Congratulations to the 2008 IS Awards winners!
Canadian HR Reporter Individual Achievement Award: Jane Lewis, Country Human Resources Manager, Procter & Gamble
CBC Toronto Business Leadership Award: Fiona Macfarlane, Americas Chief Operating Officer, Tax, Ernst & Young
Toronto Star Immigrant Champion Award: Patricia O’Connor, Coordinator of Field Programming, Internationally Educated Social Work Professionals (IESW) Bridging Program, The Chang School, Ryerson University
Pictured below left to right are Av Utukuri, president and chief technology officer, Nytric Limited, Patricia O’Connor, coordinator of field programming, IESW Bridging Program, The Chang School, Ryerson University, Fiona Macfarlane, Americas chief operating officer, tax, Ernst & Young, Jane Lewis, country human resources manager, Procter & Gamble Canada, and Bruce Tucker, president, CH2M HILL Canada Limited.
RBC Best Immigrant Employer Award
Located in Mississauga, Ontario, this innovation-consulting and venture technology firm turns back-of-a-napkin ideas into marketable products. With big clients like EA Games, Pratt & Whitney and video-game manufacturer Global VR, Nytric generates about $4 million per year in revenue. Ninety per cent of their products are exported.
To compete in the international market, Nytric leverages the brain power of its twenty-seven employees. In the engineering department, for example, the ratio of immigrants to Canadian-born employees is two to one. Immigrants also hold executive positions: Av Utukuri, President and Chief Technology Officer, was born in India; Ted Chen, Director of Product Development is from Taiwan; and Anthony Gussin, Director of Business Development is a native of the United Kingdom.
Because Nytric’s management team can personally relate to other skilled immigrants struggling to find work, the company welcomes candidates with international credentials and experience. “From our perspective, Canadian experience is irrelevant – if someone is a good engineer, he’s a good engineer. It doesn’t matter where he came from,” Anthony says. “That’s one of the key components of our hiring strategy.”
This inclusive policy has helped skilled immigrants like Riddhesh Raval. He came from India in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering and experience with a multi-national software company. After working a general labour job for $8 an hour and volunteering in his field, Riddhesh found a position with Nytric as a senior software engineer.
In addition to valuable experience, Nytric’s diverse team brings a knowledge bank of various languages and cultures. With input from their Indian-born staff, for example, Nytric changed the trivia questions in a family DVD game to reflect the colloquialisms of South Asian cultures. This savvy marketing strategy enhanced the product’s appeal of overseas. Employees fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese have also helped the company negotiate with Chinese suppliers and oversee international manufacturing – both assets that were highlighted during Nytric’s delegation to Asia last year.
“Nytric is a very innovative organization,” Anthony says, “And I don’t think we would have this unique approach to innovation if we didn’t have different people from different walks of life.”
When tradition and history are coupled with innovation and vision, the results are often remarkable. That’s one way to describe what happened when engineering firm CH2M HILL Canada Limited formed a unique new partnership with a local non-profit organization that serves the unemployed, including newcomers.
CH2M HILL is an 85-year-old engineering and construction company with expertise in industries such as energy, water and wastewater, and transportation. Three hundred employees work at their Toronto headquarters – almost 70 per cent are immigrants.
In 1997, CH2M HILL partnered with Community MicroSkills Development Centre, which offers settlement, training, employment and self-employment services to women, youth and immigrants. CH2M HILL provides two-month work placements for MicroSkills graduates from across the globe in the company’s information technology, business administration and facilities departments.
Larisa Skorishchenko is one of many MicroSkills graduates. Born in the eastern European country of Moldova, Larisa moved to Toronto in 1998 with a masters degree, a background in science and hopes for a rewarding career in Canada. Through MicroSkills, she enrolled in English classes and an information technology program. Just two years later, she landed a placement with CH2M HILL and she is now employed as a PC Systems Specialist, responsible for the firm’s servers and back-up operations.
“The benefits of partnering with MicroSkills are abundant; paramount of these is the opportunity to work with highly skilled and dedicated people,” says Bruce Tucker, President and Regional Manager of CH2M HILL. “MicroSkills provides the opportunity for graduates to gain valuable work experience, and CH2M HILL is given the chance of introducing, developing and promoting talented individuals.”
The firm sponsors the CH2M HILL Resource Centre of Excellence for Women and Newcomers at a MicroSkills’ facility nearby. The centre, staffed by an employment consultant, is equipped with computers for use by jobseekers, and has information about the labour market and the Canadian workforce. Staff volunteer at the centre to conduct seminars, offer career advice and mentor clients from MicroSkills. For example, Peter Vale, IT manager at CH2M HILL, instructs an English Conversation Café every Thursday with several internationally-trained supply chain management professionals.
“CH2M HILL embraced MicroSkills in a way which is helping individuals to build brighter futures,” says Kay Blair, Executive Director of MicroSkills. “It makes a big difference when a corporation, through their leadership, is prepared to work with the community to create opportunities.”
Jane Lewis, Country Human Resources Manager, Procter & Gamble
For over 10 years, Jane Lewis has been at the helm of Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) efforts to nurture a diverse workforce including skilled immigrants.
As Country Human Resources Manager in Canada, Jane has a broad range of responsibilities, from shaping the company’s recruitment strategy to overseeing compensation and benefits for P&G’s 3,000 employees. She joined P&G in 1984 after graduating from Queen’s University with two degrees. Jane worked in Finance and Product Supply before moving to the HR team in 1991.
