In a multicultural city like Vancouver, I can only imagine the diversity of human resources available when it comes to finding the right architect. Professional from all over the world have come to this metropolis trying to find better opportunities. However, the real scenario might be a lot more complicated, when looking for a job. Last year, I was invited to an event organized by the FTADC (Foreign Trained Architects Canada), and there I had the chance to speaking to architects and designers who told me about the barriers that have encountered in terms of career development.
It was few weeks ago, that I got the opportunity of having a conversation with Rosa Salcido, an architect since 1990, and owner of Vivid Green Architecture Inc..
Rosa was born and raised in Mexico, and came to Canada in 1994 where she has continued to practise architecture. As an immigrant, the ideal of continuing doing what she loves it was not an easy task, but she has made it. Now, Rosa is the owner of a successful architectural firm were she integrates a sustainable approach to her practice. Through the years, she has develop a deep understanding of her career what has made her feel compelled to encourage and help those who are trying to enter into the world of architecture in Vancouver.
Rosa has come across many unique challenges an immigrant must face in pursuit of their dreams. During our chat, she explained how she conquered them and now enjoys a thriving career:
Tatiana: How did Vivid Green start?
Rosa: After working for 20 years in Canada I became AIBC registered architect in 2010 and in 2011 I had the opportunity to participate in a self-employment course at Douglas College and then I invited a couple of my friends to become my partners to create a new company. We wanted to focus on sustainability and environmental care. However, after a while, my friends couldn’t bear the fact that… it is hard to start a company, it is not an easy road. And also, you don’t make much money for the first year, so my friends decided to leave and they went back to work for established architectural companies. I ended up being the sole owner and thanks to the support of my husband I ran the company from home. I didn’t have much overhead and I was able to keep my business going. Now, I have staff of eight people. We keep on going with Vivid Green’s dream that we will apply sustainable strategies to all our projects. It’s hard because we strive to use clean technology and to build energy efficient buildings, sometimes that entails an added cost that most developers don’t want to spend on.
Tatiana: What have been the challenges you have encountered along your career as an immigrant woman in Canada?
Rosa: Registration to certify your studies from other countries. You have to study a lot, you have to put a lot of effort to be able to be equal to people that studied here. It takes commitment but it can be done. It took me three years. That would be the first challenge.
Then, the second one is to be able to find job in Canada. You are always required to have experience from local firms. I got a job with a design build firm where I got the experience to start working with other firms. Most of my career, I have done commercial projects. I was only until the last five to six years that I started working on residential projects as well.
Tatiana: I have been told you are interested in helping other professionals that are struggling with their careers in the field of architecture, what can you tell me about this?
Rosa: When I started hiring people I committed to provide training to employees to ensure good performance even if they did not have local experience I know many of the architecture firms are always asking to have local experience as prerequisite for the job. At Vivid Green we are working with the software called Revit which is new in many of the firms. I make sure that all the employees get trained on Revit by sponsoring courses and also for them to learn as they go by practicing in house Some of the people I have hired are new comers to Canada, or students coming out of BCIT, with lots of skills that can be applied to the practice of architecture in Canada. I use their skill and they also learn from the job.
Tatiana: What made you start doing this? What are you trying to achieve?
Rosa: Because of the experience I had when first looking for a job. It was hard for me at the beginning. I know that a lot of people keep on looking for an opportunity in Architectural firms but they are not successful because they don’t have local experience. I tell my employees: “Even if you stay with this company for a year, two years whenever you move on you will have the experience gained at Vivid Green and you will not be stuck in a haze of finding a job again.
My main goal is definitely to keep all employees once there are trained, that will help the company growing and we will have a team that is skilled and ready to face all challenges that come with every new project. We all came from different countries and we can apply skills and experience in Canada.
Tatiana: From your experience, what could you recommend to new comers or those who are looking for an opportunity to develop their skills, their career in Architecture?
Rosa: The first thing is, they will have to study. Most architects coming from another countries –including myself, are not familiar methods and materials use in Canada. The use of wood is very unknown in some countries, but Canada is almost all wood construction. Also the metric system versus the imperial system for measurements. Some people coming from abroad have no idea about the imperial system, and most of the construction in Canada it’s done in imperial units: inches and feet.
Familiarizing oneself with the Canadian methods of construction, Canadian software, and Canadian measurement system would be the first thing that people have to do. Also, being fluent in English, is very important, taking English courses is many times essential to be in the field, because if your English is not good you cannot understand what you have to do.
Tatiana: Now, speaking specifically of the Latin-American community here in Vancouver, what could you say to them?
We tend to gather with people that speak our own language, and that’s not beneficial in the professional world. Don’t miss the opportunity of becoming part of Canadian culture. We have to speak English, we have to develop ourselves as part of the professional world by talking to anybody in English.
My advice will be to do not relegate yourself. Don’t feel less. Do not separate yourself from the rest. Immerse in the culture.
I love the multiculturalism of the city, I love that my company has people with different backgrounds. It is very important to learn from other cultures, to embrace them…
I don’t know if it is just my idea, but I feel that sometimes because we are coming from third world countries we feel less, and we shouldn’t. We are equal, we have very good standards for professional studies, and we have to incorporate to the Canadian culture.
Tatiana: Are there any particular events that you think could be a good fit for those looking for developing their career?
Rosa: Yes, there are some events, specially for the architectural community, some of them are free events. Every February, at the Vancouver Convention Centre, takes place the largest tradeshow and conferences called Buildex. That one for example can be free if you register with time. There is also the Interior Design Show West or the conferences at the Architectural Institute of BC, that in many cases are free. The Woman in Architecture Vancouver or the events that Hortensia Moreno organizes at Foreign Trained Architects Canada.
The good thing about this events is that increases the knowledge on the materials and methods in order to stay up-to-date.
Stay connected, stay in touch, and grow your network.
Thank you Rosa and Hortensia for the great job you do.