Who Gave You Your First Big Chance? The Women In Technology Program is Changing Lives through Opportunity
Calgary organization Making Changes Association is providing women with the skills, knowledge and confidence needed to excel in Canada’s high-demand tech industry.
By ATB Financial 7 February 2024 4 min read
For Samin Jafarpour, landing a role as a Digital Transformation Consultant with a technology company was the culmination of a series of decisions she made to create a bright future for herself, and the chance to make a change.
Originally from Iran, Samin moved to Canada a year and a half ago, leaving behind her 10-year career as a medical lab technologist. Eager to prove herself in her new home, she learned about the Women in Technology program at Making Changes Association, a Calgary-based organization that empowers more than 2,800 women each year to reach their potential through a variety of programs and services.
Says Samin, “The Women in Technology program helped me to believe that I could achieve anything, no matter where I had come from. When I look back, it’s amazing. In just a couple of years, I have moved to a new country, learned a new language, changed careers, and started a new life.”
Samin is one of 30 women who graduate every year from Making Changes’ Women in Technology Program, a free, integrated skills training program that combines employability skills upgrading, technical training and hands-on work experience to support career development for immigrant and indigenous women in Calgary. ATB is supporting the program with a $25,000 contribution.
Beyond technical skills training, the program is specifically designed to meet women where they are, combining both hard and soft skills to prepare them for careers in technology in Canada. Says Samin, “As a newcomer to Canada, sometimes I was overwhelmed with learning and navigating a new place. The program taught me the skills I needed, and it was also a wonderful refuge to talk and connect with other women who were navigating the same challenges.” She adds, “It’s truly a perfect package.”
"The technology sector is always in demand for skilled employees, as seen by the employability of the program’s graduates." says Shalzah Visram, Women In Technology Program Manager at Making Changes, “The majority of our graduates are employed in the IT and professional services sector within six months of graduating from our program.”
She says there is still a lot of work to be done to break down biases and barriers when it comes to hiring newcomers to Canada. She says, “Upwards of 95 per cent of our participants are internationally trained professionals, and all have post-secondary education, but their credentials may not be recognized in Canada. They are ambitious, resilient, eager and contribute greatly to the organizations they join as they take the next step in their career journeys.”
The women learn all aspects of web development, and gain employment in IT departments, consultancies, in the financial technology sector and on IT help desks.
Says Shalzah, “We take a holistic approach towards mentoring and teaching women in our program. We provide the most current skills training, in addition to workplace integrated learning. We help women build their confidence to work in a Canadian setting and provide them with natural networking opportunities.”
She added, “We are so grateful for the support from ATB and investing in these women who have such strong potential and determination. Their investment in our program is truly changing lives, as it is being used towards increasing our capacity to provide training to even more women in our community.”
For Making Changes Executive Director Lori James, the program encompasses the core purpose of the organization by offering a hand up instead of a hand out. She says, “We want to empower women with the tools they need to launch their career forward, and a safe place to develop and practice their leadership, communications and technology skills.”
She adds, “It’s important because these women may not have been able to access the same opportunities, and when they’re given a chance, they take it and run with it.”
Lori adds that individuals and organizations can take some simple steps to help make their workplaces more inclusive. She says, “Don’t write people off, just because their story might be different from your team or yourself. We have seen that diverse workplaces improve the bottom line, and have more effective teams.” She also adds that diversity helps create heightened awareness, empathy and new ideas that might not normally be explored.
Says Lori, “Taking small measures can make a big difference in the lives of others. It can be as simple as welcoming a new team member, inviting them for coffee or giving them a safe space to share their story. A little goes a long way.”
For Samin, she has evolved her journey from hearing about the program at Making Changes to now being one of its biggest champions. “I look at where I am today,” she says, “and I believe I can truly have it all.”
To learn more about making changes, visit makingchangesassociation.ca.