Changing Lenses: Diversify Your Perspectives

Ep11: Immigrants Need Not Apply, with Ali Ahmed

May 19, 2021 Rosie Yeung Season 2 Episode 11
Changing Lenses: Diversify Your Perspectives
Ep11: Immigrants Need Not Apply, with Ali Ahmed
Show Notes Transcript

Ali Ahmed is a professional designated accountant who worked for one of the Big Four international accounting firms before immigrating from Pakistan to Canada. But despite having that professional experience, he couldn't get an accounting job in Canada until he got some "Canadian experience" under his belt.

As a former recruiter myself, I can verify that the prejudices Ali describes are real. I’m really glad that he's willing to share with you the unnecessary obstacles he faced in a country that supposedly welcomes immigrants and diverse ethnicities. After all, it's one thing to let people in the front door. It's another thing to let them sit at the same table with us.

So as you listen to Ali's story, I challenge you to think about what you deem essential job requirements and whether they're really that essential. And if your first thought is “they're all essential,” – think again.

Contact Rosie and find JEDI resources at:  https://www.changinglenses.ca/


In this episode, we talk about:

[04:41]  Immigrating to Canada (and challenges for his Pakistani family after 9/11).

[08:34]  First impressions of Canada.

[09:33]  Looking for work as an immigrant without “Canadian experience”.

[20:16]  When Ali felt included at work.

[21:44]  When Ali felt excluded at work.

[24:41]  Having identities / labels put on him, instead of choosing his own.

[26:16]  Ali’s advice for new immigrants and people looking for work.


Full transcript available at:
https://changinglenses.buzzsprout.com/1759041/8517680-ep11-immigrants-need-not-apply-with-ali-ahmed

Guest Bio and References/Links

About Ali Ahmed:

Ali Ahmed is a forward-looking finance leader who works with organizations to help achieve their potential by making financially informed decisions. He provides strategic direction, develops budgets, and provides useful critical financial information. Ali’s superpower is to present complex financial information simply and concisely.

He is currently the Manager, Strategic Financial Management at Canadian Blood Services.

You can contact Ali via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ali-ahmed-cpa/ 


References and resources in this episode:

Woodgreen Community Services: https://www.woodgreen.org/ 

Canadian Blood Services: https://www.blood.ca/en

If you enjoy the podcast and want deeper ways to Change your Lens in work and business, check out the free resources on my website, changinglenses.ca. I also offer workshops and keynote speeches on JEDI topics like Decolonizing Corporate Workplaces, recruiting more inclusively, anti-Asian racism, and many more. How can I  support your JEDI journey? Contact me at changinglenses.ca.

Please note: the transcripts attempt to stay true to the essence of each conversation, while maintaining clarity and readability. As a result, certain "filler" words, and nuances of tone, emotion and emphasis will be missing.

If you're able, you're strongly encouraged to listen to the audio podcast. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human editors, and may contain errors.


Ep11 - Immigrants Need Not Apply - with Ali Ahmed

Ali: What happens is, if English is your second language, somebody will read your document and say “Maybe in your language, that's how it's done, but in English, the structure needs to be different.” And that's something that's sometimes like, Okay, that was uncalled for. You could just ask me to add "a" there or "the" there so you don't have to say “Maybe in your language or maybe where you're from, that's how it's done.” So that has happened in my career and that's where I felt very discouraged and felt discriminated against. Like the idea is you treat me equally and you didn't. You had to make a point in your language, where you're from, it's different.  

Rosie: Has something like that ever happened to you? I mean we all make mistakes at work, and we should get constructive feedback about it. But it crosses a line when that feedback isn’t just about your work quality; when your boss makes it about your ethnicity, your home country, or some other part of your identity.

Ali Ahmed has experienced this all too often, both as an employee, and as a new immigrant to Canada looking for work.

If you’re an immigrant, how many times have you been told that you’re not qualified because you don’t have local work experience?

And if you’ve been on the hiring side of the table – how many times have you made that a job requirement for your roles, either formally or informally?

