How can a new immigrant build a network in Canada?
April 3, 2021 8:36 PM   Subscribe

So, I'm moving to Canada. I'm going to Queen's University to get an MSc in Computer Science. Nonetheless, after asking around and due to several suggestions from family and friends, I've made up my mind to stay in Canada. A series of circumstances have put me in the fortuitous position of being able to apply for permanent residence almost as soon as I get over there. Needless to say, I'm new and while I've done a HUGE amount of research on everything Canadian I still don't know the lay of the land as far as jobs, money and connections go.

I'll start by saying that the MSc program I got into is research related. It's heavy in math and machine learning. It is mostly applied to software engineering, but what interests me the most is the mathematical part. I want to shift my career towards that. From what I understand my supervisors deal with internships, that is definitely an avenue I intend to take advantage of.

To be more specific I'd like to apply my skills in software and whatever I learn about machine learning into finance. I know that finance deals a lot with real time data, lots of transactions and math. I know that they look for people in software. For whatever reason, I like the field a lot and I want to get into it one way or another.

Some people will likely suggest further education, but I've thought of that. I've thought about applying to this program or this other program later on. However, that's for later, and I'm happy with where I got to right now.

Nonetheless, I did try to apply to Waterloo and U of T for their CS programs, I did not get in. It's easier to get a boost with them into the Canadian workforce though, especially with Waterloo's coop. However, that's closed off to me, and besides those other two programs I have no intention to apply to any of those places again. I might need to take some extra math classes to meet the requirements of those programs, but we'll see, this is all very optional right now for me.

At any rate, I'm unsure of what I should be looking for. For instance, I know Toronto is Canada's biggest finance hub and that startups are pretty common there, but I don't know what to look for specifically.

I know Queen's has a huge atmosphere to look for these things and its social environment is conducive towards that. I chose to go there mostly because of that, in addition to outranking my other choices. However, beyond that I'm not sure what to look for.

Are there meetups/eventbrite events for these things? Networking events? Organizations that give talks? Startups that are interested in recruiting people? Hedge funds that give out talks?

What should I look for in Toronto? More importantly if anyone has any names of anything specific, what are they?

This is all unknown to me, and I'm not sure where to go or what I should be looking for as far as finance, software and machine learning go. I'd rather get a sense of where I'm going before I get there. Like I said I want to make my stay there permanent.
posted by Tarsonis10 to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How outgoing are you? Start with your school advisors, get to know them, and their assistants.

That will lead you to various organizations, which will in turn lead you in different directions.

Off on the social side, look for new professional orgs, newcomer orgs, immigrant orgs, ex-pat orgs, and even just neighborhood orgs.

If you have hobbies see if there are local orgs on those interests. Hiking org. Biking org. Trivia org. If you volunteer to do good, look for orgs looking for volunteers.

And so on and so forth. We all have various circles around us. It's up to us to fill them and expand them.
posted by kschang at 12:24 AM on April 4, 2021

Best answer: By going to school in Canada first, you have a natural way to start building a network of friends and connections. I went to engineering school in Toronto. The university organized lots of events for engineers with networking opportunities. I am sure Queen's does similar things. I ended up finding work after my masters through the campus career center. These job posting are great because they are expecting new grads and the career center had programs to help with preparing your resume and going for interviews. The school will want you to be employed and successful after graduating and I think you will find there are lots of helpful programs on campus.
posted by ice-cream forever at 6:10 AM on April 4, 2021

Best answer: Canada is a bunch of loosely linked small towns. :)

Don’t worry so much! The CS community is not huge and once you’re here, you will meet people. Take a genuine interest in the research of others, look for networking events especially, as you get closer to graduating, at places like MaRS. As an American you will probably find it fairly easy to get to know people.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:52 AM on April 4, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Queen's definitely has a lot of student run groups you can get involved in that create some "instant" community. (or at least it did when I was in undergrad there almost 20 years ago) I'll second kschang, there are a lot of communities around interests that are a great way to meet people when you're new to town. In my experience bouldering, ultimate frisbee, and warhammer were all great for that when I spent my 20's moving every 18 months, but of course your mileage may differ.

I know there's also a strong "math/computer science/tech" job culture in Kitchener-Waterloo. There's a lot going on in Toronto, but despite the hype it's not the only place in the province and the cost of living there can be prohibitive. If you're able to work primarily remotely there's a lot to be said for the smaller rural communities.
posted by LegallyBread at 10:08 AM on April 4, 2021

Best answer: Can you take courses in economics while you are in the CS program? I would at least try and network with that department and see if you can make more direct connections that way. (That would be where I would send someone at UBC.)

Have you looked also at Compute Canada events? They have had an interesting range of offerings from time to time and are a very open bunch in my experience.

There are also a few organizations for statistical modelling and visualization especially in health care that overlap between academia and industry and which provide good networking opportunities if you are interested in exploring that area a bit. It is the one most likely to have the most funding right now too.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:57 PM on April 4, 2021

(I am in humanities but once had to be on a bunch of hiring and other committees in CS due to circumstances, so I used to know more about the field than now.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:59 PM on April 4, 2021

Hey, I work at Queen's (different Dept, but funny enough taking some CS courses for fun) and have been here for oof, 14 years now. Feel free to DM me if you have any specific questions.

Overall, supervisors in our dept encourage students to hang out and socialize with others in their group and the dept. Things right *now* are obviously very...stunted, but vaccine schedule means we should be hopefully back to physical classes/clubs/etc. By Sept-Oct.

Grad students can also end up super lonely - you need to push yourself into some amount of social situations, it's more self-directed than undergrads are used to.

It's SUPER easy to get stuck into the student bubble at Queen's - but if you like something, see if there's opportunities in town. Kingston Gaming Nexus is great for board games/miniatures. There's a thriving brewery scene. Tons of pick up hockey games in the winter at the number of outdoor rinks. Lots of sailing/rowing. I've heard great things about the climbing gym's community. Practicing general socialibility is actually useful, you can tell which grad students got too buried in their work, and they aren't necessarily the ones destined for the best jobs.

But yeah, if you have any Kingston/Queen's questions, just holla. I love it here, though there's definitely pros and cons as with anywhere. Be super careful/critical of rentals, but also there are a ton within a 15 min walk so a car is largely unnecessary.
posted by aggyface at 5:55 AM on April 6, 2021

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