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How Canada Became a Home for Tech Talent

Personal Growth
Cultural Differences
Changing Company

26 November, 2020

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null at ReachStack

Raghavendra Iyer, Head of Engineering at ReachStack, recalls how his recurring problems with securing a US work visa made him move to and continue his professional career in Canada.

Problem

I lived for 15 years in the US, arriving on a student visa. I was always excited about working in startups and was enjoying the challenges of a fast-paced working environment. However, the problem with startups is that it is much harder for them to meet all the requirements I needed for my work visa. At the same time, my unresolved visa situation limited my employment opportunities. My startup jobs never turned into something more permanent and I could never feel safe from the immigration point of view. To avoid staying in the limbo of uncertainty I decided to consider other options including moving to another country.

Actions taken

Before deciding to move to Canada, I explored many other options that would be able to provide me with a safe and immigration status. But it seems that there were too many stumbling blocks from the employment perspectives. Startups were not an option, and I also couldn’t co-found due to immigration-related reasons. As a result, I decided for what may seem like the most radical decision at the time but that went exceptionally smooth -- to move to another country. After a lot of deliberation, Canada appeared as one of the most appealing solutions. We could always go back to India, but my children got accustomed to a certain way of life and the other option we were considering, Australia, felt so different culturally.

Having family in Canada also helped with the decision. But the most persuasive argument was that once you cross the border things look pretty much the same -- you are still driving on the same side of the road and the coffee shops are the same. The immigration procedures are not less demanding than those in the US but there is a clear route and once you would complete all milestones you would know your status is secured.

Finding a job was not all that easy. Throughout my career, I was more inclined to look for jobs through job portals and my network of people was modest. I didn’t know anyone in Canada to start with and job portals seemed not to be a good idea.

The hiring tends to be a little slower in Canada and Canadians are more risk-averse and would spend more time doing scrutiny checks. That could take forever with large companies. In the meantime, I started to read about local startup scenes in cities across Canada and Toronto emerged as an obvious choice because it has one of the most vibrant startup scenes in North America. When we narrowed it down to Toronto I did some more research and found out that Toronto not only had a very vibrant scene but a very active community and a lot of meetup groups. I picked up a few companies and talked directly to hiring managers who helped me better understand what were available options and how I could move forward.

What I realized is that if you are moving from one startup environment to another, things would go rather smoothly. You will do roughly the same work and engage in the same conversations. However, you will encounter some differences relating to the processes and policies distinct for the Canadian context, most notably relating to legal and compliance issues.

My professional transition was really smooth and non-disruptive. I stopped working one day and was at my new job in no time -- which demonstrates how close and interconnected the US and Canadian markets are. Many people at my Canadian workplace were working in the past in Silicon Valley or NYC and are very comfortable working with people who come from the US.

In the end, I would like to highlight that the pay packages and taxes are naturally different and nothing pays as in Silicon Valley. However, the higher taxes are providing much of what a person needs and the solid Canadian pay provided me with a comfortable living, for me and my family.

Lessons learned

  • This is a major life decision and you shouldn’t be taking it lightly. You are moving to a new country and if you expect things to be the same -- you will be disappointed.
  • On the professional level, I don’t think it is hard to find a company that shares your values and can offer you to learn and progress. But don’t chase a number or a title; there are many great hiring managers in Canada and a lot of interesting work, so be open to possibilities.
  • Identify what is your life goal that is prompting you to make that move. This is a serious decision to be made and you should be aware of what motivates you.

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