Connector Program – Connectee Q&A with Nathalia Balthazar & Otavio Chaves
Connector September 28, 2023
Brazilians Nathalia Balthazar and husband Otavio Chaves relocated to Kelowna in 2022. A U.S. relative suggested Canada. Toronto and Vancouver were too expensive. However, Octavio found a YouTube video about Kelowna that impressed them both. It was in Portuguese, created by Brazilians residing in Calgary. So, when Nathalia was accepted as a PhD student at UBCO (which aligned with her experience teaching bio medical engineering), they chose Kelowna. Since Otavio had an open work permit, he was referred to the Connector Program to help him get connected. Today, Otavio manages a coworking space, while Nathalia continues to seek a full-time job.
Otavio, you were referred to the program by a Connector and then also referred Nathalia. Tell me more…
Otavio: I am passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation, so I started from Brazil, reaching out, connecting with people in places like Accelerate Okanagan and Colab. I had online meetings, was provided some helpful tips and information about the community, and also introduced me to the Connector Program coordinator. After participating in the program, I encouraged Nathalia to apply.
How did the Connector program help?
Otavio: The program connected me with two well-connected people. My first Connector meeting was in the Innovation Centre. I decided I needed to make myself visible at this organization. I began attending events and meeting more people. Because I was always there, talking with people and making connections, when a role came up there, I asked for and was give a referral. I had a wonderful meeting and found my first part-time job as the centre’s events coordinator. It’s a role I still have. The building also has a co-working business inside called Spaces. I was visible there too and with persistence became the full-time Spaces community manager.
Through the Connector Program, I also learned more about how people communicate. In Brazil, WhatsApp is used for business. Here, it’s mostly email. I learned it’s ok, and likely necessary here, to reach out to people more than once if someone doesn’t respond to me. It’s ok in this work culture to follow up and check if they saw my previous message. I did this a lot and keep doing it.
Nathalia: My PhD program was not what I expected so I’ve been figuring out what comes next, pursuing some sort of teaching role here. Business networking was not part of my former work life in academia. It was helpful to understand that this is a strong way to get connected to others. The program connected me with someone at the University and someone in healthcare. The Connector at the University introduced me to someone else at the university who helped me think more about my education and provided some advice about work experience. Through a connector’s referral I got work on a STEM project. I help teachers develop lessons to make science content more interesting.
Do you have advice for others considering moving to the Central Okanagan?
Nathalia – If possible, research job prospects here before you decide to live here. We choose Kelowna because of the warmer weather and lifestyle, but not because it aligned so closely with our work needs so it has been challenging for me.
Otavio – For anyone starting in a new city, you must be your own salesperson. It isn’t enough to share your resume applying for jobs. You need to get connected and establish good relationships. Coming here, I needed to build my reputation, have people get to know me. That creates a relationship. Once you have that, there’s trust and that’s when referrals/introductions occur – whether for work, friendship, sports – you begin to build your community.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Before coming to Canada, we thought Canada was just an extension of United States. We were really surprised, in a good way, to experience the very warm, receptive and welcoming Canadian culture. We are really happy to be in an environment where we are respected and there are equal opportunities for immigrants. We are impressed at the openness of this community everywhere, from our running group to business networking. And, well, the lifestyle here is impressive. Long summer days shocked us, how light it stays. We can do so many things in the daylight after we finish work from biking to hiking to going to the beach.
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