Our LYP series titled “Stories from Successful Immigrant Women” features women from diverse backgrounds and industries who share powerful insights and advice they have learnt from building their careers in a new country.
The second woman I spoke to in this series is Anne Sixou and I cannot believe how much I laughed during this conversation. Asides the humour, I enjoyed learning from her successful career transition from France to Canada and I am sure you will too!
Q1: Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your career journey in Canada?
Anne: I'm Anne, a senior HR generalist with a bit of a twist in my career path. I started in marketing, and sales, and even dabbled in project and product management. Five years ago, when I landed in Canada, I had this grand plan of diving into finance, particularly cost control. But reality hit, and I realized I needed certain certifications like CPA, and CFA to work in finance in Canada despite my Master's degree in Business. Not wanting to return to school for another three years, I took a random job as a bilingual HR specialist. It turned out to be a game-changer. After a year of immersing myself in networking, a US-based company reached out with an opportunity that was a blend of HR and project management. I initially saw it as a stepping stone to finance, but over time I discovered my passion for HR operations. Two years down the line, I grew into a senior HR generalist role, and that's when I decided to go back to school to study HR specific to Canada. Now, as a senior HR generalist, I handle everything from talent planning to recruitment and investigations – and I absolutely love it.
Q2: If you look back at your career journey in Canada and the move to switch careers while settling into a new country, what challenges did you face, how did you address them, and what lessons can other immigrants learn?
Anne: Transitioning was a rollercoaster for me! I had this French mindset that finding a job in Canada would be a breeze, but reality hit me hard. There's fierce competition, and Canadian jobs often demand specific certifications and local experience. So, my first challenge was managing the gap between expectation and reality. I had to settle for a role that was less aligned with my interests and paid less than I initially hoped. Networking became my lifeline. The LYP program taught me the importance of that, and LinkedIn became my go-to. I reached out to people, like a Toronto-based professional with a job similar to my previous one in France, and our conversation turned into a valuable connection. Another challenge was adapting to the workplace culture, especially the indirect communication style. It took me a while to grasp the feedback style – at first, I thought I wasn't getting any because feedback was so subtly delivered! So the lessons I would share with other immigrants would be to manage their expectations, prioritize networking, and embrace cultural differences in the workplace.
Q3: What's the best work-related advice you ever received, and how did that advice help you?
Anne: The best advice I have gotten in recent years is simple but powerful: "Trust your skills." As an immigrant woman, there's often this nagging imposter syndrome. It led me to go back to school for my HR program, thinking I lacked legitimacy. But my directors assured me—they knew I was good. They trusted my critical thinking and believed that even if I felt clueless at times, I'd figure out how to ask the right questions. That advice boosted my confidence in problem-solving and being a solid business partner.
Q4: What's your experience as an immigrant woman in your five-year career in Canada, and how do you think immigrating and being a woman has impacted your career?
Anne: Despite moments of discouragement, I'm genuinely happy I made the move. As a woman, imposter syndrome tends to creep in, but Canada changed my perspective. The cultural shift, especially in embracing gratitude and optimism, has been eye-opening. In France, we're often more direct and critical, and it's been refreshing to be in a culture where positivity is ingrained. This change in mindset, along with the accessibility of spirituality here, has not only enriched my personal life but also had a positive impact on my career.
Q5: What recommendations or advice would you give other immigrant women?
Anne: Arrive with an open mind. It sounds cliché, but it's crucial. Be flexible about other career opportunities, because, trust me, the differences between France (and probably many other countries) and Canada are more than you'd expect. Be patient and be prepared to question yourself. Also, remember that networking is not just about finding a job; it's about broadening your network to understand the culture and to settle in so give networking all you have got. And don't shy away from taking a step back or accepting a lower-ranking job initially. Your patience will pay off, and the right opportunities will come.
Q6: What value have you found in community over the years of your career? What resources do you think are out there for women building their careers?
Anne: Communities come in various shapes. Personally, I'm part of music and sports communities, and they've added so much to my life. But communities like LYP are career-focused and directly impact your professional journey. Through these communities, I've made connections that have been instrumental in my career. Each community provides a sense of belonging, which is crucial in a new environment.
Q7: What advice would you give your younger and older self?
Anne: To my younger self: be patient, everything will be alright. It might seem tough, and you might lose confidence, but trust yourself, and it's all worth it. To my older self: stay young, and dynamic, and keep that open mind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adetola Oladimeji is a medical doctor and a global health leader who is deeply interested in the use of digital health technologies for optimizing population health outcomes. She is committed to lifelong learning, continuous personal development, and intentional community building. Check out her research and other publications here.