I just finished reading My Immigrant Tale by Michel Cubric. Michel is Brazilian and he immigrated to Canada in 1995. His story brought a lot of memories back as it was very similar to mine. Sometimes I had the feeling that if I replaced his name with mine the story would still hold true. Then I realized that it was not a coincidence. All immigrants, regardless of who they are or where they come from, experience the same things. The first few years are not easy. Everything feels so hard: new language, new culture, new food, new way of doing things, new climate, new everything. My first couple of years here were the toughest period of my life, hands down. I had to take a lot of steps back before I could take a step forward.
The one thing that touched me the most was when Michel talked about his breakthrough moment in Canada: he was hired as a full-time employee at a bank and from there, things took off for him. Mind you that it happened after he had been here for 6 years. During 6 years he worked at KCF, at an electronics store and he had lots of part-time jobs. Today Michel is one of the CEOs at CIBC and he totally earned it.
I have a similar story. I had just finished my MBA in Marketing in Brazil when we immigrated to Canada. However, when I got here all my non-Canadian experience was totally useless. I had to start from a place that was unknown to me. My first job was as a barista at Timothy's. I then "moved up" and found a job at the Levi's store as an assistant manager. I then "moved up" again and found a job selling shoes at Geox. After 2 years I had been here, I got a job in advertising through a person I knew. Oh my God, I could not be any happier!! I did not know then that this job would be the worst of all. It was advertising sales and I spent 8 hours either cold calling people or showing up unannounced trying to get an appointment with someone to try to sell our services. I was about to lose it. I could not take it any longer. I wanted to go back. It was pointless being here. I was miserable. Then my breakthrough moment happened.
I had met a Brazilian guy named Bruno shortly after we arrived here. He had been here for a few years and he was already established. He was in Marketing. We talked a little when we met but then we lost touch. 2 years, after a meltdown (the owner of the agency was being a jerk) I picked up the phone and called Bruno. He was very receptive and he gave me some tips and tried to calm me down. I guess I was so desperate that day that Bruno, who barely knew me, decided to drive all the way from Mississauga to meet me in downtown Toronto for lunch. I, to this day, don't know why he did it. The one thing I know is: what he did made all the difference.
We had a nice lunch and talked for a couple of hours. I then found out that Bruno worked in online. I felt so good about that guy that I called him the next day and said I was willing to work for him for free if he taught me EVERYTHING he knew in exchange. He was taken aback and thought I was crazy but after me insisting for some time, he accepted my offer. I then quit the worst job in the world (my wonderful wife gave me all the support I needed) and I worked for him for free for 6 months and he taught me EVERYTHING he knew. EVERYTHING: photoshop, HTML, email marketing, SEM, usability, analytics and he also gave me some Canadian experience. Those 6 months led to where I am today and gave me a friend for life. Picking up that phone and calling him was my breakthrough moment (thank God he answered). If you talk to every immigrant, I am sure they will be able to tell you what their breakthrough moment was. Things happen every day but there is this one moment that changes the game.
Even though both Bruno and Lud know how important they were in this process, I felt like writing about it today. If this blog is supposed to be my personal journal, I want to record it here. Bruno and Lud, thank you. I don't think you realize how important your gesture was and I truly hope I can change the game for someone one day.