Credit to Author: Canadian Immigrant| Date: Wed, 27 May 2020 20:07:06 +0000
My name is Diogène Ntirandekura. My parents were born in Burundi and fled the country to go Belgium in the seventies. I am born and raised in Brussels, Belgium as a United Nations refugee.
I became Belgian while I was a teenager and I graduated in international trade from a public college in Brussels. I’d always been interested in studying something that would help me to travel.
I was lucky to study in a period in which higher education was affordable for low-income families. I benefited from government programs and always saw education as a privilege for an immigrant, given that my parents didn’t have the chance to share the same classroom as the people from Belgium.
And right after my studies, I went to India for a five-month internship. It was a whole new life experience: I was in New Delhi, working as a sales representative for a company exporting natural stones to Europe.
I came back to Belgium and started rather randomly in Information Technology consulting, as a SAP consultant for IBM. Thanks to this job, I kept travelling to various places in Europe. SAP is a business management software used to run a company’s operations from a single database.
My first trip to Canada
I came to Quebec City to visit my sister in the summer of 2010 and I then had the chance to visit Sault-Sainte-Marie, Toronto, the Niagara Falls and last but not least Montreal.
I quickly fell in the love with the city. Montreal has a unique energy that makes you feel immediately at home.
I loved many aspects: the vibrant city, lots of cultural events, concerts, outdoor shows, bilingual identity, safety, and the hospitality of Canadian people. I then decided that I would come back to live in Montreal at least for a couple of years.
Fast forward to 2013, I came back to Montreal with a holiday-work permit granted to Belgian youth. Work wise, I had the chance to transfer from my current employer’s Belgian office to their Montreal office which eased up my economic integration into the country. I had the chance to work on SAP implementation projects in Calgary, Toronto and Quebec.
Becoming an immigrant entrepreneur
Canada’s technology industry is filled with lots of opportunities. A lot of small and medium consulting companies are set up and grow fast. Seeing this fueled my desire to become an entrepreneur and rely on myself to earn an income.
After taking on some coaching, I decided to become an independent IT consultant and created ERP Happy. I chose the name to create an association to a positive emotion rather that to the serious task of selecting and implementing a new CRM or ERP system.
Even though I am an immigrant, I told myself that I would do more networking at the start, but that I would find a contract in some time. And that’s actually what happened.
I had to learn a lot about managing contracts, client relationships, separating business and personal finances, etc. I made a few mistakes on the way but I would have never grown as much if I stayed on as an employee. I now feel more freedom to express my creativity and abilities, even as an immigrant in Canada.
In addition to the company, I have also created a podcast called Consulting Lifestyle where I invite B2B consultants to share their stories and strategies. Today, I still live in Montreal, am a Canadian citizen, and grateful to live in this wonderful country.
My advice to other entrepreneurs would be to take a leap of faith, network with like-minded people and in your industry, enquire about regulations that affect your industry, but know that it’s possible to make it as an immigrant entrepreneur in Canada. There are a lot of programs addressing minority entrepreneurs at the federal, provincial and sometimes municipal level.