Former Client Keeps Paying it Forward

Barbara Castro was on a successful career track in Mexico City by the time she was in her late 20’s. She was a talented graphic designer working for well-established organizations in the marketing, advertising and event planning industries.

But a long-distance romance, and the need to find out if the relationship was the real deal, was a strong enough pull that Barbara quit her job, sold her possessions, and moved to Canada.

She arrived Halloween night in 2011 with a plan to improve her English level while exploring her new relationship, and Vancouver. She fell in love with both, and married within nine months of her arrival.

Soon afterwards, with functional English-language skills, Barbara began looking for work. Despite her willingness to start at the bottom and rebuild her career, she was unable to find a job in her field and eventually took a job as a nanny.

Barbara and her husband applied for permanent residency under the program now known as Express Entry.  They were highly qualified and thought the application was assured, so it was a shock when they were told they were not eligible and had one week to leave the country!  A lawyer helped them discover an error in the application process and within 8 months the young couple were back in Vancouver with permanent residency status.

Once again, Barbara attempted to find work in her field but ended up taking another position as a nanny.

Normally a vibrant and energetic woman with a positive attitude, Barbara found her outlook becoming darker, and was diagnosed with depression within a year of her return to Canada. She began seeing a counsellor regularly and credits the Existential Analysis therapy with changing her life. 

“I recognized that without family and friends here, I felt alone.  That all my work experience in Mexico didn’t matter here.  I didn’t feel valued at all.

 “But in working with my counsellor, I came to realize, on a deeper level, who Barbara is, and this discovery gave new meaning to my life.” 

Re-energized, Barbara became a volunteer at MOSAIC in early 2013.  She got a part-time position at Langara College as a project coordinator and began working with a career mentor in MOSAIC’s Workplace Connections program.

The program attempts to match clients with mentors in the same field, but as there were no mentors in the graphic design field, Barbara worked with an HR professional instead, who provided invaluable advice on how to find work.

Within a few months, Barbara got a job in her area of expertise – a four-month contract with Sugoi Performance, a well-known local sports apparel brand. At the end of her contract, her supervisor recommended Barbara to replace her during a maternity leave. Suddenly her previous experience in Mexico became valuable again, as she now supervised a team of 12 designers.

Her career at Sugoi continued to thrive – her former supervisor returned but only on a part-time basis so Barbara continued on in the supervisory role. In 2016, she was promoted to the position of manager of the art department and she retained this position until the fall of 2019.

Personally, Barbara had thrived as well.  She took more courses to improve her English language skills, and management and leadership courses to hone her professional skills.

She also became a volunteer mentor at MOSAIC.  “When I got my first full-time job, I promised myself I would support newcomers because I didn’t want anyone else to have the experience I did.” As a mentor, Barbara has now worked with several newcomers, the majority in her professional field.

But that’s not all Barbara has done to assist MOSAIC.

After obtaining leadership credentials from a Colorado university, Barbara learned about a new program called “Search Inside Yourself”.  Developed at Google by experts in neuroscience, and psychology, the program teaches practical leadership, mindfulness and emotional intelligence tools.

Barbara was intrigued, and although the course was extremely costly, applied for admission to learn to administer this innovative training.  She was turned down but conversely, this only made her more determined to be admitted.  She worked harder on her application the following year and was accepted into the program for 2019, which took place at San Francisco and online.

For completion of the program, students are required to complete a practicum, which is the delivery of two workshops, which are each two full days, training a cohort of 30 people.

Barbara offered her practicum workshops to MOSAIC staff, which was over-registered with a waiting list.

The feedback has been enthusiastic and positive. Here is a testimonial from one of the participants:

“Most of the participants seemed to be engaged and shared that they had moments of realization. They were curious and asked questions. I have chatted with a few after the workshop and they mentioned that they have felt the calmness and focus even days after the workshop. They added that their goal is to use the techniques in their professional and personal life. Same is true for me!”

Barbara is excited to explore new possibilities while connecting “dots and experiences” from her past. Her goal — to inspire others to see how any experience in life can be turned into a learning lesson, an opportunity for growth, and a possibility for expansion – has really been influenced by the challenges in her own settlement journey and her ability to transcend those challenges and thrive as a result.

 “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future” – Steve Jobs