Jay Riat: A Mentor Story

Offering practical, professional advice to a fellow engineer – a newcomer to Canada – gives Jay Riat deep satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment.

Jay empathizes with those facing the challenges of immigrating to Edmonton. Now working as a senior process engineering consultant with CoSyn Technology after retiring from Syncrude, Jay, a respected member of Edmonton’s Sikh community, immigrated here decades ago.

“Forty-three years ago, I didn’t know a single soul here. I was just so alone. I had a room in a hostel at the beginning, and didn’t know what to do to get to know my adopted country.”

Now, Jay is renowned for his community and professional involvement, including his very successful fundraising efforts in support of the Mazankowski Heart Institute. He is also a longtime member of the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA).

Mentoring Edgar Llanes, a civil engineer from the Philippines, has prompted Jay to examine the unique aspects of Canadian professional practices.

“Edgar and I devote our time to real workplace experiences. If I can help him relate to real life practices, they will make sense to him.” The pair have reviewed Edgar’s resume, practised job interviews and discussed workplace environments.

“There are many expected manners needed in any workplace. For example, if someone asks for your background, be brief – or ask if he or she needs more detail. Also, many people talk very loudly in a modern open office environment. We all need to keep our voices low so we don’t disrupt other workers. You have to fit into whatever team environment you’re part of. You have to go beyond the call of duty. These actions help establish a person in any new place.”

Job interviews pose many challenges, but Jay says Edgar is learning Canadian ways very quickly. The pair work through behavioural and technical interview scenarios, giving Edgar an opportunity to speak to real work situations and his reactions to them. “What happens if you’re asked to stay late at work – and this interferes with your personal life? An employer will want to know how you would handle that situation.”

Jay is also giving Edgar pointers on showing his skills, demonstrating what he can do for an employer. “Employers want to see at a glance what someone’s skills are, what he offers and what he’s looking for. People are busy; they only want to read one or two pages. Make it brief!”

Jay says the mentoring experience has been very positive. “Edgar is so enthusiastic and energetic. It’s been a real pleasure working with him. He’s very, very knowledgeable in his work and his management practices. I can see his confidence growing. Edgar would fit in well with many companies.”

Jay has also enjoyed participating in the NorQuest orientation program. “Learning about the soft skills like effective communication is so important. The way new residents view things is very different from the way most Canadians would view the same thing. You can’t make judgments about people without understanding their perspective.”

He adds that new Canadians are fortunate to have a wealth of programs and support services available to them at little or no cost. “There was no assistance available when I came to Canada, which made the challenges even more daunting.”

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