Originally from Zimbabwe where she worked in accounting, Ester arrived in the Region of Waterloo, Ontario, on Christmas Day, 2017. It was a white Christmas. The snow itself didn’t shock her, but “if one thing surprised me about Canada, it was how long the winter is,” says Ester with a big smile. During a previous trip to New York, Ester experienced snow for the first time. However, that didn’t prepare her for the chilly, long Canadian winters.
Ester completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in accounting, while in her home country. Before arriving in Canada, Ester had ten years of work experience as an accountant in Zimbabwe, where she last worked as Finance Manager for a company in the automotive industry.
“Because I hadn’t been to Canada before, I didn’t know what to expect.” However, this didn’t stop Ester and her husband from applying for Express Entry. One thing was clear: Canada offered a better life for them and their children, a girl and a boy. Shortly after they applied, they received an invitation from the Government of Canada, prompting them to apply for permanent residence.
A friend from Zimbabwe welcomed them in their home while they looked for a place to live, which they found two weeks later. “We decided to live in Kitchener because we had someone we knew. Also, because when we were in Zimbabwe, we researched the city and found out it was quiet, a good place to raise a family,” adds Ester.
“Before arriving in Canada, I researched how immigrants can get access to a career coach and found out about Conestoga Career Centre. As soon as I got here, I reached out to them, and they helped me with my resume and interview skills,” indicates Ester.
Despite this support, Ester couldn’t find a job that was suitable for her international professional experience. She faced two challenges –not having a Canadian qualification and no Canadian work experience. It took her three months to find a job as a payroll administrator at a school board. For some, three months might seem like a short period, but this wasn’t the case for Ester. “It was difficult to get my first job, difficult but bearable.” This job wasn’t at the same professional level as the one she had in Zimbabwe, but it was a good start.
“Soon after, I decided to go for my CPA designation,” says Ester.
It was through her career coach at Conestoga Employment Centre that she learned she needed to obtain a designation through CPA Ontario. “We were exploring opportunities to see what I could study that would help me get a job at the same professional level as the one I had before.”
Thankfully, CPA Ontario has agreements with different accounting bodies outside Canada, including The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants UK. There, she was a member in good standing, so Ester was eligible to become a CPA in Ontario.
Ester gathered all the required documents, including the assessment of her educational credentials done by World Education Services (WES) and proof of practical experience in accounting in Zimbabwe, completed an application for membership and paid the prescribed fees and dues.
After reviewing her documents, CPA Ontario credited her previous experience but asked Ester to complete two online courses in Canadian tax and law. “That’s when I used the Windmill Microlending loan program. I was not working at the time.”
“I found about Windmill doing an online search. I was looking for information on how I could get funds as an immigrant and use them to bridge the gap. It didn’t take long to get the loan after I applied.
The loan helped me pay for the courses and a laptop since it was instrumental in helping me achieve my learning plan,” recalls Ester.
Ester received her CPA designation in early 2019 and moved to a different organization where she landed a job as a Senior Accountant. This time, her position was at the same professional level as the one she had in Zimbabwe, “… maybe better because it’s an international organization.”
Even during some tough times, Ester never thought about moving back to Zimbabwe. “I think it’s because we had friends here. We quickly got a community of people around us. They were always supporting and encouraging us. Also, seeing success stories of other people made me think it was possible. It was just a question of time.”