NetworkMe | In Conversation with Brent Edwards – Brent Canada Experiences


Reading Time: 18 minutes


NetworkMe | Episode 6 – In Conversation with Brent Edwards – Brent Canada Experiences

You can listen to this episode here, or feel free to read on to discover our discussion on economic immigrants to Canada and how Brent helps them settle in and learn about doing business in Canada.

Jean Evans 0:05

Hello, everybody, welcome to the NetworkMe Podcast and I am delighted to be joined by my guest today. Brent Edwards from Brent Canada Experiences. You’re very welcome, Brent.

Brent Edwards 0:18

Jean, It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning.

Jean Evans 0:21

Thank you. I know it’s very early because where are you zooming in from today?

Brent Edwards 0:26

I’m actually zooming in from Markham, Ontario, are about 20 kilometres north of downtown Toronto, in Canada,

Jean Evans 0:34

Fantastic. I’ve been to Toronto before. And I’ve got relations in, where have I got relations…in Vancouver, and Montreal. So I’ve actually been in Canada many, many times and up in Quebec, and all around the place I haven’t got to Whistler though, yet. So that’s definitely on my bucket list of places to go. But the other major cities, I have been over to , I love it, love it!

Brent Edwards 0:53

Yeah, I actually was born in Montreal, but I grew up in Vancouver. So we’ve got some common elements there.

Jean Evans 1:02

Fantastic. Fantastic. Okay, so you have what do you term yourself is a passion project, which I love the term because I know you and I were both passionate about networking, which is why we’re here today. But tell the audience about your passion project.

Brent Edwards 1:21

I’ll be happy to so passion project is Brent Canada Experiences. I set the organisation up several years ago really to help newcomers to Canada improving their networking.

Something I’m very, very passionate about, feel very strongly about in terms of the contribution of new immigrants to Canada, they come with so much experience contributed so much the economy and the diversity of the rich cultural fabric of this country. And their number one challenge with re establishing their career in Canada is a lack of a professional network.

They give up so much social capital, when they move many cases halfway around the world. They come to come to the new country, and they don’t know anyone. And whether they’re looking to advance their career or start a new business or become self employed. They really need to embrace networking, in order to make this happen. And with my experience in business development and sales, marketing, product development, I felt that this is something I could really make a difference in.

Because the last thing I want to happen is for someone to come here really make all the changes give up so much. And then a few years later, to say to themselves, I’ve made a mistake, I’ve chosen the wrong country for my future for my family.

That’s what I want to avoid. I don’t want any say buyer’s remorse. He’s a break my heart. So I feel like this is how I can make a bit of a little influence in terms of people’s future and to help them through this new organisation.

Jean Evans 3:14

You talked about… So I want to unpack a little bit about what a little bit of what you said there. So first of all, define social capital. What do you believe that means?

Brent Edwards 3:27

Yeah, I think it really is the connections that we have within our lives. And it really is an investment that we’ve made within our community to advance our career. So really the tie to networking.

Networking in North America in Canada is done quite differently than where a lot of my clients originate from. So probably about a third of economic immigrants to Canada, come from the Indian subcontinent. So we’re talking about India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka.

And about 70% of newcomers to Canada settle in one of the three largest cities, we call them MTV. So it’s Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. And there was really a difference in terms of how networking and relationships are developed, that I’ve found from my work with newcomers from those countries. And a lot of them actually come via the Gulf States. So there’s a lot of clients I’m working with and people are coming through Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

But it’s a fundamental difference in terms of relationships and how business relationships are developed, where I feel I can help them which is really the social capital that they need to build up when they come to this new country.

Jean Evans 4:54

So somebody gets in contact with Brent Canada Experiences. What… Talk to me a little bit about the journey, how you help them, what does that service look like?

Brent Edwards 5:06

Yeah, so, so it was it was Brent Canada Experiences, I really can conduct a consultation with, there’s only a 30 minute discussion that I’ll have with them to better understand their their current experiences. And a lot of what I also do is coach them on business, culture, Canadian business culture, and how, again, the relationships are developed.

And then, so far, I’ve really come up with like a 90 minute training programme that I offer to the newcomers, whether they’re looking to advance their career in terms of employment, or now more so looking at people who are self employed, to coach them through some of the key key areas that they need to know about how Canadians make decisions, how they build relationships, how they deal with change, and really how to build that network in whether it’s Toronto or in Ontario or other other regions of the country.

