Edna Cuvin is the Program Manager for the Transit Design and Development Unit in Transportation Planning, in the City of Toronto Planning Division. She has been a volunteer mentor with TRIEC Mentoring Partnership, since 2010.
It was not so long ago that my family was moving to Canada, looking to re-establish our lives and careers. My husband and I arrived in June 2002 with our two children, aged six and three, and our third child on its way. We moved from Hong Kong where I had worked as a registered architect and urban designer. My husband is also an architect.
At that time TRIEC did not exist and we were on our own with respect to our job search. Looking for jobs was a daunting task – especially with three small children to look after.
Fortunately, the City of Toronto hired me as an Urban Designer in January 2003 on a temporary maternity leave contract. Meanwhile, I had a four-month-old baby at home myself.
Three months later I was offered a permanent position. I could not believe my good fortune, landing a job with the city, working to build the place my children now call home.
I volunteered as a mentor because I was grateful that the City of Toronto employed me in my profession soon after I arrived in Canada. I wanted to be part of this group that conveyed a message of hope to those immigrants who came to Canada like me.
Mentoring also allows me to…
Being a mentor enables me to appreciate the opportunities I have and remain grateful for those who gave me a chance. It’s my turn to help others. Best of all is the chance to help restore dignity and confidence to mentees whose challenges have created self-doubt and hopelessness.
help advance my profession.
Mentoring allows me to help enable more qualified professionals to contribute to Toronto’s architecture and city-building excellence. I know firsthand the process of proving credentials as part of the Canadian immigration process. This requisite investment should not be wasted!
be a stronger leader and coach.
The first question I help my mentees answer is “What do I have that is marketable?” This helps me in my role as manager to think strategically and recognize the individual strengths of my staff and support them in their own career plans.
As a mentor, I offer…
an honest assessment of my mentees’ qualifications.
In working with my mentees, I confirm local practice expectations. I look for opportunities to include them in meetings and training courses to hear local professionals speak so that they can measure and compare themselves with their professional peers and competition. This also exposes other City colleagues to this great volunteer opportunity.
assistance in developing a career plan.
It’s important to look beyond immediate survival to something more sustainable and professionally fulfilling. I often think about my mentees’ children waiting to be inspired by their parents creating “their great immigrant story” that will be told in their families. The most critical consideration in developing a career plan is how to fund it especially for new immigrants whose immediate concern is supporting their families.
friendship during a time of insecurity.
An immigrant’s journey is an emotional one first. Being detached from everything familiar and defined you is very isolating. I remind my mentees who they are, why they came, and what’s possible. Being an immigrant myself, I offer a testament to the fact that while the journey is not easy, it will be worth it.
Professionals come to Canada highly capable, qualified and eager to contribute and ensure Canada, and the GTA in particular remains a great place to live and raise a family. We need to do our part in fulfilling Canada’s promise. Many of my former mentees have found career success in Canada as Urban Designers, Intern Architects and Project Managers.
If you feel inspired by Edna’s story you can register as a mentor online and help newcomers succeed in the Canadian workforce.