In addition to HR, Jane also leads the organization’s national diversity initiatives. “I think there is a huge amount of power in building diversity directly into P&G’s business strategy.” Jane says. “It’s great to lead diversity in my role. It facilitates making things happen.” And she certainly has.
In 2004, Jane attended a conference and heard about Career Bridge, a paid-internship program that helps professional-level immigrants gain Canadian work experience while employers benefit from the skills of this diverse talent pool. Jane didn’t hesitate to get involved. She joined the founding advisory committee for Career Bridge and became a champion of the program. Soon, P&G became a host organization. “Under Jane’s leadership, P&G began hiring interns from the program. This has been a key source of new immigrants coming into the company,” says company president Tim Penner.
Jane has been instrumental in building the capacity of employee networking groups which offer networking, coaching and learning opportunities to diverse staff, says Claudia Alvarez, an immigrant from Columbia and co-leader of the Latin Network.
Thanks to Jane, P&G opened its first prayer room at its head office in Toronto and diversity calendars are widely distributed to ensure key meetings do not conflict with key holidays and religious observances.
Jane is committed to delivering measurable results for P&G so she introduced a Diversity Leadership Assessment Tool to track the company’s progress on creating an environment where all staff can thrive. Each year, employees rate managers in twenty-two different areas from their cross-cultural communication skills to how supervisors foster team work among staff from different backgrounds.
Jane’s passion to heighten awareness and inclusivity has not been confined to P&G. She has presented at the Internationally Educated Professionals (IEP) Conference and is a member of the Council on Inclusive Work Environments, exemplifying her leadership and dedication to the inclusion of immigrants in the Canadian workforce.
Fiona Macfarlane, Americas Chief Operating Officer, Tax, Ernst & Young
When Fiona Macfarlane arrived in Canada from South Africa in 1987, she had a wealth of knowledge and experience. Trained as a lawyer, Fiona held four degrees including a master of law from Cambridge University. Yet she struggled to find work until she was hired by Ernst & Young.
Fiona moved up the ranks to become the first woman at a ‘big four’ accounting firm to lead a Canadian Tax Practice. Last year, she was appointed America’s Chief Operating Officer, Tax, where she is responsible for a region with over $3-billion in annual revenues.
Never forgetting the challenges she faced as a newcomer, Fiona has made it her mission to help others, including immigrants, flourish in their careers. “Immigrants represent a tremendous opportunity for us to work together and compete on the global business stage,” she says. “At Ernst & Young we seek to create teams of productive, smart people who can work across barriers of distance, language and culture. We need diverse teams to serve global clients. It’s that simple.”
Fiona has challenged search firms to increase the percentage of immigrant candidates presented to Ernst & Young for key positions, and it is now more common for human resources to recruit from a broader talent pool. At the Toronto practice, 25 per cent of employees are immigrants, and 60 per cent of these are visible minorities.
Fiona has also turned her lived experience into valuable lessons for others. Through TRIEC’s Mentoring Partnership she has offered career advice to professionals from Nigeria and India and has reviewed resumes, inquired about job openings and helped mentees understand the Canadian business environment. She has also successfully persuaded senior colleagues to participate in the program.
A true pioneer, Fiona was the driving force behind Ernst & Young University (EYU), which gives staff access to coaching and a curriculum that outlines the professional experience needed to excel in the company. According to Fiona’s colleague, Charles Marful, the impact of EYU is profound: “It allows all employees – whether immigrant or Canadian born – an equal opportunity to grow professionally.” By creating a level playing field, all employees have a fair chance to excel.
“Fiona has helped to change the operating business model in the tax practice to establish a deliberate approach that enhances the opportunity for immigrants to succeed,” says Marful. “I admire her passion and leadership in opening doors for new immigrants.”
Patricia O’Connor , Coordinator of Field Programming, Internationally Educated Social Work Professionals (IESW) Bridging Program, The Chang School, Ryerson University
Through a program that is the first of its kind in Canada, Patricia O’Connor is making notable strides toward integrating immigrant social workers into the labour market. She is the Coordinator of Field Programming for the Internationally Educated Social Work Professionals (IESW) Bridging Program at Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education.
Launched in 2005, the program has helped more than 100 people move successfully into employment, by offering courses, individual consultations, mentorship, job hunting tips, supervised work placements and outreach to employers. Within a year of completing the certificate program, more than 90 per cent of graduates find employment in hospitals, community health centres, child welfare agencies, women’s shelters, and other community-focused organizations.
Patricia was instrumental in creating the IESW program – she has an extensive resume and three decades of experience as a community worker, teacher, health promoter, and as an advocate for social justice..
IESW graduate Christine Okech is one of the numerous benefactors of Patricia’s work. “I felt for the first time in a long time that nobody was judging or doubting me, and I met social workers from other countries and realized I was not alone.” Christine, originally from Kenya, now works as a child protection worker for the Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton. She nominated Patricia for the IS Awards and included testimonials from over a dozen IESW program graduates.
“The most meaningful part of winning this award is that the nomination came from internationally educated professionals who completed the program and are currently working in the field of social work,” says Patricia. “Their patience, courage, efforts, and the trust they placed in us have encouraged us to continue to work with creativity and persistence to build a strong program that delivers on its promises and leads to real change. Their endorsement of our approach inspires me to move forward with renewed commitment and enthusiasm.”
Patricia also coordinates a network of over 550 internationally educated social work professionals, and organizes educational workshops and presentations for employers to raise awareness about the ways in which immigrant professionals can make valuable contributions to their organizations.