By: Jade Dawn Hines

At Catholic Crosscultural Service’s (CCS) annual 2022 Employment Resource Day (ERD) (hosted by Rob Sufi and the Employment Access Program team), guest speakers Darrell Pinto and Shamira Madhany spoke to their experiences to encourage others that ambition and self-improvement are cornerstones of success.

At the heart of the event was the push for progress a little bit every day, that self-improvement is a continuous process that turns days of small increments into tremendous gains down the line. Darrell Pinto, President and CEO of Pinto Strategic Consulting Incorporated, introduced his “Ten Percent operating model” of improvement, honed over a lifetime of experience in both blue- and white-collar workplaces. When he began his first job, he decided that every day he would do ten percent more than the day before, and then ten percent more than that day the next. Pinto explained how that small decision, of focusing every day to do a little more than the one before, quickly began to add up. “My manager kept coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey kid, could you slow down? You’re making us look bad’.” He said that he values those that take time to improve themselves, and he is living proof of how those efforts can pay off greatly.

Self-improvement wasn’t limited to increasing workload however, as Pinto went on to explain that curiosity and initiative are also key to making gains in one’s career. When the pandemic began and in-person lunch meetings (something he values) were not possible, he looked to ways that he could replicate the experience of those important gatherings. “I started hosting virtual dinners of small groups of [6-8] people.” As people were disconnected from one another, Pinto committed himself to becoming a nexus point for communication. He also explained that when meeting new people, that he “flips the script” with “curiosity conversations”, by asking them how he can help them. He invests himself in their world and what they need, and by becoming the guy that new acquaintances know they can rely on, he is able to become a trusted partner moving forward.

All of this was wrapped into his last pieces of advice, to “Nurture your curiosity; whatever it is, it expands the breadth of what you’re knowledgeable about, and you’ll meet new people.” He said to become interested in topics on your periphery, as that uncovers new pools of people to connect with, and new knowledge that will help you stay relevant. “Diversify your network. Meet new people outside your work out… Generate large amounts of opportunity.” Once more, everything Pinto explained related back to his point that self-improvement is a slow but steady progression of curiosity, connections, knowledge, and productivity. Every new thread that you pull on, is another opportunity to advance. “Don’t hold yourself back because you feel less than whoever that someone else is… Fail fast, make a lot of small mistakes, learn from them, and keep making that 10% improvement.”

Shamira Madhany, Managing Director, and Deputy Executive Director of World Education Services was the second speaker of ERD 2022 and spoke to the challenges that many immigrants face when entering the Canadian labour force, despite being a vital part of it. “It is immigration and not birthrate that drives 80% of Canada’s increase in population… Immigration will account for 100% of Canada’s labour force growth in the next seven years.” Yet despite being such a large part of Canada’s workforce, many highly skilled immigrants find their experience and credentials invalidated by employers. Madhany watched as her father, an educated and accomplished man in their country of origin, struggled to even find a retail position. “It was devastating.” Madhany explained, “There are millions of jobs that are vacant, so why can new immigrants not find jobs?” Her father’s unemployment and eventual underemployment stifled his ability to grow professionally and personally, and Madhany explained that over time this does a disservice to people like him, and Canada as a whole; as talented and educated people gradually lose both their skills and self-esteem within a labour market that does not value them. There was palpable anger when Madhany said, “I have crossed seas to come here, and you say because I have an accent that I’m not worthy? Forget that!”

Madhany had advice for those facing similar barriers: Confidence, Courage, and Conviction. In terms of confidence, she stated: “People give up their power, by thinking they don’t have power.” That those facing biases and prejudice in the workplace must have confidence in who they are, their rights, and that all people are worthy of dignity and respect. However, to stand up for one’s rights requires courage. In this sense, “You don’t have to be adversarial, [you] can be solutions based.” Courage in standing up for one’s interests does not have to be a fight, it can be as simple as engaging with local government, going to meetings, talking with MPs/MPPs, etc. In Canada, there are many levels of government, departments, and other places for you to make your voice heard. Then to do so, Madhany explained how necessary conviction is. Believe in yourself, in what you have survived, and what you have done, and act with that knowledge held tight.

“The fact that you are even participating today… I suggest that everyone here can be a termite.” Madhany smiled, and explained that rather than seeing termites as pests, you can learn from how they act: Termites are small creatures, that through great and persistent efforts quickly and dramatically change their environment. She echoed what Pinto suggested, that through small actions done persistently, great change is possible.

Both Darrell Pinto and Shamira Madhany brought expertise and intellect to deliver inspiring talks that were filled with great ideas. After the guest speakers’ presentations and question and answer period, attendees had the option of entering breakout groups. This year featured three: Employment Trends 2022 & Beyond, Volunteering & Networking for Labour Market Success, and Education and Training Supports for Newcomers. By the end, host Rob Sufi had done an excellent job in hosting a wonderful CCS event, and demonstrated skill in moderating online forums, something which is still a great challenge.

CCS thanks our presenters, guests, and coordinators, and we hope to live up to their strong precedent during #ERD2023. Thank you to Tanya Lauder, Amal Chehaiber, Diamond Daniel, Hetalben Rajor, Nikesh Amit, Peter De Vires, Rob Sufi, Sanga Achakzai, Vaughn A. Simpson, Violeta Dimitrova, and Whitney Langley of the EAP Team who brought us this amazing forum.