Navneet Thind graduated with a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech.) degree in 2012 but it took her close to six years to find an industry job in Canada. A few months after graduating from Punjab Technical University, she immigrated to Winnipeg with her family.
Navneet started working on her plans for higher education soon after she moved to Canada. She went to Manitoba Start, a non-profit that connects skilled newcomers and employers, for advice. They recommended she get a certification from Winnipeg since she didn’t have any work experience. They recommended programs at local universities and colleges but none of the options worked for Navneet.
“I’ll study if I have to study something, but I am not going to study for four years again. Why would I study it in India if I have to do it over here again?” she says.
A few months later, her cousin’s friend who worked in the STEM field, recommended Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba – an association Internationally-Trained Engineers or Geoscientist must register themselves with to work in their field.
They asked her to enroll in the Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification (IEEQ) Program at the University of Manitoba. In order to qualify for the written exam and an interview, Navneet had to reach a certain level of English proficiency in the Canadian Language Benchmarks Placement Test (CLBPT).
It took Navneet two years to reach a CLB Level high enough for the program. She attended the free English classes two days a week and worked part-time as a Team-Member at Tim Hortons and security guard at a local company to support herself. When she had time, she did data entry and other odd jobs for a family member that owned their own business.
After waiting for nearly two years to qualify for the program, the pressure of working two jobs and attending classes started to get to her.
“I thought that at some point I would have to quit,” Navneet says.
With her family, especially her father’s support, she started the two-year foreign credentials recognition program, IEEQ, in the fall of 2016. She also left her jobs and started working part-time at Starbucks on Main & Murray Winnipeg, a position she holds to this day.
Navneet says her job at Starbucks played a big role in improving her self-confidence. She met University students and people working in business every day and exchanging ideas and conversation. Some of her customers told her manager that they loved visiting that branch because of Navneet.
“They say that you’re always smiling whenever we come, even if you’re tired,” Navneet says with a laugh.
It was this combination of “aptitude and attitude” that got her a job as a Database Analyst at The Great West Life.
After finishing the academic portion of the IEEQ program in April 2018, Navneet started to look for a co-op placement online. She went for a few interviews but didn’t get placed because of a “lack of experience.”
Nusraat Masood, the director of IEEQ, told Navneet about Maven and she began attending events. Last July, at a Maven event, Nusrat introduced her to her current Director at Great West Life and Maven Committee member Anne Daeninck. They chatted about Navneet’s qualifications and exchanged contact information so she could submit her resumé.
The next day, Anne forwarded her resumé to her colleagues and they set up an interview on Friday of the same week.
“I was like, oh my god, that’s so quick. Just yesterday, I was looking for a job. All that in one week,” Navneet says.
At the interview, the hiring team told her that they had recently finished interviews for co-op positions but were interviewing her because their manager had forwarded Navneet’s resume. One of the questions asked was how she would approach learning something new.
“I just want learn. So, I said that if I don’t know something, I will ask someone or I’ll just be observing or learning things by looking at websites,” she says.
The next week, Navneet found out she had a four-month paid co-op position, which turned into a full-time job by the end of her term. In a team of people with 10-15 years of work experience, Navneet was the first person hired straight out of a co-op placement.
Navneet thinks that the first three years she spent trying to get admission could have been avoided if there was more information and resources available for immigrants in technology. Manitoba Start helped her with career development but didn’t have information about the IEEQ program – a program that legitimizes their previous education.
Understanding the unique challenges South Asian women in technology face is also crucial. Navneet’s family was supportive but for many women coming from a conservative, patriarchal society, it is a struggle to continue working after you’re married.
Navneet recollects a recent meeting with a female engineering graduate who she’d met while working at Tim Horton’s. Her friend was studying engineering at Red River College but had to quit after her wedding because of family responsibilities. They ran into each other and Navneet found out that she now works at Winnipeg Transit. Meeting Navneet, inspired her friend to continue her studies and try for a career in technology again.
Navneet feels that more girls should just try things instead of thinking too much about their decisions.
“When I was compared, I always thought that if boys can do it, why can’t we do it?” she says. “Don’t hesitate.”