Client Profile

Olukayode Solanke

When Olukayode Solanke arrived to Canada as a refugee from Nigeria a few years ago, he was determined to build a good life in Canada, one that would allow him to thrive in a job and in a field related to his former work. He held an MBA in Finance back home and had worked eight years in a bank as an information technologist and project manager. Arriving here, he was immediately struck by the perception some refugees held that he might have to settle for what he describes as blue-collar work.

“There is sometimes the view that refugees are second class citizens,” he says. To overcome what he felt is an existing bias, he realized he had to be pro-active to achieve his goals. Olukayode’s initial contact with COSTI Refugee Services would lead him in the right direction. “The person at COSTI who was helping with my settlement, referred me to another branch of the organization where they provide employment supports,” he adds.

Rala Bekdach, an Employment Facilitator with COSTI, guided and counselled him through a two-week workshop that Olukayode said would change his life. “In this program, I could learn how to do résumés, how to interact professionally and fine-tune my skills.” Rala is proud of Olukayode’s success and shared that he ended the program with top ranking in his group.

In addition to mock interviews and other hands-on lessons, the workshop provided access and invitations to job fairs, where participants could interact with employers – all things that work to improve employability. “It’s a good recruiting tool,” Rala explains. And when the two weeks are completed, Rala’s work continues. “We all work to stay connected so I can still help them with counselling.”

Whether it’s on WhatsApp or on in-person, many of the graduates of the program stay connected, build friendships, and network with each other to share news of job opportunities. A celebration typically held the last day of the workshop, allows participants to share their talents and experiences on a more personal level, and also helps cement some long-standing relationships. Olukayode is someone especially engaged. Olukayode continues to stay in touch and has also volunteered with COSTI.

It’s this level of commitment that has also contributed to Olukayode’s success. From what he describes was his “side hustle” of delivering groceries, to the career he is now building at TD Bank, Olukayode approaches every job with the same level of dedication and commitment to excellence. “Every time I made a delivery, I received a five-star rating,” he says. The valuable lesson he learned at the COSTI workshop was to approach every job with the same level of passion and professionalism. It’s a lesson that has served him very well. Shortly after the workshop, he would enroll in TD Bank’s Scrum Master program (a project management program), and within four short days of completion – with an impressive high level 10 ranking no less – he was able to secure full-time employment as an actual Scrum Master.

The role is essentially to coach specialized teams, provide guidance, thought leadership and oversight that builds agility and capacity across the organization. Olukayode’s past project management experience in Nigeria, along with his unwaveringly focused attitude to succeed helped him obtain the job at TD. He also credits his experience at COSTI with giving him the tools he needed. “The services offered by COSTI are life-changing,”, he adds. “You learn about your talents in a meaningful way, a way that helps you tap into your inner potential. The areas and tips highlighted in the workshops are things I’m still calling upon today.”