Despite 20 years of international engineering experience, Hiam Al Sabery accepted unpaid work to prove himself to a Canadian employer, while he worked towards licensure. He eventually secured good work and then the recession hit. Hiam was unemployed again, but this time he had two years of Canadian experience, his P.Eng. and the support of a small, but strong network of Iraqi engineers and architects – many of whom had also been laid off or who were in search of more meaningful work.

After months of meeting at Tim Hortons, the group decided to formalize their sessions and establish an association. “We obviously needed to find jobs, but the bigger idea was to support new Iraqi immigrants so they are not lost when they land,” says Hiam. Seventy-five Iraqi engineers and architects formed the Iraqi Canadian Engineers and Architects Network (ICEAN) in the fall of 2009.

Since connecting with TRIEC, ICEAN has piloted a group mentoring project with JVS Toronto. Hiam also sees a lot of potential to learn from other networks. “The Filipino Accountants invited me to their welcome event for new members,” says Hiam. “I could see how such a simple gesture can make new members feel included right away. ICEAN wants to borrow this idea.”

Hiam’s current job came through a referral from a fellow ICEAN member. The flourishing network has now grown to over 250 Iraqi engineers and architects.