VideoCast Episode 9: From Hospitality To Digital Marketing: Diversifying Your Skillset To Work and Study and Canada
In this episode, we have Cynthia Cruz who recently finished her diploma in digital marketing at Tamwood Campus. Cynthia was previously from Spain working in the hospitality industry but wanted to move to Canada and diversify her skillset. Tune in as we talk about why she chose Canada, her experience taking digital marketing at Tamwood Campus, along with her advice for those who also want to work and study in Canada.
– Even if you don’t have experience in your field and you wanna start here, it’s a great place to start. It gives you opportunities to grow. And the thing is, here everyone starts the same.
– This is Study and Work in Canada, Tamwood’s podcast on all things international students want to know about co-op education programs in Canada. I’m Tamsin Plaxton, Tamwood’s Founder and President and an avid member of the Canadian private education sector. Welcome back to work and study in Canada. I’m really pleased to be joined today by a Tamwood student who recently graduated from the Diploma in Digital Marketing at the Tamwood campus in Vancouver. Welcome Cynthia Cruz to the show.
– Thank you. Thank you Tamsin. Thank you for inviting me. It’s my pleasure.
– Yeah, it’s really nice to have you here and I’m sure our listeners are interested to hear about your experience. So could you just start by telling us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from and what was your background before you ended up in Canada?
– Yeah, sure. So I’m originally from Peru. I was born there and then when I was 12, starting my teenage age, I just moved to Spain with my family. So I grew up in Spain, I went to university there. I did a bachelor’s degree in tourism and hospitality and then also a master’s degree in events organization, but then the pandemic hit. And as you all know, the hospitality industry was really hit by that. So I just decided to open my options and if I had to study abroad. So that’s what I see that digital marketing program and I think it was interesting and I can just, continue with my status.
– Oh, that’s great! And when did you start the program in Canada? What month and year?
– It was October last year. 2021.
– 2021. And what made you choose this program? Why digital marketing if you had a background in hospitality and tourism?
– Oh, because of that, because I saw that hospitality was so volatile because of that pandemic. So with everything that’s happening in the world, like the tourism industry was hit really hard. It’s still recovering. It’s not back there yet. So I wanted to open my options. I also had a master in events organization, so when the pandemic hit, I was working in Congress. It was a meetings and events company. But then of course all everything was canceled.
– So then I was just one year unemployed in Spain and I really wanted to move to go abroad. I been wanting that for a long time, but in that time, I think like, “Now is the time.” So I saw that Canada opened the borders for international students. So at that time when I was in Spain at my home, like I said, like it wasn’t in my plan to go back to school ’cause I already did my career.
– But then like I said, if I had to go back to study, I don’t wanna do it here in Spain, I would like to go abroad and have the experience of studying another language in a different country and something that is gonna help me move my career far faster.
– So that’s why I decided in the digital program in Tamwood.
– Oh that’s wonderful. Congratulations. That’s a big decision to leave your home, especially when you were so established. You had a degree, you had a master’s, you’d worked. Yeah. So that’s a big step to move overseas. And why Canada? What made you choose Canada? Not the UK or the US or Australia?
– It wasn’t my first option, Canada. Australia was my first option ’cause like I said, I always wanted to move abroad and to work in an English speaking country. So my plans was always with Australia. So after I finished my master’s degree, I was working for a bit and then I decided to save money so I can go to Australia. So then I just applied for the visa and I got the working holiday visa for Australia granted in February, 2020. And then in March, 2020 was when the pandemic hit. Australia had their border close for over two years and that’s when I was unemployed, I had to move back with my parents. So I was just looking at options. I was wanted to keep my hope that I could go. So Australia wasn’t being clear of any of that. And like I said, Canada did say they were gonna open the border for international students. So that wasn’t my plan at the beginning. My plan was just to go to Australia to work, not to study. But then I saw this option and I’ve actually never thought about Canada as a destination because my mind was really focused on Australia. But then I started to see videos, like looking on YouTube, on Instagram, about experiences for other international students that actually choose Canada and did studies there. And it looked really nice. It looks like an opportunity. So it just was brought up to me. And so that’s when I started to investigate about all the programs that I could do in Canada.