Jean Evans 6:08

Which is a lovely segue into my next question then. So do you do everything online? And obviously, Canada, you’re still in lockdown at the time of this recording? You’re going to come out of lockdown. So pre lockdown, or pre COVID, let’s say and post COVID? How does your service actually come to play? And do you serve all of Canada? Or do you service a certain geographic area?

Brent Edwards 6:33

Yeah, so I mean, before, before COVID, I was still kind of really building up business and, and it’s still fairly ill in early days, with with offering and refining my service. So I was hosting a number of live events previously.

Now everything is done online, where we are in the province of Ontario, everyone is staying at home at the moment, at the time of the recording, I expect there will be some opening up and we’ll probably be moving more to hybrid events. But at the moment, everything’s being done virtual.

My clients so far really have been in the Greater Toronto Area. But you know, happy to serve as clients and you know, other parts of the country as well.

Jean Evans 7:18

Cool, cool, cool. So you will have come across a lot of people moving to the country. And obviously Canada is one of the best countries in the world to move to when you look at all of the indexes and happy indexes and economic indexes.

Canada is always right up there as as one of the go to nations that many nations would aspire to be like, so I think buyer’s remorse… hard, the only thing that would get them possibly is the cold, particularly coming from hot countries, that might be the only thing and there’s just not a lot you can do about that.

But outside of the cold and the weather. Being an Irish person, we talk about the weather a lot. But what are some of the, you know, even if you were to break it down into two, three mistakes and sort of mistakes that you see people making time and time again, what mistakes do you see people making? And then let’s look at the converse of that. What three tips would you give to people coming to Canada and trying to start their journey and their life in your country?

Brent Edwards 8:20

Yeah, I would say just just some your initial comments. You know, we’re patriotic group here, but I would position our country as being fortunate. But it’s really what you do with with those opportunities. For a lot of newcomers, you know, it can be difficult for them to reestablish themselves, especially if they are coming to the country, and they’re in a regulated industry.

So a lot of profession, you know, there’s a lot of professions where there’s a lot of regulations and they need to be come recertified. So I think one of the biggest challenges is, I’d say, under employment, where people are coming in, and not it’s gonna take, it’s gonna take time for them to be recertified into their, their old profession, what they’ve come from.

So a lot of newcomers end up needing to have a plan B. There’s so many people I know who’ve had who’ve come, they aren’t able to immediate resume, their, their old profession who’ve started have needed to start their own business. And I think when it comes down to mistakes, people make mistakes I’ve made.

One of them is, I guess, cautiousness, and you know, risk aversion to actually reaching out to new people so you know, the events that you host in your County Wicklow, other parts of Ireland, the events that I’ve come to people need to be willing to meet others and take risks and be the first to reach out to, to other people. I would say also, since so much has been done online, you need to be really open to meeting people who are outside of potentially the profession you’re in, or the occupation that that you’ve come from.

There’s so much to be learned, especially for what I found is talking with small business people, small business people are a networking is the lifeblood of their, their business, whether it’s looking for suppliers, or customers or potential collaborators. And I think another mistake is people will see other people as potential competitors, as opposed to potential collaborators.

I made that mistake Initially, I think, with with starting Brent Canada Experiences initially where there were other people offering settlement services, and I thought, Oh, these, these people are competing for the attention of the newcomers as well, where once I realised that, you know, there’s so many people coming to Canada, like in a regular year, there’s been 300,000, newcomers who come to Canada.

These are all people that I might be able to work with, and potentially collaborate with. So I think that’s another opportunity. And I think not willing to say yes, so there’s, if anyone has done anything related to improv comedy, there’s basically is a rule of improv where you say yes to what your stage partner does. And that’s what drives the, drives the player to the skip forward and also drives a lot of laughs are, because somebody will suggest something. And as long as you say, yes, the story moves forward.

And I think it’s the willingness to be open to having conversations with people you would not, or you make presumptions about in terms of what value they can provide to you. Because in a lot of cases, you don’t know really, if you’re meeting people in networking event, who they are, who they were, who they know, or who they might become, you know, see all, you know, don’t judge a book by its cover.

And it’s really to be open to having as well know, Stephen Thomas will, will say, you know, every, every big opportunity starts with a small, little conversation. And that’s really the case networking is you need to be open to having these conversations with people who you may not be able to see immediately how you can help them. But there’s, there’s so much that you could actually do together.

So that’s how we met Jean, have been on other podcasts in Australia, in the UK in the US. And a lot of that is just being willing to say yes to opportunities where you don’t know where it’s gonna lead you. But there’s so many doors that it will open for you.

