- If life is a cake, I can dissect it in many ways: from a single room house in Mumbai (India) to 8 years in hostel, to a plush apartment in Dubai, to a fully detached house in Toronto….my life has been and continues to be nothing short of a fascinating journey.
- Hi, I am Vishal Thakkar a Commerce Graduate and a Chartered Accountant from ICAI (India), based in Toronto, Canada.
- Having lived in Dubai for almost 13 years and now in Canada for a few years, I am excited to share my journey and experiences from moving countries.
- Here is my journey so far.
Taking Up Chartered Accountancy
I was born and raised in Mumbai (India). My childhood was a typical Mumbai childhood from growing in a cosmopolitan environment, celebrating the diversity and everything that the city has to offer.
At school, I was always an average (read hardworking). I started working full-time since the age of 15 (after class 10) and am working ever since!
With my dad and elder brother being accountants, my inclination towards commerce was natural. Plus, studying full-time was not a possibility so I was looking for a course where studying and working could go hand-in-hand.
Also, I was fascinated with the fact that ‘Chartered Accountancy’ was considered (and still is), a premium qualification to have. That is how CA became a preferred choice.
Initially, I was apprehensive about my success for the CA course, but with few confidence-boosting discussions with my hostel friend and brother, I decided to pursue it. Also the conducive hostel environment, (I stayed in a hostel for 8 years during my college and CA days), CA seemed achievable.
And here started my CA journey.
From a Single Room House in India to a Plush Apartment in Dubai
After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in 2002, I was interviewed by a mid-size Public Accounting firm in Dubai as an Auditor. I got selected and I moved to Dubai for my first job.
My first international travel and the first post-qualification job was in Dubai and many such ‘firsts’ followed thereafter like owning a car, house and so on. Getting an opportunity to work in Dubai changed my life for the better!
I travelled a lot for work as well as for leisure. Professionally also, it was a rewarding experience. Life was going on great and I was socially, professionally and financially very secure when in Dubai.
Our Landing in Canada
Leap of Faith: Moving To Canada After Working for 13 years in Dubai
My brother moved to Canada in 2006 and he always wanted me to visit and eventually migrate to Canada. But I kept dilly-dallying for several years and putting off the decision whether to immigrate to Canada or not.
My wife and I finally decided to visit Canada in the summer of 2013 and see for ourselves if Canada could be our new home!
During this visit, I had several meaningful interactions with people living in Canada with diverse backgrounds i.e. financially stable or not so, well-educated or not so, coming directly from India or from Gulf or African countries and so on.
These interactions and insights during my 4 weeks visit to Canada was just-enough to ‘trigger the decision-making process’ to move to Canada. But still, it wasn’t a done deal, and it took several (I mean a lot) discussions between me and my wife to decide one way or the other.
Living 13 years in Dubai/UAE, there were obvious apprehensions to make a ‘move’. Toronto is relatively a bigger city, and I knew that we had to compete with a locally educated and experienced workforce.
But I also knew I could not live in Dubai forever. I would either have to return to my home country (at a later point) or immigrate to another country at the earliest (immigration has age restrictions as well!). So it was a now or never kind of decision!
That is when we decided to move to Canada. In 2015, we finally immigrated to Canada.
Settling in Canada & Finding a Job opportunity within 45 Days
The first few months in Canada were overwhelming for me and my family…and this is where I feel a lot gets decided, I mean how you navigate the first few months!
Once in Canada, we faced several personal and professional challenges…one is getting a plethora of information from people, be it career advice or on places to stay, etc.
Some would say “First study then take up a job.” Someone else “Take whatever job comes your way.” or “Take a job from your own field even if it takes time” and so on.
All of this information would sometimes conflict with whatever we had decided prior to coming to Canada! So reacting to all this and charting your own course of action with so much advice was very challenging.
Other initial challenges were like adjusting to the weather (it was 51 degrees the day I left Dubai and was arrived in Toronto to pleasant 14 degrees), completing post-landing formalities and so on.
EXTRA TIP: Keeping family together is equally important as the first few days/weeks, the anxiousness is high. We have to take this in our own stride, a blend of flexibility and assertiveness is the key.
#WhatIDid: My top priority was to gather the work experience at the earliest. So, I decided to take up a job (before pursuing any Canadian qualification).
I started applying for various opportunities immediately and luckily started getting responses from recruiters. My first interview was in 2-3 weeks’ time, which boosted my confidence a whole lot.
And I was fortunate to have my first employment contract in 45 days of landing in Canada, in the internal audit team of a Fortune 100 company. I also had an offer to work with one of the top 5 banks of Canada but I chose this role instead.
I say fortunate because, I had seen people from both spectrums, who landed their field job in less than this time, but many more had spent months altogether to get the job in their own field.
“What are the things I did before immigrating to Canada?”
One of the first things I did when I decided to move to Canada was to get in touch with people I knew who had moved here from Dubai.
