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Deepening the research pool

My name is Momtaz Begum. I am from Bangladesh. I have a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and a Master of Public Health degree from the university of Melbourne, Australia. Before coming to Canada, I worked as a qualitative researcher From the very beginning, I developed a passion for this work and committed to pursuing a career in the health research sector.

I came to Canada five years ago. We welcomed a beautiful girl after a year of my arrival, which then occupied me with raising my young family. After our daughter got a little older, I decided to join the workforce and started searching for employment in my desired field. Initially, I felt positive and enthusiastic as I found more than 80% of the qualifications for the jobs advertised matched with my credentials. This positive feeling was soon replaced by frustration caused by chronic and repeated rejections/non-responses from employers. I began to blame the two-year gap I’d had taking care of my family. Acknowledging that gap, I lowered my expectations and was ready to take any type of work in the research sector. Nevertheless, the situation remained unchanged. Soon I realized that this is not a challenge unique to me, rather, newcomers in general face these challenges.

I engaged in volunteer work, took several trainings to hone my skills and continued looking for opportunities and programs that help newcomers like me with finding decent employment. Yet still I could not get my foot into that desired door.

There are many career/bridging programs available in sectors such as IT, banking , finance and many more. But not in research. Many individuals with credentials in research come to Canada with excellent intellectual prowess and a commitment to make a difference in the world. Unfortunately, their pre-migration credentials are not recognized in the majority of the cases. Many choose to, or are forced to, change their career path or drop their dreams of pursuing a research career.

I was almost derailed, getting prepared to be something else in a sector where I do not belong. Then I came across an advertisement of a fellowship that was designed by Access Alliance to help bridge careers for internationally trained researchers.

The Immigrant Insight Scholars Initiative provides the opportunity to fill in the gap of Canadian experience, network, hone research skills and get familiar with the Canadian research sector. I received great mentorship from prominent researchers in the work and health area from renowned research organizations and universities (Institute for Work and Health and McMaster University). Proactive guidance from my mentors (Dr. Stephanie Premji, Dr. Agnieszka Kosny and Dr. Yogendra Shakya) helped me regain confidence and made me capable of pursuing my research career in Canada.

I have been working in my desired field for the last three years now and I am thankful to Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services for recognizing that there is a group of professionals who needed a tailored opportunity to make a difference. I am also thankful to the researchers who seconded that initiative and embraced us to work under their supervision at their institutions.

Recently I joined as one of the advisory committee members for this great initiative. Immigrant Insight Scholar Initiative has much work ahead and I wish to make contributions to this initiative in every way possible.