Jean Evans 13:15

100%, I got one my, my key rule is don’t assume and I love that don’t judge a book by cover, we’re all told that but what I bring that further to people, when I’m when I’m talking about networking is that each of us is a book.

And we’re currently in a chapter within our book. And when you’re out networking, you want to look past that cover and looking past that cover means you don’t assume because of cover means absolutely nothing.

And what I mean by that is a person’s title, their job, what they do, does not define them is not who they are, what you’re there is to discover the chapters in their book, I what’s their story, what made them who they are today. And if you think about us, from curiosity and interest and authentic and you are you just want to if you like people want to get to know them, and you become that anthropologist, then you’re starting to understand the story. What makes them tick, what’s their Why?

And isn’t networking we always say networking is predicated on three points of know, like and trust. So we can’t trust people until we like them. We can’t like them until we know them. So networking 101 is getting to know people. And I love what you said there that

big things happen from small conversations.

But if you’re not showing up, you’re not engaging and you’re not there to have that small conversation. That’s when life passes you by and for me is is key.. I’m a firm believer that networking is a game changer, but it’s about part of the journey.

What I want to take people through is reframing the mindset on networking. how they perceive us that a lot of people perceive it as something that creates panic and anxiety and fear. And they feel a bit fraudulent and a bit dirty, but this and that, and I’m going to know, I want to say it’s awesome, it’s amazing, it’s enriching, it’s empowering, it’s liberating drives your confidence drives your communication skills, it will get you where you want to go, if you are clear on where you want to go, and who you are.

And if you’re not clear, and who you are networking will help you get clear on who you are, because it makes you self evaluate. And it makes you vulnerable in ways that other things don’t make you vulnerable. Because when you have to go out and say, This is who I am, I stand for, that’s a very different thing, because now there’s no business card with the title. It’s you, it’s you. So

Brent Edwards 15:46


Jean Evans 15:47

And when you understand that, now you can start achieving, but the sale doesn’t have a lot of achievement, that that job, the promotion, the salary, the collaborative opportunity, whatever it is, doesn’t happen until you know you and that is huge that you get out of networking.

Brent Edwards 16:05

Absolutely. I mean, you mentioned about curiosity. That’s one thing that I really emphasise with the newcomers in terms of being curious about other people. And you know, so much about know, like, and trust.

And I think that’s really the process, I think the difference is, in cross cultural communications is how you know, you know, someone what is like, and how trust is built, can vary considerably across different cultures.

And I think that’s where some of the mindset shifts need to happen, and where I believe I can help them with culturally what, you know, how know like, and trust is built in the can do business environment.

Jean Evans 16:54

Yeah. And so what describe a little bit, you know, when you’re talking to people moving to Canada, describe a little bit about how the context of what you set or by the Canadian business environment, what does that look like? And how is this different from other working environments in your experience?

Brent Edwards 17:14

Sure, yeah. I mean, I’ve had previously, I’ve worked in a number of different industries. So I worked in the travel industry for many years, financial services, market research. So I’ve had exposure to a lot of occupations and sectors.

And there’s, when you get into business culture, I mean, it’s really, you know, to see it kind of iceberg example, there’s, there’s the individual national culture, which again, tends to very broad brushes, you know, again, depending on what part of Ireland you’re in a part of Canada there’s, you know, cultural differences.

There’s also the corporation or the business you’re in, there’s a unique culture, there’s regional cultures as well. And also the individual in terms of, you know, what they bring.

So those are all things that we need to keep keep in place. within some of the areas I emphasise are around dealing with change, dealing with…What would be the others?… How relationships are built? Those are a couple of the areas that I focus on. One of one of the first TV appearances I was on with an organisation called New Canadians.

They have a local TV programme and a large website to help ease the settlement. And the woman who was interviewing me was a former TV broadcaster from Delhi, in India. And we were talking about networking and building relationships.

And one thing she said to me was, Oh, you mean that networking is not transactional? And I said, Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s right. And I think it’s the, you need to invest and I think yourself or some others may have suggested about it being a bank account. And you really need to make a lot of deposits before you make a withdrawal. You really need to look to help others out. Before you can make an ask.

So whether you’re making a you know, is it a five cent ask or a 50 cent ask? It’s, it’s this pace at which you’re developing the relationship. And the speed at which that relationships develops, is something that’s really important to keep in mind and, and to consider and it’s also very tricky in terms of, Canadians tend to be fairly indirect, again, depends on people in the corporate environment, but it can be a little more difficult to read somewhat, what our intentions are.

And then it can be confusing. If people are coming from either a very direct culture or even more indirect culture, yeah, in terms of picking up on the cues.