Well in this episode, Ali challenges that concept. Ali is a professional designated accountant in Pakistan and Canada, who worked for one of the Big 4 international accounting firms before immigrating here. But despite having that professional experience, he couldn’t get an accounting job in Canada until he got some “Canadian experience” under his belt.

As a former recruiter myself, I can verify that the prejudices Ali describes are real. I’m really glad that he’s willing to share with you the unnecessary obstacles he faced in a country that supposedly welcomes immigrants and diverse ethnicities. After all, it’s one thing to let people in the front door. It’s another thing to let them sit at the same table with us.

So as you listen to Ali’s story, I challenge you to think about what you deem “essential” job requirements, and whether they’re really that essential.  And if your first thought is, “they’re all essential” – think again. It may not be as obvious as the impossible requirement for new immigrants to have local experience. For example – does a person really need a university degree to be qualified? Or even a college diploma? Should a report with spelling mistakes but excellent content be rated poorly? Are these types of performance indicators really giving us the “best” employees, or are they blocking us from hiring many qualified people who just need a chance to show us what they can do?

Ali Ahmed explores all this with us and more, in this episode of Changing Lenses.

But first – a quick intro and land acknowledgment.

[intro music plays]

Rosie:Welcome to Changing Lenses. You’re invited to step into the lives of people on the front lines of discrimination, racism, and exclusion; to see the world through their eyes; and to hear their personal story of their fight for social justice.

I’m your host, Rosie Yeung, a Chinese-Canadian, immigrant, cis-straight female with invisible disabilities, and I’m passionate about justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Do you also want to see social change happen? Then please join me in Changing Lenses.

Each episode is hosted on colonized land that was taken from many Indigenous nations, including the Anishinaabe, the Huron-Wendat, and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. I seek Truth and Reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis people of Turtle Island, and I call upon us all to decolonize our thinking, not just our systems. Learn more on my website, changinglenses.ca.

Now please, enjoy the episode.

[intro music ends]

Rosie:Hi, Ali. Welcome. We're so happy to have you on the podcast today.

Ali: Thank you so much. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this.

Rosie: Oh, we've been planning this for a long time, so I know we're both pretty excited. And before we dive right into the questions, which I know we're eager to do, I just want to let you know, and let our listeners know that our conversations sometimes are pretty sensitive. So I want you to feel safe and comfortable, to be honest and real and vulnerable in our conversations.

So I commit to you and our listeners that this is a safe space. And I invite you to keep me accountable, to being respectful and nonjudgmental. And definitely let me know if I say or pronounce anything incorrectly.

Ali: Sounds good.

Rosie: Okay. So Ali this was all your idea. We do this podcast together, and I've so much that I'm interested to learn from you. So why don't you just kick us off and tell us a little bit more about your background? Like where were you before coming to Canada?

Ali: Sure. So I've been an immigrant all my life. I was born in the Middle East, then we moved to Pakistan and then moved to Canada in 2008. So in Pakistan, before 2008, professionally I was working at KPMG as an auditor. And I was at that time a chartered certified accountant. An ACCA. So yeah we moved to Canada in 2008, landed in Toronto and I still remember my first day in Canada. You took a taxi from Pearson that drove all the way through downtown and the Gardiner Expressway, and we got off at a rundown place, right opposite to the Donlands subway station. I think it's still there. It's funny. As we entered into that building, I remembered someone just screaming, Help! I'm stuck in the elevator. Call the manager. That was my first you know, experience here. But we didn't care. There was an amazing pizza joint two minutes from where we were and that's all we cared for. 

Rosie: What was the pizza joint? Do you remember?

Ali: Yeah, it's called Medina Halal Pizza. It's still there in the neighborhood, still going strong.

Rosie: I gotta check that out.

Ali: Yeah. They have good pizza. So we were very excited about it. You know, we were young and all we cared about was pizza. We didn't care about how the place looked like. Pizza, that matters.

Rosie: Why did you, I guess your parents moved you, right? Because you were young. Why did they decide to come here?

Ali: At that time. I was in my twenties, so younger. But my parents, they applied for immigration when we were teenagers, right. But this whole process took a lot of time after 2001 happened and the unfortunate events of 2001, and then later on things were more difficult.

