Roberto Mazzeo landed a great job with ESL Library and moved to Winnipeg right before the first wave of the COVID-19 swept across the globe forcing lockdowns in many cities, including Winnipeg.
“The decision itself was easy because I always wanted to work abroad. I had never thought of Winnipeg before the event but as soon as I saw the posting, I started looking into the city. I’m used to large cities but it looked like a nice place to move to,” says Mazzeo, who is a UI/UX Designer with ESL Library that offers online content and teaching support to ESL educators.
Originally from Argentina, Mazzeo says he saw an opportunity for career growth in Winnipeg. He was offered the job in October 2019 when ESL Library and several other local companies joined Economic Development Winnipeg’s YES! Winnipeg (YW) talent team on a recruitment mission to the South American country.
(ESL Library's Marta Solodun on YES! Winnipeg recruitment mission in Argentina in October 2019. Photo: Mazalán Comunicaciones)
“We had a great experience with YES! Winnipeg. The team from YW was well organized, well prepared. Onsite, we had a clear plan for what was happening; the team had language support, which was very important. They prepared everything from the venue to the advertising, even supplying and filtering the applicants. For us, this was super useful and super helpful. We were very happy to have the support of YW,” says Marta Solodun, Head of HR and Talent at ESL Library.
The tech company hired several other people during that October recruitment mission and currently has 30 employees. But the company is growing and is expected to hire another six employees in early 2021.
Since the pandemic began, businesses and employees have had to adapt quickly, but ESL Library’s online business model and a diverse team did present the company with some interesting advantages.
“With having diverse talent and working remote, we can certainly use the knowledge that someone has in Argentina and we can apply this to train someone who is hired with us locally. To be able to share that knowledge and grow, we do that all the time,” says Solodun, adding that Mazzeo has brought a wealth of diversity of thought and experience to the team.
Solodun and Mazzeo both say the pandemic has really taught people about career resiliency and the need for companies to shift the way they work or think.
(ESL Library's online business model allowed it to adapt quickly during the pandemic. Photo: Marta Solodun)
“In these times and moving forward, it’s very important for all of us to be able to embrace change and the possibility of having a blended work structure. With COVID came change and I think it’s not going to go away. We have to learn from this environment and be resilient in our professional and personal life and we can be successful,” says Solodun.
“Employers need to accept change. As an employee, the first week of March, we had to go home. The CEO told us to take a few days to process this...[because] our health is important. That took a whole load off our backs and I know not every employer thinks like that,” adds Mazzeo.
Since Mazzeo arrived, YW has launched the “Winnipeg Calling” campaign, a virtual mission targeting and recruiting skilled workers from across Canada and internationally.
“There is a demand for talent in a number of key industries and it has not slowed down in Winnipeg, even during the pandemic,” says Yvonne Kinley, YES! Winnipeg’s Director of Talent & Workforce Development.
“Our YW talent team continues to provide advice, contacts and key resources to businesses to help them fill jobs and grow their business. We are working to help companies attract and retain top talent by showcasing the advantages of a career in Winnipeg and the quality of life,” adds Kinley.
The team is getting help spreading the news about Winnipeg's quality of life because of people like Mazzeo, who is sharing his Winnipeg experience on social media.
“A lot of people are discovering the city because of my posts on social networks. Even some friends in the tech field have been asking me, ‘Hey, if you know of any postings, let me know. It looks really nice there.’”
When asked if Winnipeg winters were ever a stumbling block to making a move, Mazzeo puts things into perspective.
“Everyone told me about the cold but I love winter because I had never seen snow. I think when people are just complaining about the weather that means a lot of other things are working and that it is a desirable place to move. In South America, you are worried about everything. I never had a good night’s sleep like I had here. It’s quiet and it’s snowing outside, and I can relax, finally. That’s the best part.”