Immigrating to Canada for GIS Work: Interview with Madhur K Shrestha
GoGeomatics Canada had the chance to interview Madhur K Shrestha, a new arrival to Canada and a GIS specialist. We explore the realities of immigrating to Canada and starting a new life with a family in tow in the GTO.
GoGeomatics: Hi Madhur. Thanks for doing this interview and welcome to the Canadian geomatics community. Let’s start with a little background on you and your story. Where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up in Nepal, one of the smallest countries in the world. It is situated between two giant countries — India to the south and China to the North. Nepal is one of the most peaceful countries in the world — home to Mt. Everest, top of the world, birthplace of Buddha, god of peace; Nepal is still a virgin and underdeveloped country having naturally beautiful surroundings. We have over 30 million people speaking more than 100 different languages and comprising many different ethnic groups.
GoGeomatics: Tell us about your family then and now.
Although my parents had no basic education, they lived happily and were very understanding of the needs of their children. My father, who died at age 52 of a bladder tumor, had been employed as a chauffer. He worked very hard for our family of six, and he managed to educate us. Three years ago, my mother joined my younger brother and his wife and daughter who immigrated to Maryland, USA twelve years ago. My elder brother and sister remain in Nepal where they operate a business. I am here with my wife, and our 18-year-old daughter, bearing the uncertainty, but with the hope that life will be better here.
GoGeomatics: Where did you do your geomatics education?
I had never had a formal education in geomatics when I was young. I had been attracted to computers, but without a single penny in my pocket, I could not afford to learn much about computers then. When I was offered a job as a lab assistant in a computer school, I learned quickly and started teaching within a month of my entry. Since then, I have always been attached to computers and fascinated with their functions and capabilities.
Later I earned a scholarship to study Geomatics in Germany. Following completion of my studies, I was engaged in some part time jobs, like digitizing, in Germany where I began to learn the basics of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Later I taught myself a number of software programs and started teaching others. Now I have trained over 5000 people in using Geomatics tools to solve problems in their professional lives. Basically I am more into Environment System Research Institute (ESRI) products like ArcGIS, Remote Sensing, GPS and other software programs.
GoGeomatics: Tell us about your geomatics career before you came to Canada?
Being very well known in the world of Geomatics, especially in Nepal, I have spoken in many workshops, seminars and conferences. As an instructor, I have taught thousands of people. As a consultant, I have helped solve problems in more than 20 organizations over a 10-year period. I would suggest that I had been one of the highest paid professionals in the field, and my life was very smooth and comfortable.
GoGeomatics: Why did you leave Nepal for Canada?
This is an interesting story! I often traveled to the USA — almost once a year. In 2009, I was expected to attend a World Association of Non-government Organizations (WANGO) conference in Toronto while I was in New York. I dutifully applied for a visitor’s visa to attend the Toronto conference. Imagine my surprise to learn that my visa application had been declined! The reason was that such an application, in accordance with Canadian law, must originate from my own country of residence. That denial of visa shocked me.
After returning to Nepal, I explored many facets of Canada, including the procedures to immigrate. While I am academically a Hydro geologist, and hold a postgraduate degree from Tuebingen University in Germany, I thought: “Why not apply for immigrant status?” I applied and had a very quick initial response. I was encouraged. When my 2nd letter did not come for some time, and I had given up hope, it was my wife who then initiated the process again and followed up my application with the correspondence. We even hired an immigration consultant, for which we had to spend almost $ 1500. We had no idea what Canada would be like! From the pictures, videos and news, everything looked promising, but we just did not have any idea how difficult life would be here in Canada. However, we were prepared and ready to face challenges, and we thought it might be especially good for our daughter’s education.
GoGeomatics: Is the method of finding a job significantly different in Canada than Nepal?
There are huge differences! I had never had to work hard to find a job — either in Nepal or in Canada. I do most such things electronically. I had always had offers reasonably quickly. However, we do not have professional recruiting agencies in Nepal. We do not have competitions like we have in Canada. We do not understand the subtle differences between a “Curriculum Vitae” and a resume. We do not understand how machines are so much more active than humans. There are many differences! However, I was ready for all of the differences and prepared to face any challenge. Initially for about 5 months I did not work. We lived on our saving while we learned to understand the systems here, and to integrate into Canadian society.
GoGeomatics: How is your GIS job search going?
My GIS job search is proceeding well! I had just begun looking for a job in January 2013, and I had already had 5 interviews within 4 weeks. I believe we should be very active with different professional groups, and especially LinkedIn. I had been searching for positions once or twice a week and I was e-mailing my resume to hundreds at a time. Some ten or more people had shown interest and respond to my direct email. They have not, however, had positive results.
Later I learned about vacancies and job descriptions. I targeted my resume and sent my application with a cover letter. This worked well. Out of 12 positions for which I had applied, 2 interviewed me so far. Now I have concerns about getting a job offer for a lower paid, or less desirable position; which, should I accept, would require that I must decline any future offers for potentially better-paid or more attractive challenges. I am very confident of the work availability for geomatics technologists in Canada.
GoGeomatics: Have you gotten any interviews? How have they gone?
To date, about 8 companies have interviewed me. They have been very useful, in that I tend to learn a new technique in every interview, which I consider my primary weakness. I had never had such interviews before in my life. I am enjoying the experience of learning new skills! However, while I have no offers yet in hand, I am confident that I am on the way. I hope that by the time this article is published, I will be gainfully employed in my chosen profession.
GoGeomatics: What would be the perfect GIS job for you?
I am flexible and a very easygoing person. However, I fully expect that I would be most useful to an international engineering consulting or environmental company such as Associated Engineering, AECOM, Hatch, SNC Lavalin, or Golder Associates; or to municipalities or major utility companies. There I would be able to develop to my full potential.
GoGeomatics: How does it feel trying to get a job in Canada in Geomatics? Would you recommend it to other immigrants?
Most certainly, provided that they are prepared to work hard and convert challenges to opportunities. That’s the key to everything. The step is high but is relatively easy; because we come from places where there was no system, and everything works or doesn’t work. In Canada, everything is well organized and there is a system for everything. Even the work is very easy; except that one has to accept working in a really fast paced environment and culture. This is the greatest challenge that new immigrants may face – a culture to which they are not accustomed!
GoGeomatics: What advice would you give to others who are thinking of trying to come and work in geomatics in Canada?
I would ask them to come and give the following suggestions:
- Go out as much as possible
- Meet people
- Improve your communication skills in English
- Have a positive attitude
- Study some short term courses
- Go to some newcomers centre for advice
- Get ready to start working anything after 3-4 months for some time. This is what I call a survival job.
- Do not work right after landing, take the time to acclimatize yourself
- Bring all your belonging, if possible, to Canada
- Start thinking like a Canadian — make it your home.
- Think there is nothing, but success.
GoGeomatics: Thanks you for sharing your story with us Madhur. We wish you luck in your job search and hope to see you at the Toronto GoGeomatics Socials in the future.
To Contact Madhur you can reach him at MadhurKShrestha@gmail.com