In the summer of 2016, Peju, a Chartered Accountant and Certified Information Systems Auditor, arrived in Canada from Nigeria with her husband and two children. Moving wasn’t an easy decision. Not only hadn’t Peju been in Canada before, but she was also leaving behind 15 years of work experience, mostly as an Internal Auditor. Her last role in Nigeria was as a Regional Controller at a Financial Institution, where she was responsible for managing the regulatory compliance and financial reports of nine branches.
Once in Calgary, Peju experienced culture shock. She couldn’t even imagine what her kids were struggling with, so she chose to stay home to help them settle in before starting to look for a job.
Shortly after arriving in Calgary, Peju applied to the Bridging the Gap for Foreign-Trained Accountants program at the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA). Starting in October 2016, for six months, she attended the program and was able to gain relevant Canadian work experience through a 10-week practicum. “The bridging program introduced me to the Canadian work environment and networking –something I wasn’t used to. They gave us lots of information that I felt was very useful,” points out Peju.
Before finishing the program, Peju received what she considered was a piece of sound advice, ‘Looking for a job is also a job, but don’t let the job search keep you indoors because you get more frustrated.’ Understanding that a job might not come easy because she was new to the country and didn’t have Canadian experience, Peju listened to this recommendation. She spent her days going to the library, volunteering and meeting people.
Once Peju was ready, she started searching and applying for jobs. Unfortunately, the job search wasn’t successful. After reading many job descriptions, she realized that the Audit, Internal Control and Compliance roles required the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification. At that point, it was clear to Peju that she needed it.
However, Peju decided to put this on hold and apply for transition jobs instead. She didn’t want to spend what was left of their savings.
One day, while talking to a colleague from Nigeria living in Toronto, he suggested getting a loan from Windmill Microlending. “I didn’t want to get a loan because I didn’t have a job, but he told me he got his loan even with no credit history. Two weeks after applying, my loan was approved,” remembers Peju.
At the same time, Peju registered for the CIA exam, consisting of three parts, through the Institute of Internal Auditors. She submitted the required documentation and started preparing for the papers.
The Windmill loan helped Peju pay for parts one and two of the exams’ fees and preparation materials, including books and interactive online tools.
In August 2017, after passing the CIA part 1 exam, Peju got her first job in Canada at a Financial Institution as an IT Risk Analyst. It was a one-year contract role. Within a few months into the role, the job became a permanent position before the year was up. Peju was ecstatic.
In 2018, Peju took part two of the CIA exam, but sadly, didn’t pass. She was working full time and juggling exams for two different certifications; the CIA and Payment Card Industry Professional (PCI ISA). Her company sponsored the latter. A few months later, Peju wrote and passed the remaining CIA exams and received her CIA designation in 2019.
In October 2019, after two years of working for the same company, Peju moved to a new position, Compliance Assurance Manager. She considers herself fortunate to be working in her field and advancing in her career, but Peju has one more goal she wants to achieve – climb the corporate ladder.
Peju’s advice to other skilled immigrants hoping to continue working in their profession in Canada is, “Know what you want and go for it. Don’t isolate yourself; talk to people. You have to be able to learn, unlearn, and re-learn. I understand it can be frustrating, especially when you have years of professional experience behind you, and you are told you have to start again. Don’t be afraid if you have to start again; all you need is to get your foot in.”