When she came to Calgary during her university days simply on a break to study English, Sylvia Lee would probably never have guessed the moment she stepped off the plane that her future was tied to this city. Over a decade later, she’s nurtured and developed her family and career here.
Q1. Please introduce yourself briefly.
My name is Sylvia Lee (Song, Jee Eun). I have been in Calgary since 1999. I like reading books while listening to music. I am married with 2 children.
Q2. What made you immigrate to Canada?
I came to Alberta, Canada to study English while I was still in Korean university. I met my husband to-be during this time. When we decided to get married, because he is a Korean Canadian, it made sense to live in Canada.
Q3. As an immigrant, it must be hard to get into one of Canada’s largest energy companies, which is famous for its excellent benefits. What was your effort to do it?
I work at Husky Energy as a computer system analyst. It is an energy-related company with offices in US, Canada, Indonesia and China. It employs approximately 4,100 employees in Canada.
I completed the Computer Technology diploma program at SAIT. My first job with the diploma was as a junior programmer with the City of Calgary. While I was with the City of Calgary, I continued my studies and acquired a degree in Computer Science, also from SAIT.
TOEFL and math tests were required to get accepted in the diploma program. These requirements are not to make the entrance difficult but used to evaluate if the candidate is capable of following the demands of the program. If you don’t get accepted the first time, you can request a counseling service to get advice on how to improve your chances to be successful next time around.
Q4. If you had difficulties in the work place, what were they? How did you get over them?
The Information Technology industry is certainly dominated by the male gender. Being a woman and the language barrier – English is not my first language – are my challenges in the industry.
I take my job responsibilities sincerely and seriously, and try to do my best to see tasks to completion.
Q5. Have you experienced any cultural difference in working in Canada vs. Korea?
While working in Korea, when we go for a team lunch, the manager or “Boo-Jang nim” would pay for the team and often, I did not even have to take my wallet. It is not the case in Canada. There were times when I had to borrow money from my co-worker because I would forget to bring my wallet.
Q6. When do you feel proud of being a Korean at work?
One of my managers in Canada had a negative stereotype towards Korean workers. The manager felt that Korean workers in general were lazy and took unnecessary risks. After working with me for a few years, he expressed that he had the wrong impression of Korean workers. He now thinks Koreans are very responsible and determined – not giving up until the job is complete.
I think Koreans in any industry here need to set an example and be good role models. What I do today may open doors for young people with similar aspirations in the future and at the very least, if I am able to promote Korean people in Canada, I believe I have made a positive contribution.
Q7.What are your goals in the future?
I like challenging myself. Currently, my after-work focus is on raising my two children but when they are mature enough to take care of themselves, I plan to continue my studies to advance my career. Computer is a fast-paced industry and I believe I need to keep up with new emerging technologies and keep my skills relevant.
Q8. What is your advice to people who want to join the mainstream of Canadian society?
Knock and the door will be opened to you. When I make Korean acquaintances, they always ask, “How or what did you do to get this job?” I believe it is important to have goals and set your mind to achieve them. For example, instead of worrying whether you qualify or not for a job opportunity, identify what you are lacking and position yourself to be fully qualified. Position yourself to succeed and when the opportunity presents itself, you will be ready.