she stayed. And then, another positive signal.
Opportunity calls again
Months prior, she had applied for a VP of Human Resources role at Amazon. And they were calling to arrange an interview.
Over the ensuing weeks, she had six rounds of interviews and in the end, was recommended for a different role altogether, Senior HR Operations Officer, which required another series of interviews.
Persevering, she at last saw success and smiled while announcing she was offered the job (she started earlier this month).
“Trust me, if it wasn’t Amazon, I would not have taken this offer,” she says.
If the opportunity had presented itself, she would have been keen to join our team at the end of the program (we sometimes hire Newcomer participants into full-time roles if there is a skills match for a current opening). “The way the team is, the professionalism, the teamwork, the sense of belonging, the training and the CEO—she’s so inspiring,” she says. “This program was a life changer for us.”
Having landed a solid job with Amazon, Bindiya is already looking to build a life here in Canada. First step: bringing her son here and then her parents, as she’s their only daughter and misses family.
“I left my son at seven months old, which was so hard, but I’m trying to stay positive by telling myself that this is for his future also.”
She’s excited about that future. “The education system is good, and we have our permanent residency. I understand the weather is a bit extreme, but the government support is great, opportunities abound, and my skills are in demand.”
She’s also pleasantly surprised by how welcoming people have been in Canada. “I originally thought, coming from an Asian background, maybe it wouldn’t be welcoming, or it would be difficult, it would be biased, or I might experience racism. But I’ve felt none of that so far,” she says. “This is the most welcoming country.”
Over the coming years, she sees herself taking on more senior HR roles and wants to travel the country, particularly to British Columbia, which she says is “beauty in the extreme.”
Are you a newcomer looking to get Canadian experience? We are looking for an HR professional to join our team in February for a 10-week paid contract. If you have experience or interest in recruitment, and meet the following criteria, Apply Now.
- Haven’t yet had the opportunity to gain work experience in Canada
- Currently reside in Canada and are legally able to work in Canada
- Have access to a personal computer and WiFi connection
- Are passionate about building a career in Canada
- Project positivity and are open to coaching and feedback