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People of Momentum: Dapo’s Story

Those who attended Momentum’s annual Business Breakfast on March 1st were fortunate to hear the personal story of Dapo, a newcomer to Calgary who found his way into a successful IT Career in Canada.

In his own words, this is Dapo’s speech.

There are certain events and days that define our life stories. For me and my family, one of those is the day we arrived in Calgary. It was September 7, 2012. Our Air Canada flight from Frankfurt, Germany touched down at YYC Calgary International @ 3:15pm Calgary local time. It was a dream come true, a dream we had for 19 years.

I know we don’t look happy in this picture, but we were really tired!

When we came to Calgary, we left everything that defined us…our families, friends, culture, and a rewarding career and businesses. We left the familiar and comfortable in search of our dream.

The excitement of living in Canada died down within six weeks of arrival, and our financial resources ran out. Finding a job immediately was therefore not negotiable. I had a singular objective to feed my family and keep them happy. Nothing else mattered.

When I couldn’t find a professional IT job, I found one at a call center. I earned $10 an hour, worked a 4 hr shift, traveled 3 hrs and spent $20 each day on food and transport. I worked there for a month, then the organization went out of business. Next, I started at Safeway as a grocery clerk working nights, I earned $13.23 per hour. I also got a second job at Calgary Airport. In a typical day I would work for 2 hours at the airport, work at Safeway for 8 hours, I would sleep for about 4 hours and then pursue my IT career during the day. Then I would do it all over again.

As you can imagine, it was difficult for me to be there for my family. I hardly saw my kids. When I got back from work, the kids were still in bed and when I woke up, they were gone to school. As a father and a husband. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t look at my children in the eye and got irritated easily. My wife and I fought for no reason.

One day, referring to me in my presence, my eldest son turned to his mum and asked, “Why is he always frowning?” I was losing my family while fighting to provide for them financially.

Why was it so painful? Because I thought I was prepared.

I had managed international IT projects and I had two Canadian IT certifications. Yet without Canadian experience, employers were not interested in me. Aside from feeling terrible at home, I lost confidence in my skills.

Then a friend introduced me to Momentum. They gave me a loan of $2,000 dollars that I invested in IT training – I doubted my skill and wanted to understand how business was practised in Canada. When I attended the training I realized nothing was different. Finally, I had my confidence back, I knew that I could deliver well on any job. Thank you, Momentum for rescuing my family when we needed it the most.

Then through a networking connection, Shaw took a bet on me and hired me exactly 9 months after my arrival in Canada.

With an attractive income, the sky was the limit for my family. I earned a lot of respect for the quality of my work and things were looking up.

In 2015, I was head hunted by another company as a senior IT Business Analyst. With a generous income, I felt that finally, coming to Canada was not a mistake. Life was beautiful.

But ‘Murphy’ was lurking around. The recession hit and on September 30, 2015, myself and twelve other people lost our jobs. September 30 is also my wife’s birthday. It was shocking, painful and completely destabilizing. It had never happened to me before. That night, I ended the day with drinks, pictures and a beautiful cake. I didn’t tell my wife until the next day.

You may wonder why my wife’s birthday cake looks like a sewing machine. It’s because it is her number #1 tool of trade. She trained at Olds College and completed Momentum’s Self-Employment program.

Nine months ago, she moved her fashion design business out of our basement to a commercial property and will be hiring soon to help her business grow.

Since I no longer had a 9-5 job and income, I was worried stiff about my children’s School fees. They were enrolled in a private school and it would break their hearts to pull them out. In order to keep us together, I had to take out retirement savings funds – and I lost money. A lot. But what else could I do?

Amid everything, I organized a conference called “Arise Calgary” to help unemployed Calgarians rise above their challenges.

Because I was equally jobless too, I felt like an impostor. There was a nagging voice saying “who do you think you are?”, “why should people listen to you?”, and “what if no one shows up?” Thankfully 230 people did show up and I am happy that despite my fear, I did it anyway.

Momentum’s self-employment team spoke at the Arise Conference. And even though I organized this event for others, I decided to take my own advice and start a business.

I enrolled in the Momentum Self Employment Program, where I got clarity on what I really wanted to do and above all, learned that the MAJOR weapon of entrepreneurs is our mindset. Thanks to Jess, the Momentum facilitator, I had a major shift in the way I think that helped move my business forward.

In 2016, I got a big break with a major contract and it has been a pleasant and rewarding journey since then. Thanks again to Momentum. For every person whose dream you fund, you are helping their friends, families, communities and even generations to come become better Canadian citizens.

After all we have been through and the challenges to provide for my family, now my definition of legacy is what I leave IN my kids and not what I leave FOR them.

What if my wife and I did not attend the Momentum programs? Your guess is as good as mine, but I can tell you we have three happy kids, two thriving businesses, and a hopeful future ahead.

I’m thankful that I got the help that I needed. I used to think that I had to be a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet before I could help others. It’s not true. Now I host a free podcast to help other immigrants adjust to life in Canada.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”

Thank you,