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“In those early days I had to put my pride aside because I had a cushy life back home and this was such a struggle,” says Satish Thakkar


Canada was his top choice because it was known as a peaceful country that was less driven by political concerns than


other options. But although Ong hoped to move to Toronto, where he had friends whom he had already visited, his immigra- tion consultant told him that given the city’s popularity, the wait time would be at least 48 months. So aſter the consultant sug- gested a six-month fast-track through Manitoba’s Provincial Nominee Program, Ong took the plunge in 2009 and relocated his family to Winnipeg, where he knew no one. When he arrived in Canada, Ong had a bachelor’s de-


gree in accounting and an MBA from the Philippines, along with years of experience running a business. At a workplace training session that he attended early on, he was encouraged to pursue a CGA — which he did. Aſter about a year, he also landed a full- time job with Great-West Life Assurance Co., first as a senior corporate actuarial analyst, then as a senior capital manage- ment analyst. Eventually, he learned about the CMA and went on to complete the designation through the strategic leadership program. It was during an orientation session with a group of CMA


candidates, where Ong was speaking about his experiences in securing his accreditation, that the manager of a network for visible minorities called Career Gateway Program noticed him. Unbeknownst to Ong, she forwarded his resumé to the prov- ince. “It was a complete surprise when they called me for an


Satish Thakkar, president, Excelsior Financial Group (Brampton, Ont.)


Back in Delhi in 1995, Satish Thakkar owned a small accounting firm that was flourishing. But since he was only 27 years old and single, he had aspirations to see much more of the world. A friend’s uncle told him about the opportunities in Canada and Thakkar decided to check them out for himself. With a CA desig- nation and three years’ experience in public practice, he figured he’d have no trouble finding a good accounting job elsewhere. But first his family insisted he get married. Thakkar’s arranged bride, Rimple, had already moved to


Toronto a year earlier with her siblings and parents, so his accommodations were set. With a working wife in the country already, getting a visa took only six months. He remembers landing in Toronto in June 1996 and as his first order of business, leasing himself a NAC computer for $3,800 a year. “I had that computer for a very long time and other immigrants in our rental building would come and use it over the years to make resumés and send faxes,” he recalls.


40 | CPA MAGAZINE | JUNE/JULY 2016


interview,” says Ong, who has now been with the province for four years as a financial analyst. While he is enjoying the peace and tranquillity of living in


Canada, Ong admits to difficulties in adjusting to a new, and considerably lower, standard of living. He takes home about 60% of what he used to earn in Manila City, and his family of six lives in a small old house in a less-than-desirable part of town. There are certainly no maids or drivers, either. Ong is a Canadian citizen now, but he doesn’t quite have a


sense of belonging yet. He turned 50 this year and he says he feels capable of achieving much more but lacks the support of a long-established network of colleagues and trusted friends like he had at home. “There is this glass ceiling I can’t get through,” he says. “Professional growth is difficult when you don’t have those contacts and mentors to pull you along.” That said, Ong’s wife, Myrna, has adapted well, working as an


assistant shipping manager at Benn Moss Jewellers’ head office in Winnipeg. His children are thriving too. In traditional Chinese culture, parents dictate the professional pursuits of their children, but Ong is giving his kids free rein. Paul, who is working on a master’s degree, is also indulging his passion for singing, and earned a spot on the TV show Canada’s Got Talent in 2012. “I’m very happy with all their achievements and the fact they’re doing exactly what they want,” says Ong.“I’m hopeful my time will come too.”


He put the computer to good use himself, sending out some


200 resumés to accounting firms across the Greater Toronto Area. “I got nothing because they thought I was overqualified and lacked Canadian experience,” he says. He went to the Ontario CA institute to inquire about accreditation and learned he’d have to do his articling again. “It was a big shock for me as we were training students at my CA firm back home,” he says. “I was frustrated and felt like giving up and going back.” Instead, he gave himself a pep talk and pursued his CGA,


where he was exempted from the first three of six levels of the program based on his previous experience. He also continued to look for employment, taking odd jobs, such as cleaning a bakery once a week and helping an accountant for a few days during tax season. “In those early days I had to put my pride aside because I had a cushy life back home and this was such a struggle,” he says. “My wife was working as a quality assurance person so she supported me through all of this. I owe my suc- cess to her.” Thakkar finally got a break in 1997 with a home furnishing startup where he happened to be buying furniture. He offered to


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