Jean Evans 20:09

Yeah, that’s a really important point for people again comes down to not assuming but trying to learn your environment, the cultures, the people and different cultures interact differently with each other, depending on their their intensity and as you say, the directness and and directness.

So, what, tell me a little bit about what… Why do you love networking? And why? What would you say networking has done for you? personally?

Brent Edwards 20:39

I’m not sure if you’re a fan of the 70s band called Supertramp.

Jean Evans 20:44

Well you’re talking about the Doobie Brothers earlier, we’re talking about the Doobie Brothers, we did have a bit of a laugh before we came on.

Brent Edwards 20:51

Yeah. Well, since it’s super, perhaps one of my favourite bands of all time..

Jean Evans 20:56

You mean it’s not the Doobie Brothers?

Brent Edwards 20:58

No, no!! That’s just that’s just from the haircuts and lack of barbers. Yeah, Supertramp, when the songs for Roger Hudson, the lead singer was height of the show. And I remember going to his performance, just outside of Toronto, here a couple couple years ago. And that’s really resonated with me.

And I think it’s, it’s really brought me even though I’ve always been extroverted, it’s really brought me out of kind of my business shell, and help me build relationships, where I wish I knew some of these skills earlier on in my career. I think partly, one of the things I have learned is you kind of need to treat your, your networking relationships a bit like a stock portfolio.

And if we were to go back before the pandemic, again, I’d spent a lot of time in the travel industry. And you had stocks and you know, the beach stocks. So we know booking entertainment, accommodations, cruise hotels, your stock portfolio, unfortunately, would have dropped considerably.

So what I’ve really learned is the importance of diversifying your personal network, across industry sectors, occupations, size of companies. And I think that’s really helped me in terms of building new relationships, uncovering new opportunities, I would have thought of another thing would be, and this is one of the upsides of having everything done via zoom, is if it wasn’t for the pandemic, you know, Jean, you and I probably wouldn’t be having this call, we may not have met, because there would have been our focus would have been on our local, you know, local regional areas in terms of building relationships.

But now we can, we can have a conversation, we’re all used to doing this online. There’s so many things that we’ve reduced the friction of needing to travel to events. And I’ve really been able to diversify the relationships, the events that I attend, the people I’ve met, which is definitely going to, I know personally benefit myself and my clients. Once we move to maybe more of a hybrid environment where we’re doing both online and in person events. So those are, this is a few of the things that really helped me with that networking has, has helped me.

Jean Evans 23:32

Brilliant, brilliant, and I love that you said even from an extrovert point of view that helped you get outside your business shell because I am an introvert and learning about that. And about by my energy source, something we’re going to be talking about, or I’ll be talking about in future episodes, but it’s really important to understand where you lie on that spectrum because it really impacts on how you relate to other people. So this goes beyond culture and directness or indirectness.

It’s your energies, how they interact because an extrovert dealing with an introvert, introvert with an extrovert, we read each other differently, we have different impacts on each other. And I think that’s really important for people to realise it’s important to know, and we’ll discuss this on a future episode. But for now, I want you to tell our audience, something that nobody knows about you.

Brent Edwards 24:23

And I’m trying to remember where which one I had picked in terms of

Jean Evans 24:29

It was 2010 and it was for Canadian citizenship,

Brent Edwards 24:34

Happy, happy to do that. So I was working at financial institutions and I wanted to do I want to enrich my career more I was really I was happy with the work I was doing, but I thought something was missing. And as you can see behind me, you know, there’s there’s a lot of things that are associated with the country that I’m passionate about.

Jean Evans 24:56

Just one or two!

Brent Edwards 24:58

and one of the chief legal counsels there had mentioned that she had done work with the Institute for Canadian citizenship, which was a post. So we have a Governor General, who’s the Queen’s representative in, in Canada, and Adrian Clarkson was previous Governor General and in her post, Governor General ship project, she’d start up start at the super Canadian citizenship.

So what I started doing was actually volunteering with one of the local chapters. And what we did was we organised enhanced citizenship ceremonies for new Canadians. This was actually at Fort York, which was the initial base British outpost in Toronto. And it was the site of a battle during the war of 1812.

With the US. So we actually had these enhanced citizenship ceremonies where people would choose, rather than doing it in a courthouse or the government office, they would actually come down to Fort York, and we would actually organise the events, we had roundtable discussions and we’d bring people in who were, you know, acclaimed in the, in the local community, to talk about why they chosen Canada, what would they help to achieve, and then we actually had the ceremony and being there with these people who most of them had been in Canada for, I guess, a minimum of five or six years, and they were choosing to become citizens, was really emotional, it was a huge day for a lot of the people who, you know, given up so much to come come to Canada.

