Pursuing STEM careers in the "new normal"

Published February 1, 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much in our lives. Dr. Sawsan Abdul-Majid, President of Advancing New Canadian Women in Technology (ANCWT), discusses what it means to be a newcomer woman trying to establish yourself in Canada's science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields during a period of rapid change

From lockdowns to limited social gatherings, we have all experienced different challenges brought by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

But Dr. Sawsan Abdul-Majid, President, Advancing New Canadian Women in Technology (ANCWT) believes that for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), educated immigrant and refugee women who comprise her organization's clients, the pandemic has presented new opportunities in spite of its challenges. Abdul-Majid says she's witnessed her members adapt to a "new normal" for those looking to launch or advance their STEM careers.

"The pandemic has affected all our lives, both positively and negatively. It has created challenges to growth requiring adaptation to new virtual norms," says Abdul-Majid. "My observation is the pandemic has helped some newcomer women from STEM to advance. We see this in the growing interest from newcomer female candidates to join ANCWT's recent online cohorts [and return to their STEM careers in Canada]."

At the same time, Abdul-Majid has observed other newcomer professionals adapt to the "new normal" using LinkedIn Learning and other online courses to "strengthen and reshape their professional and soft-skill sets."

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Inspired by lived experience

Originally from Iraq, Abdul-Majid arrived in Canada in 1999 with degrees from three different countries, including a Ph.D. Despite the resilience and growth she's seen among skilled newcomers in the "new normal", Abdul-Majid recognizes that skilled immigrants and refugees continue to need support in pursuing their STEM career ambitions. Her organization, ANCWT, connects internationally STEM-educated newcomer women to related careers.

"In 2015, I established ANCWT to help new immigrant and refugee women, who were also engineers, get their 'feet in the door' in Canada," she says. "Although I had a Ph.D. in optical communication systems engineering [when I first arrived], I signed up for a school board course in Mississauga [in Ontario] aimed at helping immigrants' crack the workplace'. That led to a three-month internship, which led to a full-time job and led to acquiring certification as a professional engineer."

Great contributors to Canada

Abdul-Majid believes skilled immigrants and refugees "are of great value," to Canada and that her organization's client success stories are evidence of that. They include the stories of women from places like India and Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh, with skills and education in engineering and software development, who have earned positions in Canadian tech companies and the Canadian government thanks to ANCWT's assistance.

In the "new normal", Abdul-Majid indicates one of the biggest factors in achieving STEM career success as a newcomer is seeking and finding the right supports, the individuals and organizations who can help you on your career journey.

"I’m a big believer that if you meet the right people, that’s what you need to succeed as a newcomer,” she says.

Abdul-Majid calls supporting skilled newcomer women “the mission of her organization.”

It’s a commitment ANCWT and Windmill Microlending share in common.

If you are a STEM-educated immigrant or refugee woman looking to build your professional network or learn more about the ANCWT program, visit their website.  

Categorized in: Career Success and Planning, In-demand Jobs,