So for them, it took a long time to come to Canada. And as most immigrants we have our grandparents, so my grandparents were living in Pakistan. My dad's the only son and from culture, it's the responsibility of the son to take care of the parents.

So it took us a long time to come here and the immigration took 10 years. So 10 years later we were in Canada. So I didn't make a conscious decision, but my parents did and I'm thankful to them.

Rosie: Wow, it's interesting that you said they applied before 2001 before the attack on the World Trade Center. And I mean, I'm sure it was hard to get in even before, but I just imagined that there would have been a lot of anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistani, sentiments anti Middle East sentiment. Do you know what your parents' experience was like going through immigration after 2001?

Ali: They were kind enough to shelter us from how they felt. They didn't share a lot as to how they were feeling, what they were facing, but all we know is when we applied for immigration, they were required to come to UK to give an interview before they were allowed to come here or, you know, they had to go to a different country because the embassies were closed.

So they had to go to a different country for an interview, but nobody would give them a visa to come to the country and just even have that interview. My mom, she covers her face and they just pointed at my mom and said, we can't let her in. 

Rosie: Because she was wearing a niqab.

Ali: Yeah and it's interesting to me, it's her own choice. Like, you know, when we were growing up, we weren't that religious, but they sheltered us from it. My dad always said you can't put a price tag on experience. I want you to experience things yourself.

Rosie: Honestly, I feel really struck by your parents courage and even the fact that they still wanted to come here. I mean, we'll get into what your Canadian experience was like. But I think that says a lot about your family's resilience and perseverance that even going through all that, they still thought it was a good idea to go to this foreign place. So aside from the elevators being stuck, I mean, what were some of your other first impressions after coming to Canada?

Ali: I loved it. My first experience, if you talk about the first month or two, I'm going to tell you this, we loved Dollarama. Dollarama was the place to go. Cause when you come here, you have a set amount of budget, you have to look for a job and take care of the family and all. I used to love going to Dollarama, even for teenagers, so much stuff there. And the interesting thing I found. At that time, people were really nice. You know, we would go to Walmart and I remember the way you pronounce aluminum, aluminium. All of those people will correct me. Is that what you're looking for? I'm like, yes. They would help me, this is how we pronounce it. So it was fun.  My first impressions were great. And even now I'm very happy to be a part of the Canadian society. In terms of the job and all that, that was a good learning experience. I'll put it that way. 

Rosie: Okay. So what did you learn out of looking for a job in Canada and Toronto?

Ali: So I came in August, 2008. Things were different. There was a recession going on at that time, right. So I understand there weren't that many jobs there and I'll just share the story of how I got my first job. You know, I'm very thankful for United Way. For funding all these neighborhood offices that you have. Even if you look right now outside of Donland Station, you'll see Woodgreen Community Services. So the Woodgreen Community Services, what they do is they would look at your resume. They'll change it for you. They'll help you with interviews and all that. So I'm very thankful for them to help me with that, to help with my resume. I already had experience from KPMG. So I thought, you know, it's a piece of cake. I'll get it. So when I started looking for a job. I would be invited for an interview and they would say, well, you're looking for KPMG, so we just wanted to check, but we need somebody with Canadian experience, right. And the interesting thing is if you're an immigrant you don't have any Canadian experience.

Rosie: Cause you're an immigrant.

Ali: Yeah. So I faced a lot of that and when I think about it, the experience I want to share is I went to this one recruiter. So you saw a job posting online. I thought, you know what? I could do all that. I have three years of experience working for KPMG. I know audit. I can do that. I applied and they called me over for an interview. I remember it was a beautiful building in North York. I went there and as I sat on that chair in the meeting room, The recruiter said, let me be very clear. We don't have a job, the reason we do all these postings online, we want to see what the supply is and how many people we have. We just want to add to our portfolio. I was like, okay, that's fine. And then that person wouldn't even talk about accounting at all. After that, the recruiter made a comment on which do you have a steel toe boot? I'm like, why do you need a boot? Like, you know, she's like, well, we have a job in a factory. Would you like to work in a factory?

