Professional Profiles

SFU helps newcomer launch her Canadian career

Claudia Gamboa, a graduate of our Digital Communications Certificate. Photo by Dale Northey.

By Amy Robertson

Claudia Gamboa’s communications career is climbing after graduating from a specialized SFU program.

The young Peruvian woman joined her husband in Canada in 2012. She brought with her a degree in communication and media studies from Universidad de Lima (University of Lima), a few years’ professional experience, and the hope of moving forward in a digital marketing career.

But with no Canadian education or work experience and somewhat limited English language skills (Spanish is her mother tongue), Gamboa found the Vancouver job market a challenge to navigate.

“It was hard,” Gamboa says. “I didn’t know how it actually worked when you apply for jobs here.” Cover letters, for example, were new to Gamboa. In Peru, employers require only a resumé.

Within a few months, Gamboa stumbled across a Facebook ad that would change everything.

It invited her to apply to an SFU program especially for Canadian newcomers who wanted to master a variety of digital communications skills in only 16 weeks. Thanks to a government grant, SFU Continuing Studies was able to offer the Digital Communications Certificate with advanced English training (a customized version of our Digital Communications Certificate) to 20 qualified immigrants.

With only a few days to the deadline, Gamboa applied, writing a thoughtful essay detailing her thoughts on why she was an ideal candidate for the program. She already had a foundation of work experience. More education, she believed, was the next logical step.

A total of 180 people applied, but Gamboa, along with 19 others, got in. She was thrilled.

Gamboa studied communications with students from around the globe

In March 2013, Gamboa and her classmates began 12 weeks of classes that included not only digital communications training such as social media, search-engine optimization, and pay-per-click advertising, but also education in Canadian job search, presentation skills, English writing and grammar, and Canadian culture.

One of the things Gamboa appreciated most was the group of students with whom she studied. Representing 10 different countries, the unique insight, feedback and support they provided was invaluable.

Near the end of the program, Gamboa was asked to speak about her experience at the opening of the SFU Surrey - TD Community Engagement Centre, where classes took place. All of her classmates were in attendance.

“When the time came [to speak], I felt nervous, but then…I think what gave me confidence that day was to have my classmates in front of me. I would just look at each one of them…and that just made me more confident.”

Student in demand after finishing coursework

By the time Gamboa finished classes, three different organizations had offered her practicum placements. She took one at a video promotion company and helped them with social media marketing, video production, and more. After finishing her placement, they offered her a paid contract, and two more contracts followed soon after.

What a difference a few months can make.

“I definitely have seen a change,” Gamboa says. She believes that her new skills and the presence of SFU on her resumé are key. “The fact that I studied at SFU, I think, gives the employer a bit of confidence.”

As she moves forward with her career, Gamboa is enjoying the work of strategic social online communications, likening the work to psychology—she needs to consider how the people she reaches think and feel about politics and the environment, and how they speak with one another. Do they use emoticons? Full sentences? “You don’t want to be too formal; you want to speak their language,” she says. “It’s challenging, but it’s fun.”

Recently, the CEO of the company at which she is doing contract work spoke to her about a full-time position, and Gamboa is hopeful.

“I feel confident that I’m on the right track.”