– Yeah. And have you been happy with your choice? I guess you have ’cause you’re extending your stay in Canada now that you’ve graduated. So what is it about Canada that you’re enjoying and why do you wanna stay longer?
– First it was like once I decided I was gonna come to Canada, I started to investigate a lot. Like first deciding the city. That was hard, right? Like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal. But then once I set up my mind in Vancouver and I came here, I just realized like one year wasn’t gonna be enough. ‘Cause when I came here without any expectations, let’s see what happens, right? If maybe I can still go to Australia the next year. But then when I came here, yeah, Canada is such a big country. Like only British Columbia is a really big province. With one year with my program, the first six months was studying and the other six months was working with the co-op, right? But so for the first six months it was just studying and working so I didn’t really have the time to explore so that’s what I decided. Yeah, no. One year is not gonna be enough. So I luckily have the option of applying for a working holiday visa because of my Spanish passport. So yeah, I said, “Let’s do it. Let’s do another year and see what happens.”
– Yeah. And so you decided to extend so you could do some more exploring. And what are you enjoying about Canada?
– I like it all. The nature is beautiful now that I spend the summer in Canada ’cause I arrived in September last year so it was just like really close to fall so a lot of rain. But once I get to explore the summer, that was really incredible. Like seeing all the nature really close to your house. Like even just getting out of your house on the way to the sky train and see the mountains. Being able to see the mountains from there is really amazing. Yeah. Also all the kind of opportunities that gives you professionally speaking, like there are a lot of job opportunities. Opportunities to grow if you know where to look and if you work hard for it. So yeah, I’m really enjoying this country. I think it’s really open minded. It’s really international. Has a lot of international people from everywhere so that makes it really open minded and it gives equal opportunities to everyone. Like here you don’t feel like you have to fight for some kind of opposition. Everyone starts the same. Even if you’re immigrant or not.
– Yeah, everyone in Canada’s an immigrant. Such a new country.
– That’s true.
– So you mentioned that you chose Canada first and then you chose Vancouver and you chose this program because you wanted, it sounds like you wanted to diversify because of the volatility in the tourism industry, you wanna diversify into another field. So this was a new field for you, marketing and digital marketing. What were the classes like and what were you learning and how did you find that?
– Yeah, it was completely new to me and that’s what I also wanted to study, right? Because I already had all my background in hospitality. I wanted to do something new, something I can also do because marketing is such a, it’s really big options where you can find. Every company of any kind needs marketing, right? So I thought like yeah even in working hospitality they also need marketing. So maybe does something merge with both industries?
– So that’s why you get me to Tamwood to study digital marketing. For me it was fun getting to know all of these, going back to school after all those years and just learning new things, right? Like especially ’cause I didn’t have any, I have a little background in marketing like the one you can study in college. But it was nice to actually understand how market works, how will you sell the product and what will you do to make it appealing for the customer, right? So yes, that’s what the classes taught me, especially that first month. I remember with Paul it was really interesting. He made a really nice introduction to marketing like it was the course. So even if I didn’t have any studies before in marketing, it make it easy for me to understand how to follow up the classes.
– Great. And how was it in terms of integrating with the students in the class? So you came on your own. I’m guessing you didn’t know anybody in Vancouver. Were you’re able to make friends at Tamwood and how easy was that?
– Yeah, absolutely. I came on my own. I didn’t know anyone in Vancouver or in Canada. It was hard. But I’m a really open-minded person. That’s one of the reasons that I wanted to move abroad to get to know people from the different countries and different cultures. It was good because everyone was in the same position. Like all of us were just arriving to Canada to start our adventure here, right? So we were all at the same page. So it was easy, I will say. We all understand each other, where we are, what we are coming here to do. So for the class like in make us united, like we were a good team because of that, I’d say.
