We celebrate Latin American Heritage with a spotlight on TRIEC PINs Leader, Javier Rojas. Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Javier is a seasoned Senior Hardware Design Engineer with experience in diverse industries, such as medical, manufacturing automation, and intelligent buildings. He is dedicated to continuous improvement and excels in cross-functional team leadership. Javier’s passion is mentoring, teaching, and volunteering with multiple organizations. Currently, he serves as the President of the Javeriana University Professional Association (JAVCA), which has a nationwide presence in Canada, and is a TRIEC PINs association.

Can you tell us about your career journey as an immigrant professional in Canada? 

My career journey started with a slow process, as frustrating as many others when one is a newly arrived immigrant. Fortunately, we were advised to check with multiple agencies that help immigrants with the settling process. Right away, we engaged with a school that offered ELS courses and other agencies that provided some help with the resume and how to navigate the stressful job search world.

Tens, if not hundreds of resumes were sent to different companies with no response, not even an email back (perhaps due to the lack of “Canadian experience”). I was looking for an opportunity in any area related to electrical engineering. Finally, through Skills for Change, an incredible organization, I found the chance to interview with a company for a job opportunity in my professional field. Of course, it was a volunteer job for three months—no pay, but the chance to be hired after the provisional period. Everything went well, and I was offered a permanent position. The absence of a salary meant I had to keep two other survival jobs just to put food on the table.

Miraculously, thanks to someone I knew in one of those other jobs, I got another opportunity to apply for a better role in a medical company. Unfortunately, after a couple of years working with them, the company had to close, and I started again the painful process of finding a job. Luckily enough, and with the help of a recruiting agency, I had an interview with a company that was developing technology that I felt comfortable with because of my prior professional experience back home. There was a great connection with the interviewer, who happened to be one of the company’s founders & CTO. I got the job!

There have been a few other companies in my path that have seen me grow. I am thankful for that. I am also thankful for being part of the professional association that I am part of (currently, as their president) and which I have seen and helped grow with the main purpose of helping our community to navigate this complex challenge of starting a new life in a new country.

Why did you get involved in TRIEC PINs Association Javeriana University Professional Association? 

It was a blessing to be in the right place at the right time. When we arrived in Canada, I was informed that a professional association was about to be created, consisting of people from the same university I graduated from. That gave me the opportunity to connect with more people I could feel comfortable with who shared the same desire to help others to achieve their dreams in this new country. I have been involved with them since their creation in 2005.

Being part of an association like JAVCA gives me the support I needed during difficult times when I feel lonely or afraid of facing new personal and professional challenges. It also provides me with the comfort and pride of celebrating successes together, as we are treated like the extended family in the community here in Canada.

How does your organization support Latin American immigrant professionals in overcoming challenges toward finding meaningful employment in Canada? 

Throughout the years, the association has developed different programs to communicate information about settlement in the country, including job search and other related topics. Furthermore, the association has created several opportunities to promote networking among professionals by developing activities such as forums or expert panels focusing on specific programs or markets such as Finance, Supply Chain, IT, Health, among others. Additionally, the association works with the community through social activities to promote further integration and to facilitate direct communication between members and with other professionals from other organizations.

As a TRIEC PINs Leader, how has your experience in leading your organization contributed to better serving your members? 

Leading my organization as an independent entity allows me to work on helping our members to communicate and to know each other, building a network with people who share similar values, principles, and goals. However, being part of a larger organization, such as TRIEC, allows me to see the world of opportunities from a whole different level. I now could bring even more attractive opportunities to our members from markets and sectors beyond our reach. At the same time, it gives us the opportunity to publicize our talent to a broader market in Canada. Network and collaboration are key to success in this country. So, why not help each other…The bigger the community, the better.

What advice would you give to Latin American immigrant professionals seeking to advance into leadership roles in Canada? 

One of the most essential advice I could give Latin American immigrant professionals seeking leadership roles in Canada is to believe in themselves. That, together with the inherited talents and skills we bring from our home countries, such as dedication, hard work, intuition, and grit, among others, form the foundation for success in Canada. Additionally, we shouldn’t forget the power of Networking. So, active participation in all possible association’s activities would sow those seeds that will help you harvest invaluable opportunities in the future.

To find out more about TRIEC Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs), please visit: https://triec.ca/pins/