Giving Back to Your Professional Community

With years of experience in civil and environmental engineering, and advanced degrees from the Philippines and Belgium, Ariel Estrada was ready to jump start his career in Canada when he moved here 16 years ago. Yet unfamiliarity with the Canadian context of his profession, lack of knowledge about the local workplace culture, and limited access to BC-specific industry information and networks meant that it would be several years until Ariel found a job matching his qualifications.

He says that occupation-specific mentoring “was not at the forefront” of immigrant organizations at the time, and this was a significant barrier to finding meaningful employment. “There was no real connection to employers or skill-matching at the time.” Ariel notes. “It would have been so much easier if I had benefitted from one-on-one mentoring in my field.”

Now a senior project engineer with Metro Vancouver, and an active member of both the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) and Engineers & Geoscientists BC, Ariel wants to give back to his professional community. He firmly believes in the importance of sharing his experiences with other newcomers to Canada, and helping make their professional journeys here smoother.

Since 2013, Ariel has been an active participant in IEC-BC’s MentorConnect Program.  He has offered his professional insights to five newcomers to Canada, helping them translate their skills to local needs and increase employment opportunities. Ariel’s mentees hailed from countries like Iran, Korea, and the Philippines, and they have since found employment as engineers, designers, and project supervisors. Ariel’s advice to mentees is to “be persistent and look outside the box for opportunities to showcase their skills.”

He is also very appreciative of everything he has learned from his mentees – from international industry perspectives to new project-management techniques. “While it makes me feel good when I share my experience with my mentees,” Ariel says. “It’s not just one way, I learn a lot from them as well.”

He also feels that mentoring has enhanced his coaching skills, and he is very much looking forward to mentoring again. Ariel firmly believes that synergies created between BC’s professional associations, like ASTTBC and Engineers and Geoscientists BC, and organizations like IEC-BC can significantly improve labour-market outcomes for career-oriented immigrants.