– Yeah. And let’s talk about your job. You were able to get a job with the Fairmont Hotel, the one located at the airport in Vancouver, which is a beautiful hotel. I’ve been able to stay there. I’ve also had some meetings there and it’s a spectacular hotel. How did you find that job and what were the services that you got from Tamwood to help you look for work?
– So yeah, I already have experience in Spain. I’ve worked in hotels before so of course I think that helped. Like I’ve been in the market for a bit now. So when I arrived to Canada, of course Vancouver is a expensive city and we were only able to work 20 hours for that first period of the program.
– Which has changed now, too bad for you.
– But now students can work 40 hours a week while they study.
– So good for them. They should take advantage of that.
– Take advantage of that. This is a good time to come.
– And study and work. You were legally allowed to work 20 hours a week.
– So then when once I arrived, the first step was to find a house, which is actually more difficult than find a job here in Vancouver. For me it was okay, I found another Spanish girl and then we look for a place together. So we were really lucky we are still living here so I’m happy for that. And once I was accommodated in a house, it was like okay, now it’s time to look for a job. At the beginning I just needed something to support me here. So I wasn’t looking any hotel job because I was only allowed to work 20 hours. So I didn’t actually think hotel position would just hire me for part-time. So then I started applying in restaurants. I got a job as a host in the Top of Vancouver restaurant, the revolving one. So that was fun. Beautiful restaurant, beautiful views. So I was there like for a month and a half and then I was still looking like on Indeed because you never know, right? You have to have your options open. And I was still looking to see what opportunities there was. I knew Fairmont from back home. It’s a really big hotel chain. And so even before I came here I knew that there were Fairmonts and I was like, “Ooh! It would be nice to work for this company.” But like I said, just for the 20 hour limit, I wasn’t that sure to apply. But I came up with this offer, I think it was on Indeed, so for the Fairmont Vancouver. So I said, “Why not? Let’s just try.” You always have the now, right? So I applied for that position and then I also applied for another small boutique hotel in Vancouver, which they also replied. So for the Fairmont, like I said, I applied for a position as a front desk agent. But once I got a call from the manager, she said she will need someone full time. So I was like down for that. But the other boutique hotel actually hired me and then just when a week passed, I got a call from the manager. It wasn’t from the front desk, it was for central services, which is like the reservations and hotel operator department. And he said he look at my resume and he liked it ’cause he knew I had experience and maybe not in the front desk, but they could offer me a position there in their department. Yes, as part-time. So I was like yeah of course, absolutely. I’m super interested in that.
– So then we did the interview and yeah I got hired there for part-time which was great ’cause I didn’t have that expectation that I could find like a job on my field just for part-time. And I’ve been working there since. It’s been really nice.
– Great. When you first arrived you would’ve joined the workshops on how to look for work and how to do your resume and how to do an interview in English. And what kind of support did you get from the staff and how did that help you in this search? Because obviously we expect students to be involved in the process, but what support did you get from Tamwood in that process?
– Yeah, so yes, when I first joined the program they invited me to this work program.
– The workshops.
– Yeah, the workshops. So I think I attended to the first two where they were like giving you introduction of how the market in Canada was working, how to adopt your resume to the Canadian version. Like no picture, no age, and things like that. Yeah of course that was helpful. I have to say since I find my first job pretty fast and because of schedule, I couldn’t continue going to that because I was also interested in going not only because just to find a job, but to know about a co-op position later, what options would that be? But because I was already working because of the schedule, I had to work in the mornings and then go to class in the evenings.
– Yeah, yeah. But it got you started and it helped you put your resume together in a Canadian style and be prepared for those interviews when you had them and then you had to actually do work in your field. The field of study which was marketing, your marketing program. So tell us about that. How did you manage to convert your job, which was in the reservations department into a marketing co-op position?
