Bangladesh to Canada is quite the trek, but for Anika Maria, the long road was the shortest route.
Maria is an accountant at MLT Aikins LLP in Winnipeg, a law firm with offices throughout Western Canada.
Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city, Maria chose Red River College’s Business Administration program to accelerate her career in accounting.
“I chose Canada because the education seemed more practical to me,” Maria, 25, says.
“Back home, people actually get a degree and then a masters and then they join the field. I didn’t like that approach. I wanted to start early, I wanted to gain some experience, so I chose to come to Canada because I like the structure better. Here you can do a two-year diploma, get into the workforce, and continue your studies as you’re getting experience.”
A two-year diploma program, Business Administration is structured so second-year students declare a major in either accounting, administration, financial services, marketing or human resources.
Maria majored in accounting and completed the program in 2015. In May 2016, she was hired at St. John’s Music as an accounting manager. She moved into her current position at MLT Aikins in March of last year.
Maria believes the heavy workload in the Business Administration program has helped her move up the accounting ranks quickly.
“It’s intense. Doing six courses in every semester is intense. It doesn’t matter what major; six courses are a lot. Time management was the main thing I learned,” Maria says.
“I was actually working when I was at Red River. I was a full-time student and a part-time worker (as a cashier), so that life is what led me to prioritize things. I have these many hours in a day and I have to crunch in my assignments and go to all my classes. I have to do all of these things and then work as well.”
Not to mention adjusting to life in a foreign land, one that’s often freezing. Fortunately for Maria, she was schooled in English throughout her 12 years of compulsory education in Bangladesh.
“At least language was not a barrier, which is a huge barrier usually,” she says.
Still, a move from South Asia to southern Manitoba doesn’t come without a little culture shock. Maria says RRC did a good job of easing that transition.
“The student advisors and also the International Education department is very friendly,” she says. “If I had a question I would ask around. If something confused me, I would ask my teachers. My teachers were extremely friendly and it was not at all hard to approach them, even if it was something personal.”
“Also, I always looked for volunteering opportunities where I could learn how this culture really works in terms of the workplace. I signed up to be a student mentor at the orientation for 2015 Business Administration students. If they had any questions, they would come up and ask me.”
Despite having graduated, Maria is still answering RRC students’ questions. In 2017, while working at St. John’s Music, she participated in the Directions Conference, which connects RRC students in business and applied arts with industry professionals. Also in 2017, she acted as a judge at the Entrepreneurship Tradeshow, an event where Business Administration students present their year-long entrepreneurial practicum projects.
And most recently, on Feb. 5 of this year, Maria was a speaker at RRC’s convocation ceremony.
“I basically spoke about how they are feeling sitting in their chairs, how they have graduated, how that feeling is, and the confusion of what happens after it,” Maria says. “I gave them the idea that they did the hard work and now they’re going to get the results of it. It’s that easy. You just have to be motivated, you have to keep going at it.”
“People may change their careers, but just the confidence you get from doing something like (Business Administration) preps you for everything to come.”
Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)