A native of the Dominican Republic, Eric earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design in 2006. While attending university, he started a small digital agency with a fellow advertising student. For almost 15 years, Eric worked tirelessly to grow his business. However, over time, his role became more administrative. Eric preferred being a hands-on graphic designer, so he decided it was time for a change. As a result, Eric sold his part of the business and became a freelance consultant.
Being comfortable with taking risks, Eric set his sights in Canada. Not only did he want to experience what it felt like to live abroad, he also wanted to give his family better opportunities in a new country.
Eric travelled to Canada in 2017 and spent three weeks exploring a few cities, talking to different people along the way. “I had friends in Winnipeg and Toronto. And even though I was in the process of applying for permanent residency, it was very important to me to come and see how things were here. I liked it. I did my homework, trying to come prepared,” says Eric.
The fact that Eric’s wife, also a graphic designer, received an invitation to apply for permanent residency through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) played a significant role in the decision to establish his family in the province. However, a couple of additional things made it easier.
“I decided to live in Toronto because, in the Dominican Republic, I lived in Santo Domingo, the capital. We thought the transition would be easier,” explains Eric. “Also, we knew more than 30 people here. When you’re making this type of transition, knowing people is very important. They can help you with different things that otherwise you’d need to figure out on your own.”
In the summer of 2018, Eric arrived in Toronto with his wife and two-year-old son. They settled in a short-term, furnished apartment that he was able to secure through acquaintances while still in the Dominican Republic. Eric and his family lived in the apartment for four months.
Soon after arrival, and because graphic design isn’t a regulated profession in Canada, Eric started networking and searching for a job in user experience (UX) design. However, during his first interview, Eric didn’t feel comfortable with his English-speaking skills. He also realized that he wasn’t quite familiar with UX terminology and processes. So, Eric started evaluating his options. He considered pursuing a college program, an online course or perhaps an intensive course.
Eric chose the latter. He decided to put a hold on his job search and enrolled in UX & Product Design, a ten-week intensive course at General Assembly. Although Eric had the means to pay for tuition, he decided to save his money. Finding a loan made more sense to him because he didn’t know how long he was going to be out of work.
“I researched different ways to get funding, including the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), but none of the schools I wanted to apply accepted it,” indicates Eric. “When I contacted someone from OSAP, they suggested I go to Windmill Microlending. I researched a little bit about the organization and applied for the loan.”
In September 2018, Eric used the Windmill loan to pay for his tuition.
“My experience with the Windmill team was really nice. I didn’t have to spend a lot of time in the process. They sent me some forms, and I went to the office only for an interview. They evaluated my case, and I got the loan really fast. They have a positive approach and are very kind people. I felt very comfortable with the process,” adds Eric.
Once Eric completed the program, he embarked on a few new goals, including studying English at a language centre, getting his driver’s license and redoing his design portfolio for job interview purposes.
In March 2019, while attending an event organized by General Assembly intended to showcase past students’ projects and connect them with hiring managers, Eric met someone from a well-known Canadian retail company. “He said, ‘I like your work. Please call me’. I had an interview, and in one week, I got a job,” Eric recalls.
The following month, Eric started working as a UX Designer for the company’s e-commerce website. It’s a role that provides Eric with a different project to collaborate on each and every day. He enjoys being involved in the design process without stressing about all the administrative activities he once did as an agency owner. Eric plans to continue collaborating with organizations and keep growing as a professional in his field.
After going through the process of getting a great job in his profession, Eric has some words of advice for other immigrants. “Concentrate on acquiring the necessary skills and networking,” he says. “Go to different events related to your career. Try to connect with people. Understand what other professionals in your field are doing. Having a network is the best way to get a job here. You can probably find one and apply, but you need to create the connections to get a job.”