Mark Guppy, Team Manager- Channel Care, for TELUS in Burnaby, BC, knows the value of mentorship firsthand.
“I’ve personally had several mentors throughout my working life, who have been instrumental in my success and career progression” said Mark, who started with TELUS in 2008 as a call centre agent, advancing through various positions before being appointed Manager in 2011 with 16 direct reports.
So when he received a company-wide email asking for volunteers to mentor new Canadians through IEC-BC’s MentorConnect program, he jumped at the chance to give back by sharing his knowledge, expertise and experience.
Mark was eventually matched with Paul Lee, a recent immigrant to Canada in his mid-40s who hailed from South Korea. Paul had previously worked as a programmer with Sun Systems, before moving to California to work with a start-up company, eventually relocating to B.C.’s Lower Mainland with his family.
Mark made a three-month mentoring commitment of approximately 20-to 25 hours in the fall of 2013. He met with Paul twice a week for an hour-and-a half to two hours to discuss how he was settling in his career goals and job search and challenges he was facing.
“Paul had very good credentials, work experience and a strong command of the English language,” noted Mark. “What he really needed was some assistance integrating into Canadian society and some direction on finding suitable employment.”
During their meetings, Mark discovered that most of Paul’s interactions were with other members of the Korean community. Paul was doing all his grocery shopping at Korean markets as well as attending a Korean-language Church. “I wanted Paul to step outside his comfort zone, so I suggested that he may want to find another church of the same denomination and similar values but with more of a Canadian presence,” said Mark. “I also suggested that he do his shopping in mainstream stores in Vancouver as well as get involved with coaching his kids’ soccer team. Simple measures to help him assimilate and get a better feel for Canadian culture.”
On the employment front, Mark spent time acquainting Paul with the nuances of Canadian job market.
Paul was hoping to find a senior IT position in Canada. “Employers often want you to learn about the company from the ground up,” said Mark. “Once they see your dedication first hand, then they’ll look at your experience. So I had to get Paul to lower his expectations. He thought he was going to walk into a senior programmer role. I told him that wasn’t realistic. You’ll spend the next two years looking for a position like that, I told him. In the meantime, you still have to provide for your family.”
Paul heeded Mark’s advice and took a part-time job in the hospitality sector to gain some Canadian work experience. Three months later, Mark invited him to attend a career fair sponsored by the BC Institute of Technology. There, Paul connected with a recruiter from the Cactus Club Café chain of restaurants, who was looking for a professional to reorganize their IT department. He interviewed with the company shortly thereafter and three weeks later accepted a position as IT Architect with Cactus Club in Victoria, BC where he moved to raise his family.
Mark said he felt a great deal of pride in watching his mentee land a job in his chosen profession. “I knew that Paul would get a job eventually. I’m just happy that I could help fast track his success in some way.”
Mark, who went on to mentor two more new Canadians, is a firm believer in the benefits of mentorship. “There’s a real personal sense of satisfaction from playing a part in introducing the perspectives and life experiences that immigrants bring to corporate and Canadian culture. We are a melting pot in many urban centres. It should be the same in business.”