And that really propelled me to say, like, I’ve got to do more in the time I’ve got here, in order to make a difference in people’s lives. And it was just, it was really a kind of big turning point for me in terms of what I want to do with the rest of my career.

Jean Evans 26:57

Amazing, amazing, and just up the word so that you know what I’m tracking back in our conversation. I think that it’s there. There’s so many layers, and it’s so rich. But I love that it’s not just the what, as you said, the patriotism, and it’s the welcome. It’s the focus on getting people to have, to be the their best selves, and enhance and enrich their ability to give back to the country that they are adopting.

It’s also the focus on that welcomed the inclusivity. It’s the focus on the diversity. And I think you made a really, really good point that I’m going to reiterate, is have a diverse network, because this opens up your perspective and opens up the narrative and opens your mind. lateralizes is your thinking.

And I think the more I’ve travelled around the world, I’ve been very lucky to have had that opportunity. But the more I travel, and this is something that I want to give to my kids is it makes you more humble. It makes it enriches your sense of humility, of humanity, of accepting people that we come from all different walks of life.

And I love what you’re doing is to try and help people feel comfortable a piece or not one, but also that they can achieve an excel because they’re learning how to integrate quicker, better, faster. And I would go back to the other thing that you said as well. I wish I had met me 25 years ago, because I tell you, I would have taken on the world If I had known what I know now. But that’s the that’s getting old. That’s the wisdom. That’s the what we learn with age.

But there’s certain aha moments and epiphanies I’ve had, and so much of what I put down to networking, but it’s helped me reframe past experiences, but also why I set up my company NetworkMe to look at how can we get people to do this quicker, better faster, because if they do, they’re going to win every day of the week, because learning to network is the most fundamental skill because I say it every day of the week when people set up businesses, small businesses, and or even if they’re in career, you have other people who do things, or you will insource and hire people in or you will outsource certain activities.

But the one thing you can’t outsource is networking, and how you build and connect and how you leverage relationships. That is a skill. And I think there’s a there’s a misnomer out there that people think you can either do this or you can’t let go absolutely not. It is a skill that you need to learn. You did not get into your car and suddenly know how to drive and you did not have a job and certainly know how to do it.

You didn’t go into college and suddenly know all of the things. You did it day by day, you fell you got up, you did it again. And that is a huge thing. What networking is a skill that you will fine tune. And it’s so nuanced because it’s nuanced to each and every one of our stories and our journeys. Back to all of those chapters in the book that the more we understand ourselves, the more we track back and look at our achievements and our successes and look at the failures and what can we learn out of them.

That all enriches our story and that is your story. Once you learn that it’s okay and you’re okay. And you love it and said, this is part of my journey. And everything happens for a reason I’m a big believer in everything does happen for a reason. Okay, so Brent, I have really enjoyed our conversation. So will you tell our listeners how they can get in contact with you? Your websites, your email where what’s the best for connecting reaching out to you?

Brent Edwards 30:19

Sure, yeah, absolutely. So they can reach me. So I’ve I’ve a company page on LinkedIn. So Brent Canada Experiences and I encourage people to follow that. They can also reach me on my personal page on LinkedIn.

So put in Brent Edwards, Canada, and you’ll find me. I also have a website Any of those ways, I’d be happy to talk, speak with them. Then they can also follow me on Twitter for a second for @BrentCanadaExperiences.

Jean Evans 30:59

Amazing, amazing. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on this morning. So thank you so much for your time. I know you’ve got a brother early because time difference. So you but I have to say you’re looking smart, dapper. All the way you’re very bright and bushy tailed for somebody who got a very, very early so thank you very much for joining me this morning on this podcast recording.

Brent Edwards 31:22

Jean is absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for having me and I look forward to visiting Ireland after after the pandemic is over. It’d be great to meet you in person.

Jean Evans 31:35

Haircut, travel, freedom.

Brent Edwards 31:40

Haircut first for sure!

I hope you enjoyed reading the transcript of my interview NetworkMe | In Conversation with Brent Edwards – Brent Canada Experiences.

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Jean Evans
Jean Evans
Jean Evans is an expert on all things networking. It is her passion, and one that is borne out of experience and plenty of trial and error, mistakes and mishaps. Through her blogs and social media channels, Jean shares tips, tricks, hacks and ideas on how to become an effective networker in business.

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