Rosie: Oh, my goodness.

Ali: I'm like, Do you want to even talk about accounting at all. It's on my resume. She said, well, there's no job. Like there are no accounting jobs. Do you want to work in a factory? And to be very honest I said, yes. Cause I wanted a job it was four months. I didn't come here with a lot of money. My parents went back because my grandparents were sick, so they went back within a couple of months. So I was by myself. I needed to pay my bills. 

I went to Woodgreen Community Services and Andre was his name. The person who was my counselor was helping me with all that, he said no, he's like, there's no way you're working in a factory because what's going to happen is. You are going to work nine to five in a factory, and then you would not get a chance to apply for a job. To the job you want. The career you want to pursue. And, you know, I said fine. The recruiter was really upset. The recruiter did meet me and the recruiter said, you know, there are no jobs. You have to pay your bills. So you better accept it. So I’m like, no, no. I remember I got off and I'm like, you know, I’ll go downtown, try the old way, drop my resumes in the offices I see. And see if somebody needs an accountant. 

And I stopped at this one convenience store. 7-11. I'm like, can I have a coffee? And the manager there, he saw me like I was wearing a suit. I had a messenger bag, I put resumes in my bag and he's like, Hey, tell me about yourself. What do you do? And all that. And then I'm like I just came here four months ago. I'm looking for a job as an accountant, as an auditor. And he's like, do you have any education? I’m like, yeah man, I'm a chartered certified accountant.

He's like, you know what? You need to pay your bills. I need an accountant to work on a cash register. I'm like, you know what? You're honest. And he says I'll give you the shift that starts from three to eleven. So you can look for a job in the morning. But then you can work later here so you can pay your bills and I'm like, you know what? I'll take it. Cause you're so nice to me. And that's how I got my first odd job.

Rosie: Sorry I have to ask, was this person who offered you the job? Was he white?

Ali: No, no. He wasn't. But I got that job and that was again, just to pay my bills. And it’s fun of my bosses, you know, I love him to death and he held us to like, I didn't see that in your resume. I said it’s not on my resume, not on my LinkedIn if you're looking for it. And then there was this other gentleman by the name of Jay Palmer. He owns a company called HR Carbon and he just posted jobs online. And then I just found his email address, his number from that posting. I would call him every month looking for a job.

Rosie: And this was an external recruiter or he worked in a company?

Ali: It was a company. So there was a company who posted a position as a consultant I would call them every month right. And then like, I want a job. Can we talk? Jay was amazing. And I think after five months he just gave up and he said, listen, I'll be honest with you. I know you want Canadian experience. I can give you Canadian experience, but you need to understand it's a small firm. A small firm that had great ambitions.

But we can't pay you until we have a client. And I said, that's fine. I went to Woodgreen Community Services and there's something I want all your listeners to know. Woodgreen Community Services through United Way, has a program in which if you find a volunteer job that doesn't pay you, Woodgreen can pay you minimum wage.

So you get to do your job nine to five in a field you want to, but Woodgreen would pay you for that. And I worked there for three months. 

Rosie: And what type of job was it Ali?

Ali: At that time, entities were trying to implement IFRS. So it was an IFRS implementation job.

Rosie: Oh for our non-accountants. What is IFRS?

Ali: It's International Financial Reporting Standards. So it's the way your financial statements look like. So I have that experience in Pakistan. So I was helping Jay. Preparing his materials doing some research as to what would be the impact of those standards in Canada. So I did that for three months and three months later, I got a job in Ottawa at the Royal Canadian Mint, which is a crown corporation.

Rosie: How did you get that job?

Ali: It's interesting. I got three months of Canadian experience and I started getting calls. 

Rosie: Wow. 

Ali: It's just that, three months, put it in my resume, got a call through a recruiter. I see you have Canadian experience. Do you want to work for the Royal Canadian Mint?

Rosie: Wow. 

Ali: Yeah, that's all

Rosie: In Pakistan, were you guys already using IFRS before you came to Canada?

Ali: Yep. So first my education is my ACCA. It's like a masters in IFRS. You know IFRS in Pakistan, all the multi-nationals follow IFRS. So when I was in KPMG, I was involved in auditing entities that followed IFRS.