– Yeah, so I’m really grateful about my company for that too. So I told my manager at the time when he hired me that I was on a student visa so I can only work part-time until March which was when my co-op term started at that point. But I was studying a course in digital marketing so I went to see the HR department to see if there was any option that I could do that co-op placement there in their marketing department. So there was a discussion between my manager and the HR department and I guess like the director to see if they could make that happen. And luckily they did. So they gave me the opportunity to go two days a week to the marketing department in the hotel. So I was still working on the central services office but then two days a week I get to go to the marketing department and learn from it.
– That’s fantastic.
– Yeah, that was awesome. I started that at the end of March and I’ve been doing that until now that I just recently finished my co-op. But it was amazing. I learned a lot. My manager did marketing. She was amazing. She put like all the efforts in teaching me how the role worked. Specifically how the role in marketing worked for a hotel because that’s what we were doing there. In class it was more general, right? It’s more like to sell specific products. But right now, this wasn’t a marketing agency. It was marketing inside already a company. So we have to learn how to have to sell that. So it has been a journey, really interesting. I’ve learned a lot and I’m really grateful for that.
– That’s fantastic. Well and congratulations for having such a good experience and graduating from the program with your diploma. How do you find working in a Canadian company and can you compare that to, are there any differences to working with Canadians in a Canadian company under Canadian employment laws say to a job you had in Spain?
– Yes. I’ve been lucky also to work in Spain in really big hotel brands. So like I used to work like incorporative, like big companies. There are of course certain differences here. The first one that I said that impact me most is about days of holidays here. In Spain we have like 25 days plus the weekend. So it’s almost like a month of holiday by law and here’s only 10 days, which of course for me wanting to travel as well was like 10 days is not enough. But I do have to say like they really respect your hours. Like they don’t expect you to pause your personal life to work, work, work. They just want you to be effective to do your job in the time you have to be done. They give you proper training also for that. Like they care about you being involved in the company, getting all the knowledge so then you can do your job accordingly like to the rest with the rest. And work as a team. And also to make you, at least from my company, make you to feel part of the brand. To represent the brand, to make you feel part of the community. And what I have seen in my company, like they give you the opportunity to grow. Being such a nice company, a big company and has four hotels in Vancouver and one in Whistler, I’ve seen my colleagues, they have been in, I don’t know, maybe five different Fairmonts, being even in the Rocky Mountains, there were also of properties there and they impulse you to grow and to move because they don’t want you to be stuck at the same place. Which maybe it can be what like maybe back home, all companies that still have that in mind, right? Like you have to stay here for, I don’t know, 20 years in the same position doing the same thing. Like right now like here what I see is they make you grow, they want you to move, and they like come back with that knowledge and yeah, makes you grow as a professional.
– Yeah, that’s good. Yeah and that’s so important right? Is to continue to be challenged and try new things and when you can be with a company that gives you that opportunity to grow, it’s very rewarding and it’s creating lots of opportunity for you. So I’m glad that happened for you. So tell me about now. So now you’re on a working holiday visa and you applied for that on your own. You’ve mentioned to me before we started this call that you had applied in February. Was that a difficult process, getting the working holiday visa?
– Not really. I have to say like for myself I’m really curious. So it was actually harder to the student visa process ’cause I also did it by myself and I did all the process of getting all the documentation. So actually done that, the working holiday wasn’t that hard. It was pretty easy.
– But yes, like I said, when I came here and I started, I came here in September when I arrived. So by the time in February I already decided like it was not gonna be enough time. Like one year, especially when you are studying and Canada also gives you different opportunities to grow professionally. And six months was not gonna be enough like the rest six months of my co-op and and also like to get to know this beautiful country which is huge and amazing. So that’s why I decided to apply for the working holiday visa, being able to do that because of the Spanish passport. I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” So now I’m staying here for one more year.
– One more year. Yeah. You’ve got the one year work permit and then have you got any idea what you’ll do after that year’s finished on the working holiday visa?