Another obvious thing to do was ‘financial planning’ and the ‘timing of moving to Canada’.
I started building the network online as well as offline of the people who I could ask relevant questions and for some questions, I had read expat and immigrant forums.
“Mistakes most immigrants make in their job search”
There are enough opportunities for all who come with a proper conviction, reasonable research and financial backup. Some of the common mistakes people make are:
- Not having the right size resume
- Not reaching out to their network
- Remain isolated
- Do not properly follow-up after applying for a job
- Not enough research on the job applied for
- Not making sure that the resume conveys the best fit or suitability to the job
- Also, getting distracted in work other than ‘full-time’ job search
- Applying to wrong jobs, applying to the right jobs with wrong resume (which doesn’t match your experience highlighted in resume), not applying on a consistent basis till you end up getting a job
- Not staying up-to-date with developments, for instance, Robotics Process Automation, Data Analytics etc.
“Having a Canadian CPA Qualification can be an added advantage?”
Upon my interactions with recruiters, I realized that there is a good understanding of CA certification and Indian / Dubai experience. However NOT having local experience and designation, can be a major salary negotiating factor for the first job.
Having a certification complementing your experience or your passion certainly helps, in my case, CIA certification aided my profile.
We have to convey the adaptability and clarity in the concepts and basics of our field knowledge, whenever the opportunity presents.
“Salary and finance roles which are in great demand in Canada?”
All conventional finance roles coupled with IT experience such as ERP implementation, compliance monitoring, data analytics, and financial planning and reporting are well in demand.
Then there are niche areas such as the adoption of new/revised IFRS, treasury, business finance is also well remunerated and good in demand.
- As a newly qualified CA from a reputed Institutes such as India or South Africa, you can expect a similar or slightly lower salary compared to CPA from Canada, say between CAN$60,000-70,000 and with 5 years of post-qualification experience, you can expect CAN$75,000-90,000 range.
- However, this range is so broad-based hence I always recommend to keep checking the market at regular intervals either on Glassdoor, LinkedIn and various popular job boards, so that we are never priced-out.
- If you can maintain a good rapport with recruiters, they also provide valuable salary-related inputs based on the review of your resume.
“Important things I would tell a finance professional immigrating to Canada.”
- Basics or fundamentals of accounting, auditing, finance, and even taxation remain the same. Try to understand the nuances of Canada and the terminology used to convey the same thing. A good example for me was ‘True-up entry’ for accruals;
- Develop a personal and professional network of like-minded people to get the information, you can rely on. There are various hearsays, loose-talks, generic comments, which do not help our decision making, in fact, distract us from reality;
- Make sure that the resume, the cover letter is tailored to the job applied. Expecting recruiters to match the experience from the generic resume will not yield the result. (I am not suggesting to cook-up the resume but suggesting to highlight the experience that best fits the job you are applying for certainly helps);
- Expecting recruiters to reply for every job applied, every email or phone call is unrealistic. When there is a proper match of job and your profile, we can follow-up with an email with a brief note on how you are the best fit/match for the role certainly helps. Multiple follow-ups with desperate language do not help at all;
- Research your salary range well (by talking to recruiters, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Salary guides published by reliable recruitment agencies) so that you can quote when asked during an interview or pre-interview stage;
- Keep your references informed that they might be contacted by phone/email etc. so that they can promptly reply;
- If you are planning to get a local designation or any skill enhancement course, it is better to enroll in the early days as there is less involvement socially and work-wise. This also conveys the right message to the recruiters and potential employers;
- Respect for controls: During my first winter holiday season, the attendance in office was thread-bare and the company’s financial year-end was a calendar year, so there were multiple activities to be completed by T-7, T-5, T+1 and so on. I was surprised to see that, if the analyst was on vacation, the manager would do what was required, but not a single deadline was missed. Weather, holidays, nothing mattered against the deadlines;
- Keep your own finances and investments in order. Estimate the money required from the day you land in Canada and you start getting regular paycheck. Try and understand local taxation and tax planning. Consider getting a health cover for the period you might not be covered in government or employer health insurance plan;
- Finally, it’s an opportunity to start afresh so explore the career change, the industry change that you were longing for. One thing I noticed when you immigrate – You are not confined to any industry and you can start over. So consider this move as an opportunity!
Wrapping It Up…
Having completed a few years in Canada, I am happy that we as a family were able to withstand the initial traumatic period!
We were able to break the comfort zone feeling which everyone talks about, and also are much more confident of our abilities now.
From a chaotic commute in public transit in Mumbai to commuting in the comfort of your car and back to comfortable public transit…it’s been fun all the way!
From just about taking care of necessities to leading a comfortable life, I have fully enjoyed every stage and looking forward to what lies ahead.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Were you inspired by Vishal Thakkar‘s journey? Did you find the mojo to start?
We are eager to hear your story. Write to us in the comments and don’t forget to share this article with your friends?
(Image edited by Ankit Lodhi)
The CA Story is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and get updates with latest stories of finance professionals.