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Port Coquitlam program knocking down barriers for women in tech

YWCA has expanded its Tech Connect program to Port Coquitlam to support newcomer women with experience in IT to secure rewarding careers in the tech industry.

Somi Jeon is not afraid to take on challenges.

Not only has Jeon immigrated to Canada from South Korea, with all the challenges of adapting to a new country, but she’s taken on a new career.

Coming to Canada, Jeon was hired as an administrative assistant as soon as she arrived but the job wasn’t innovative nor interesting enough for the dynamic professional.

“I was a French interpreter in my country, but those skills weren’t in high demand in Vancouver except for government jobs, and there were few openings, so I took the administrative assistant position.”

She quickly learned it wasn’t for her and so, during the pandemic, Jeon took a six-month software engineering boot camp.

But once she obtained her technical skills, finding a job wasn’t easy.

Women often start at the back of the line in IT. With no mentor and no networking opportunities, breaking into the male-dominated tech industry is no easy feat.

Job expectations, workplace culture and the rules for applying for a job may be different in Canada compared to one’s home country, for example.

Feeling weary and defeated, Jeon learned about YWCA”s Tech Connect, a new program funded by the federal government which aims to provide training and career assistance to skilled immigrant women.

Preparing a resume, technical interview

She was accepted and joined Tech Connect last fall, completing the program in 10 weeks, a commitment that turned out to be both enjoyable and informative.

Jeon said she met a lot of terrific women, who helped her build her resume, enhance her technical and industry knowledge and prepare her for her technical interview so she could land a good job.

Even more important, she said, was the support and encouragement she received.

“It’s a very warm-hearted environment,” Jeon told the Tri-City News. “You are mentally tired and they are soothing you there.”

Program manager Elham Ershad said that newcomer women are accepted into Canada with excellent credentials but find themselves either unemployed or under employed once they get here.

Breaking into the tech industry isn’t easy for women, she said, and they often end up in jobs that pay less than men.

Tech Connect aims to provide them with assistance so they can secure jobs that are commensurate with their skills, education and experience.

“Tech Connect graduates will have developed a deep understanding of the tech sector in Canada and its unique workplace culture, be able to communicate appropriately at work and have robust professional and employer networks,” Ershad said.

Educated group includes Ukrainian women

Many participants have a bachelor level of education or higher, plus years working in the field. Many are moms juggling work life balance, and for them accessing Tech Connect partly online and partly face-to-face fits in with their schedules.

Since 2022, many of the participants are from the Ukraine, arriving here due to the Russian invasion, often leaving good jobs back hime. They arrive under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET), a program that provides emergency settlement services to March 31, 2025.

“The Ukrainian community is very interested in the program,” said Ershad.

Successfully launched in 2019 in Vancouver, Tech Connect was expanded in April to the Tri-Cities.

The program is running of out of the YWCA’s Port Coquitlam WorkBC office at 206 - 2540 Shaughnessy St.

Jeon is pleased to see that the program has expanded to the Tri-Cities. Having successfully landed a job as a programmer on a team that provides web and app development support to BC Children’s Hospital, she wants others to benefit from the program, too.

‘I’ve met so many powerful moms, working moms, and many intelligent women from around the world. I really love this safe environment they provide.”

• YWCA Tech Connect is a free 10-week program that supports newcomer, self-identifying women with experience in IT to secure rewarding careers in the tech industry. Find out more on the Tech Connect website.