Rosie: So really technically you were actually ahead of many Canadians because we hadn't even implemented IFRS yet in Canada, but you'd been doing it in your work. And yet all employers seem to be focused on, was, you don't have Canadian experience. You don't have Canadian experience.

Ali:  I won't say ahead of all Canadians, but I had a skill that was new in Canada and it's just the Canadian experience. And that's something that now, you know I reflect on 14 years later, right. Does it even make sense? And to be very honest, it's just my view. I don't think so. Like you, you have more experience than me and you have been in the recruitment sector, you've worked at not-for-profit and multinationals. I don't think Canadian experience means anything in the accounting world, because if you think about it, in Canada, we use accounting standards that are developed internationally, right?

For example, in Canada, all the public sector entities. So the entities that are listed in your Toronto Stock Exchange, if you have a crown corporation, they all follow IFRS that's actually developed internationally. So it's developed by countries, by people who don't have Canadian experience. So you're okay with following their standards, but you're not okay with getting those people in the workforce, right. If you're Canadian government, when you apply for immigration, all your education documents go through a rigorous process in which they do evaluate. 

So I have mixed feelings about the Canadian experience. I'll start with saying, it's a cliche, but you know how people say “things in my times were different.” So things in my time, in 2008 were different. People were very much focused on Canadian experience. But it all goes back to in Canada you are okay with using standards that are developed by accountants that have no Canadian experience. You're okay with following that so why do you need a Canadian experience? We need to be global. We need to stop all these hurdles that we require people to have. Why would you think that a person who worked in the big four firm. An immigrant who worked in other parts of the world, following the same internal controls, same processes is okay to work there, but it's not okay to work in Canada. So I think it’s something, all CPAs, we need to think about it and reflect on it. Why are we doing this? Why are we creating this unnecessary hurdle? Is it just because we think, Oh, everybody needs to have a Canadian CPA, a Canadian education. But this education, whatever education they have is actually vetted by the government of Canada through the immigration process. So there's a sort of a disconnect that we need to look at. 

Rosie: So even when you got your first job in Ottawa at the Mint, you only had at that point, about three months or so, right of Canadian experience. And I can't imagine that three months of Canadian experience versus how many years you were working in Pakistan before, that somehow you gained that much more knowledge or skills in three months, then you had in like the five, ten years that you had before coming here, right. That doesn't make sense to me either. 

Ali: Frankly, I know I was as smart as my Canadian colleagues. And, you know, when I was working in Ottawa, you know, I felt included nobody ever brought that up and said, yeah, you know what? You don't have enough Canadian experience. Like once you pass that hurdle. You get your interview through HR and once you cross your HR interview, things are fine. 

Rosie: So it's interesting. You use that word included too. So you felt included in Ottawa, but that was after you got some Canadian experience that you felt that way. Like, the whole job process to me sounds very exclusive. What additional experiences have you had that made you feel included or excluded?

Ali: So in terms of being included, I would say I was very lucky to work with amazing bosses, right? They were all great people. So they made an effort to make me feel included. When I joined Canadian Blood Services, My boss was a guy from the UK, Anthony. He's an immigrant too. So we connected with each other. And then later on, even when he left the organization and we were looking for another boss. I went to my CFO and said, He's not here. And I want an opportunity to present at the board level. She didn't say no, she said sure. And that's the moment I felt very included. Inclusivity is not just, oh, we'll just add more people of color. Or people who speak differently within the workforce. It's about the opportunity you provide them. So at Canadian Blood Services, my CFO was really amazing. She said, sure, go ahead. And you know, even in the feedback that she provided to me, it's not like, ah, can you speak more clearly or it wasn't like that it's, you know, it's an onus on people. You need to pay attention to what he is saying so then you can understand. And the onus is on you to do it. It's enough of asking people to correct their accents and all that. That's how the person is. You make an effort to listen to him, right? 

Rosie: I don't have any trouble understanding you. Were you getting that feedback in other jobs that, Oh, you know Ali, your accent is too thick or you need to speak more clearly.

