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September 6, 2012

Orange LLP features Gerard Keledjian’s success

by Gerard Keledjian

The Orange LLP blog featured me this week as a newcomer success story! I was happy to share my stories – from Canadian media and the newcomer experience to maple syrup – with the readers of the blog. The interviewer was Tory Hetherington.

TH: You’re an incredibly accomplished person! How did you get your career started? Did you always know you’d have an involvement in media?

GK: Thank you for the compliment! I have always loved media. When I was a child, I used to read children’s magazines all the time…and even produced a hand-written magazine at school where I edited the content and a friend of mine did the drawings; I was 13 years old at the time. From there I went on to regularly contribute to school publications and community magazines.

At age 15 I was invited by one of the main Armenian newspapers in Lebanon to start a children’s section in the Sunday edition, which I edited for over 2 years. That’s when I chose to study Journalism at the university.”

TH: Before coming to Canada, you worked at CNBC Arabia – what was that like, the daily environment? How does it differ from working for Canadian TV?

GK: In 2003 I moved from Beirut to Dubai to participate in launching CNBC Arabia, the Arabic division of the well-known US business channel. I started as a News Producer, and ended my duty there as a Senior Producer and Acting Assignment Editor. As a 24 hour business news channel covering the world, it was busy all day, all week.

It was a multicultural environment, and I had co-workers from many Arab and Asian countries and even from Australia and Canada. If I’ll talk about differences with working here, one major difference was the broadcast language being mostly Arabic and that we were not serving a single national market, rather all of the Middle East and North Africa.

TH: What inspired you to start The Immigrant?

GK: When I moved to Canada I took a few continuing education courses at Ryerson University to get familiar with Canadian media and build my professional network. In one of the courses we had to write our articles as if we had a blog; therefore they had to have one single theme. As I was still very new to the country, I decided to write about my immigrant experiences. But as I got more settled, I saw firsthand the struggles some immigrants were facing and the need to share the information, experiences and success stories of previous newcomers and which would give them the motivation and guidance to successfully move forward. So after the course ended I decided to publish my blog and continue writing to help other immigrants.

TH: Tell us a little about your decision process: why did you choose Canada – and why Toronto? Did you consider anywhere else?

GK: When I moved from Beirut to Dubai, I knew that I don’t want to go back there because of the constant instability and violence. And because Dubai was not a place where I can get permanent residency or citizenship, I started thinking about where I want to settle permanently after Dubai and where I want to grow roots and contribute my skills and experience. I thought about Melbourne, Australia and Toronto, Canada. I ended up choosing Canada, because I had heard good stuff about it, I had some friends here and it was also closer to the US and Europe…and I guess I love the cold! Australia for me was too far from everywhere else.

TH: Did you encounter any difficulties with the immigration process? If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice about the Canadian immigration process, what would it be?

GK: No, not at all. I applied through an immigration lawyer and the process was very clear and direct. I just want to express a wish that the flyers and booklets that are handed to immigrants when they land at Pearson, be handed to them through the immigration lawyers or Canadian embassies at the start of their application, much before they come here. They would be much more beneficial this way.

TH: Keeping a multiple-stranded career together – from managing The Immigrant to your work for Rogers TV – must be incredibly fast-paced and packed with daily challenges – how does a typical workday look for you?

GK: Yes it is fast-paced but I’ve always been a good multi-tasker and this helps me a lot to manage my day! As for Introducing Toronto on Rogers TV, it’s a recorded program and that allows me some flexibility to plan the episodes in advance, generate story ideas, research and contact the  guests, conduct the interviews and shoot the host segments, etc…The feedback I get from immigrants who find my stories helpful always gives me the energy and motivation to continue. Recently I joined as well Prepare for Canada which is an online magazine for newcomers and it’s taking a lot of my time. I work as an Editor there on helping immigrants with quality information, stories and videos on job preparedness and settlement first steps. The Immigrant is a personal blog, so I try to post whenever I can.

TH: We’re particularly curious about this one: in your experience, what’s one key way in which social media integration can assist with a newcomer’s life?

GK: It can assist in many ways I guess, but since you asked about one key way, I think in my case it helped me and is still helping me in building my network here. Through Twitter and LinkedIn I met so many great people here, made professional connections and even friendships.

TH: How did you start building a name for yourself in Toronto?

GK: As a journalist, I have a natural curiosity to know about things, people and developments. Since I moved here I network a lot, regularly attend industry events, social and community activities mainly in the media and settlement sectors. I don’t just attend these events, but try to be a positive contributor and help in any way I can. This is my way to know my new home and to say “thank you” to Canada.

TH: With regards to your work with the New Canadian Media Professionals’ Network (NCMP), what is a key challenge facing international media professionals?

GK: One of the major barriers internationally trained media professionals immigrating to Canada encounter is the lack of a professional network. Another barrier is the lack of meaningful opportunities for mentoring, internships or volunteering. This prevents them from getting into their professional field and contributing their skills and capabilities to local media organizations. Language might be a barrier too for some. That’s why I co-founded NCMP, which is a professional immigrant network for Canadian immigrants who have a journalism or media background. The network works to create opportunities that can help these immigrants to quickly become aware of the local media landscape, make valuable connections within the industry, and eventually be able to practice their skills and expertise. They bring with them a  broad international expertise and diverse skills, and these skills internationally trained media professionals can make positive contributions to the Canadian media industry and strengthen inclusion and diversity in this country.

TH: You’ve seen a lot of success as a writer, blogger, and journalist too. Which authors, thinkers, journalists, etc – if anyone! –  has been an influence on your writing/career?

GK: I don’t know…I think my desire to inform and help my readers and viewers has the most influence on my work. Also, maybe the fact that I read Paulo Coelho a lot and like his style of conveying a positive message through his books.

TH: Do you think it was easier or harder to develop the North American branch of your career? Are there any differences in Canadian professional networking styles, for example?

GK: I think it was a bit harder, since I had to settle in a new country, get familiar with a new city, build my professional and social networks and search for a job…all at the same time. I had never done all these things together at the same time before.

TH: What has been your proudest accomplishment to date?

GK: In general, choosing Canada as my new home is an accomplishment I’m very proud of. Professionally speaking, I think my proudest accomplishment to date is producing Introducing Toronto. I’m so proud that I am able to help hundreds and thousands of recent immigrants by coming up with the idea and then launching Toronto’s and Canada’s first TV magazine show for newcomers. With the show I help connect newcomers to the city with their new home and with all the resources that help them feel at home quickly. Canada needs these immigrants and the sooner they get successfully integrated, the more our country benefits. The show also gives me the opportunity to combine my professional background (media) with my newly found passion (immigrants).

TH: Do you have any advice for newcomers looking to find rewarding work in Toronto?

GK: Research, research and research as much as you can before moving here. Make sure to contact relevant professional associations in Canada before leaving your home country. And don’t be shy or afraid to ask for advice and guidance when needed. People here love to help, but you need to make it clear for them the type of help you need and when you need.

TH: What’s your favorite aspect of living in Toronto? How about your least favorite?

GK: I love that Toronto is so diverse, so multicultural. Also, the fact that it’s a very safe and stable city. Oh one more thing: because I can eat maple syrup whenever I want to!

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