– I’m still figuring that out. For now, I want to continue working. My co-practicum in marketing finished when I graduated because I finished my hours. So right now I just moved back to central services full time. But they might open a position next year. So I still don’t know. Let’s see what happen if they might open a position, like if maybe they can apply for that or maybe if I find another opportunities in the company or in another company.
– So yeah, for right now I still don’t know. Let’s just see what the next year brings or where it takes me.
– That’s good. Yeah, it’s good to stay open minded. You never know where an opportunity may come along and right now you’re in such a great company, there’s so much room to grow. What do you think the impact has been on you personally of going abroad? Because you said this is your first time studying overseas, so how would you, if you reflect on who you were before you left Spain and who you are now, do you think there’s been any impact on you?
– Absolutely. I’ve been like a foreigner almost all my life when I moved from Peru to Spain, like I already got that shock, especially at such a young age. So I’ve always have this willing to travel, to experience new things. I’m from Madrid, my family lived in Madrid, but when I finish university I moved to Barcelona ’cause I also wanted to be independent and to live in another city, which was really fun and nice, made me grow a lot. Like to be out of home and living by myself. But with Canada, I’m used to like living by myself and being grown, but especially in a different speaking country, like English speaking country, it was a bit of a challenge at the beginning. But right now I have to say I’m really grateful. It’s been amazing being in that completely other part of the world, living your life just speaking English since you wake up until you go to bed. It makes your brain grow and I’m sure like if I ever go back to Spain, like this will provide me like with a lot of knowledge, professional, also personal, right? Being able to work in a field of mine in another country, which is not your first language.
– And I dunno, I think it’s great.
– Probably whether you’re aware of it or not, it’s probably really helped you develop, you seem like a confident person anyway, but I’m sure your confidence has grown even more. Your self-assurance. Being able to work in a foreign language, as you say, in a new city with all new people and navigating all of the systems and accommodation and finding a place to live. All of these challenges you’ve overcome and you’ve thrived and succeeded. So that’s got to make you feel very confident and very resilient and talented, I would say. Yeah.
– No, absolutely. Also in my job having to take phone calls from English speakers, because I’ve worked in hotels before, but it’s not the same. Like all the time in English, especially with the phones, with different accents, different countries. So at the beginning of course it was a challenge, but I feel really proud of some of myself of being one of non-native English speakers that works in that position.
– Oh, that’s great. That’s great. So if there was any advice you wanted to give to listeners who are maybe thinking about coming to Canada to do a work and study program, what would you say?
– I will say to definitely come. It’s a great experience. I will also say it’s never too late, right? Because maybe people are already settled with their jobs, with their career and that is actually an advantage. For me, it was. Like having already experience back home, even if my career was already started there, right? It was an advantage on my side to come here and try to find something from that. And even if you don’t have experience in your field and you wanna start here, it’s a great place to start. It gives you opportunities like to grow. And the thing is here, everyone starts the same. If you have to work as a waitress or in a warehouse, you have to start, everyone does it. And there’s nothing to be ashamed, right? Everyone starts first somewhere, but there is the place and the opportunity to grow. And what I would recommend is like to try to come with the best English you can because the best better English you speak, the better opportunities you’ll have.
– That’s true. And if you need more English, you can always take it with Tamwood. Thank you very much, Cynthia. This has been such a pleasure to talk to you. And good luck with the rest of your time here and working at the Fairmont or wherever your career takes you.
– Absolutely. Thank you.
– Appreciate your time.
– Thank you Tamsin for inviting.
– That’s all for this week’s episode of Work and Study in Canada, brought to you by Tamwood Careers. Tamwood is a private education company operating career colleges in Toronto, Vancouver, and Whistler Canada. Tamwood offers popular work and study programs in fields like business, hospitality and tourism, digital marketing, web design, UX, UI, and entrepreneurship. International students who study with Tamwood gain valuable work experience in Canada and start on a pathway to a successful career and immigration in Canada. If you’d like more information about Tamwood and its programs, visit our website, www.tamwood.com. You can also check out our videos on YouTube and connect with us on social.