Ali: So it's funny. Nobody will come out and say it to you. It's hard for me to understand your accent. It's the subtle things. Like for example, you wouldn't get an opportunity to present at a conference. Somebody will always tag along with you and add something at the end to say what we mean is. And just to clarify what Ali is saying is, you know, it's the subtle hints.

There's one example, in your career, you're required to write position papers in accounting. And what happens is, you know, you write a document and then you always ask somebody to proofread a document, right? You always want somebody to read it? I think that's a common practice. What happens is, if English is your second language, somebody will read your document and say “Maybe in your language, that's how it's done, but in English, the structure needs to be different.” And that's something that's sometimes like, Okay, that was uncalled for. You could just ask me to add "a" there or "the" there so you don't have to say “Maybe in your language or maybe where you're from, that's how it's done.” So that has happened in my career and that's where I felt very discouraged and felt discriminated against. Like the idea is you treat me equally and you didn't. You had to make a point in your language, where you're from, it's different.  

Rosie: And just for some context too, because. I think your English is great. It doesn't sound like Canadian English, whatever that means. White English really. Do you consider English not your language? What level of English schooling or what have you, did you get in Pakistan?

Ali: In Pakistan, the schooling is all done in English. So we don't speak English. But all of our books are in English. We read in English, we write in English. We have Urdu, which is our mother tongue, we call it. We know how to write. We speak that language, but we know English because we write and we read in it. So yeah, it's an accent. It's something, unfortunately it's just there. I'm not planning to work in Hollywood, so I wouldn't change my accent. It's fine. It's just a matter of, you know, it's perception. You see a person looking different, right. And he's speaking English.

Rosie: You know, I think you're totally right. And honestly I'll say it because I've also seen and heard a lot too, but when people say you don't have any Canadian experience, really what they're talking about is race, not nationality, right. Nobody will admit it, or nobody says it point blank. Like you mentioned, it's what I think the fields of equity and diversity inclusion, they would call microaggressions where they're making kind of subtle hints about stuff, but you get it. You know what they're trying to say. I've heard from lots of immigrants when they come to Canada, that they didn't realize X about themselves until they left their country. And then people started pointing these out to them. Like an example might be, an immigrant says, I didn't think I had an accent until I came to Canada and everyone starts commenting on my accent. Are there any things Ali for you that your like, I wouldn't identify this about myself until I came here. And you started making that identity for me.

Ali: Yeah. I feel now, if you look at the job postings they have a column for South Asians, right. Before it was, are you Middle Eastern or are you Asian? And I do apologize about my geography, but I didn't know there was a continent called Middle Eastern. And then, you know, so I was like, okay, I am not Middle Eastern because I knew where the Middle East is so I'm Asian. But they say no, no, no, you're not Asian. Like why? Why am I not Asian? Like no, no, Asian means something else. So I had to find my own identity. You see?  Where do I fit? And sometimes I had to write Middle Eastern. I'm not Middle Eastern. I'm Pakistani. 

So if you're in Pakistan, I'm a Pakistani. And if somebody comes from India to Pakistan, you're Indian. If somebody from China comes to Pakistan, you're Chinese, right? And if someone from the US comes to Pakistan, regardless of the skin color we'll just say he's an American. You could be a Brown person like me coming from the United States to Pakistan and you'll say, oh, he's in America, right. People self identify themselves as those. The thing is we don't label people to who they are. We wait for them to identify themselves.

Rosie: Ali, thank you so much for sharing so much of your story. They were entertaining. And yet to the point. I learned a lot and definitely I feel like my lens has been changed by you. Is there any thing that we haven't covered that you wanted to really get across or any key message that you really want our listener and especially any new immigrants to hear?

