Chitra & Associates Immigration Consultants co-founder and senior partner, Chitra Bhatia, spends her days in the heart of Vancouver’s bustling downtown.
But her journey to that prime location began years before in India, when Chitra worked as a professional in the education sector, designing education training programs during the IT boom of the 1990s.
“As a Senior Director and a Business Head at Hughes Education, I spearheaded the design and building of a digital education solution that was used at leading education institutions in India including IIM Calcutta, IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode, IIT Delhi, MICA, IIFT and XLRI,” Bhatia recalls. “As Country Head and Managing Director of Sanako Oy’s Indian operations, we transformed the way languages and content are learned using Language labs and software tools. Today, online education has become part of a school’s normal offerings and I feel so proud to have played a significant role in this revolution.”
Chitra continued to work in education after moving to Canada, serving as the marketing and admissions regional director for three career colleges in Atlantic Canada. It was this work that led directly to her next career as an immigration consultant.
“I was transitioning to the role of Director for International Education. I felt a need to learn more about immigration and its procedures to serve our international students better. This prompted me to pursue a diploma in immigration consulting to help international students.”
While Chitra became an RCIC to help the international students she encountered through her work in education, she credits her fellow consultants with deepening her understanding of the profession. “When I started the program and met other professionals in the industry, I understood that the profession was much more,” she remembers.
“I started reading and listening to seasoned immigration consultants and lawyers. I spend at least 10 to 15 hours per week listening to and learning from the professionals in my industry. The connections that I build by networking with fellow immigration consultants helped me establish my career.”
It was out of this experience that she co-founded her consultancy practice, Chitra & Associates Immigration Consultants. “It is important for women to be present in this field, both to help the immigrants moving to Canada and to shape Canada’s immigration policy, an essential part of Canada’s future,” Chitra observes.
The drive and determination needed to start her own practice was something she learned from her role model, her mother. “I am the proud daughter of my dynamic, multi-talented mother. My mother has been my role model throughout my life. She was a very strong woman who raised 5 daughters. She was a great human resource professional, who knew the skills of nurturing talent and how to mold leaders in different fields. She empowered me to aim high in my career and demand my worth when I was bringing value to a company. She raised me with a sense of equality so that I could join a male-dominated corporate workforce in India and not feel out of place. I learned from her to demand my place in the world, because without my own insistence, people would never hand it to me. She was my own cheerleader, and her words of encouragement are something I still hear to this day.”
A decade after her own move from India, Bhatia offers this advice to women who are newcomers to Canada: understand and communicate your worth. “When I was moving to Canada in 2011,” Bhatia begins, “I was briefed that it would be very difficult to get senior manager jobs in Canada, and the only way to get started is to go for very junior, entry-level jobs. I refused to believe the people who said this, and after securing multiple job offers for Director and Vice President positions in Canada, I can safely tell you - don’t settle for lower-level positions just because people in your environment are telling you to. Use your own capability and resourcefulness to narrow down which skills you have that are unique, and which Canadian businesses need someone like you. Once the match is made, it’s all about convincing the business to hire you, with your stellar resume and by building connections.”
Bhatia sees immigration as offering tremendous career opportunities for new consultants. “Immigration is a life-changing career. Immigration is at the heart of Canadian culture and industry. Over seven million foreign-born individuals call this country home, and over the next three years, Canada is set to welcome nearly a million more.”
She offers her colleagues three tips for success in the industry. As Chitra notes, successful immigration consultants need to have a “passion for the job.” She believes that immigration practitioners should have a true passion for their job because it is the basis for the critical compassion and commitment practitioners have for their clients.
Chitra reminds her fellow consultants to “exercise good judgement.” The ability to reason and analyze situations is a skill set that can make a difference in your practice. Bhatia believes that good judgement comes from experience, knowledge of immigration law, and an ability to listen to your clients and other experienced professionals.
Like Bhatia, you can leverage your existing strengths in your work as an immigration consultant. “In my corporate life, I was an executive for large multinationals before starting an immigration practice. I had 20 years of experience working in the corporate world. I made great use of what I learned in the corporate world and when I started my practice, I focused on serving large businesses, small businesses, and start-ups, in addition to individuals. Coming from a management consulting background, I focused on applications that worked best with my existing strengths.”