By day, Veronica Seeto is an HRIS Test Coordinator at the TDSB with over 40 years of experience in the Canadian I.T. sector. However over the past decade she’s also dedicated her time to mentoring immigrant I.T. professionals to help them reconnect with their careers in Canada. In fact, she’s completed 26 partnerships to date.
Having immigrated to Canada herself at the age of 13, she was keen to use her professional expertise to give back for the opportunities she’s been afforded throughout her education and career. We caught up with Veronica to talk about what keeps her coming back, and why she thinks mentoring can play a vital role in the growth of Canada’s I.T. sector
Q. Why did you choose The Mentoring Partnership as your way to give back?
Veronica: I like what I do and I’m very grateful for what I have so I was looking for a way to give back to this country. When my children were young I’d volunteer with the programs they were involved with in school. But when they grew up I was looking for a way to give back that let me use my professional skills and experience
I continue to mentor because I feel I get more out of it then I give. In every partnership I learn something about people, diversity, resilience etc. I admire people who bravely pack up their lives and come to Canada.
Q. What’s the business case for mentoring in your industry?
Veronica: Well, it’s really a perfect solution. There is a shortage of people in the I.T. sector and the mentees in The Mentoring Partnership are highly skilled and educated professionals. They also have the right attitude, they want to work hard and succeed. They are hungry. This is a huge market we are not taking advantage of.
Q. Has working with your mentees and other international professionals changed the way you approach your work?
Veronica: In I.T. your clients are diverse and you need to think of everyone who is using your system and their needs. Maybe some of them are immigrants with limited English, maybe some of them have accessibility issues, and so on. So you are reminded to think from different perspectives.
My listening skills have also improved which is helpful in managing my team of 4 people. If something is not clear it makes me consider that maybe I didn’t explain it well and I need to try another way.
Q. What advice would you give to an immigrant I.T. professional looking to enter the market in Canada?
Veronica: I.T. is global, the programs are the same everywhere. Most people ask me if they have enough certification because it’s really important in their home country. And yes it’s important, but equally as important are your communication skills – even in IT. Communication means the whole package: your words, body language, understanding of the culture, and your ability to understand how people are feeling – in my opinion that’s what people mean when talking about “Canadian experience.”
Technology design needs to be intuitive and human centered which means you need to put yourself in the shoes of your client. If you leave it to pure technical skills, you may end up with an interface that is not so friendly. Also, with technology always changing, I.T. professionals need to understand how to convince people to adopt changes and support them through the change.
So definitely, being successful in I.T. is 50% communication skills and 50% technical skills.
Q. Finally, what advice do you have for a new mentor?
Veronica: Always think about what went well, what didn’t work and what you learned. Sometimes your mentee is having a hard time and it can be discouraging. Step back, and try to think of what you did to help them and what you can carry forward for the next person.
And always try to remember, when you help your mentee you are not only helping their career, you are helping their entire family learn how to start their life in Canada.