Ali: Sure. So what I would say is, my experience doesn't mean that's how the general population is. As I've mentioned in this podcast, I've felt so included. Like I was in Ottawa for eight, nine years. So I've lived there for most of my Canadian life. I felt I was included.  I never felt left out. And it's just sometimes you get one off experiences that people remember, oh, wait, that was not okay. But generally I would say to new immigrants. It's a beautiful country. People are great. And I think it's more onus on people who live here, to be aware. So I think it's now a matter of trying to think about what other sorts of ways in which we discriminate against certain people and try to take that away. And you know what, it's time for people to actually call people out. Because I feel sometimes like, to be very honest, the person who said to me, “maybe in your language.” I don't think that person was racist, but it's just something that person said. I think we need to call people out to say, okay, that's not okay. And that's how you made me feel. That's how your comment made me feel. And that's going to stop that. So you have to stop it when that happens.

Rosie: Wow. That's really powerful. And I think what you said also is a really great reminder, especially to employers who are still wondering or thinking, but doesn't my job need this technical knowledge that is Canadian specific knowledge. You've made many points already about why that's not necessarily the case, even when it comes to regulations that are potentially different by country.

But what you just said about, you know, that you didn't think that person was a racist, but they still said something racist to you, right. And I think that's what also, we need to know. We meaning all of us. Cause it happens to all of us. None of us want to believe that we're racist and probably we're not racist people, but we do racist things.

So non-racist people can still do racist things. And Ibram X Kendi says in his book How To Be An Anti-Racist. If you're not anti-racist, you're racist. But it's about what you do and say, not about who you are as a person. So you can change what you do and say. And I think your callout is, let's start changing what we do and say.

Ali: Yeah. And you know, most of my English I've learned through school and Hollywood movies. I would say calling a spade a spade. Yeah.

Rosie: Awesome. You know, I did think of just one more thing I wanted to ask you. Now with COVID. I'm not sure, I haven't looked at numbers, so I don't know exactly how it compares to 2008, but I think the job situation is not that different from your experience when you started looking where there's a lot more people looking for jobs than there are jobs. It's on the employers to change their evaluation criteria and be less focused on this whole Canadian experience.

But whether people are immigrants or not, it's a tough time. Do you have any suggestions on how people can explain to these employers that are maybe not quite as forward-thinking, as we'd like them to be yet about whatever they lack? Like any tips for people currently looking for jobs that may not be the perfect looking fit for what employers have.

Ali: Yep. So what I would say is. Reach out to people, you know, you would remember your dad, your grandfather say, oh, in our times you would call people up. We would go to the offices. You can't go to the offices. But you can still call people up. So I would suggest people apply for a job and then reach out to people on LinkedIn. They can have a message, Hey, you have applied for this job, you know, I want to hear your perspective. What do you think? This is my resume. Because that couple of paragraphs that you write. When they read it, they’ll be like, okay. He knows how to write. And that takes away that first hurdle. So, you know, I always say, apply for a job and then reach out. Reach out to people on LinkedIn. Call them up, send them emails, network and reach out network and reach out.

Rosie: Awesome. Thank you. You're doing your own Woodgreen services right here on this podcast for people. Thanks Ali. 

Ali: Good. Now it's time for me to ask you questions.

Rosie: Great. And we'll do that on the next episode. So we are going to do, I love that idea. This episode has been all focused on you. And on the next one, we'll still focus on you, but you're going to be asking me the question. So that will be part two of the series around recruiting. Well, around everything really. Ali and I have talked a lot separately. We really wanted to do this podcast. So thank you again for coming on the Changing Lenses podcast. You've provided lots of amazing information, but just in case there are some follow-up questions from our listeners. Is there a way that they are allowed to get in touch with you to talk to you or comment or share?

Ali: Sure. Look me up on LinkedIn. So if you go on LinkedIn, search my name, Ali Ahmed and just write Canadian Blood Services and you'll see my beautiful face.

Rosie: Awesome. And that's Ali Ahmed, A L I  is your first name. And last name is A H M E D. And we will have the link to his full LinkedIn profile on our show notes so don't worry if you missed it, you can always go to our website, www.changinglenses.ca. You'll get all the information and the transcripts there.

So thanks again, Ali. And I will see you soon in the next episode.


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Rosie: Thanks for joining us! I hope we helped to change your lens, and expand your worldview. This episode was produced and hosted by me, with associate production by William Loo, and post-production by Cue9. Until next time, I’m Rosie Yeung, your guide to Changing Lenses.

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