ConsultANZ recently had the pleasure of interviewing Eduardo Devia, the founder of a non-for-profit organization Latin Engineers Australia. Started in 2015, it now boasts 12,000 members and is steadily growing.
Eduardo, many thanks for agreeing to share the story of Latin Engineers Australia with us. Before we dive in to find out more about your organization, could you share with us a bit about your background?
Eduardo: Well, I am an Industrial Engineer from Colombia and I moved to Australia over seven years ago.
Q: Why Australia?
Eduardo: When I was just a child I saw a TV program that showed the nature of Australia (mostly the sea animals) and since that day I wanted to come here. It wasn’t easy. I can say that I didn’t have the financial resources at my disposal. However, I had in my mind that nothing was impossible. Back in the days when I was dreaming of travelling overseas, my “friends” were quite the opposite of supportive. I remember their words: “you can’t buy a burger, yet you are dreaming of living overseas,” but that showed me that no matter what people say, I could do it, and here I am.
Since that day I graduated from an Australian university with a Masters in Statistics and Operations Research and apart from travelling the World, I lived in Argentina, England and now Australia.
Q: So what do you do for a living?
Eduardo: In these last six years, I worked in the industry, but a year ago I decided to start my own company www.dandelabs.com where we create applications using the latest technologies like machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, IoT and Operations Research on the cloud. Right now, I am testing an application to optimise the planning process of a company with the aim to reduce the stock on hand and this will give the company better cash flow and lower the cost of storage.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Latin Engineers Australia and what are the aims of the organization?
Eduardo: Everything started with a post on a Facebook group where someone asked if anybody had applied for the permanent residency visa by themselves. I put my hand up and answered, “Yes sure, ask me anything,” but with that post, eight other people asked me how they can do it. At that time, I thought it was not possible to handle all questions via messenger, so I decided to create the group.
We had our first networking meeting in September 2015, and with other six engineers we came up with the idea to create the group as a non-profit organization with the objective of helping each other to create professional links as this is a difficult task when you move from abroad.
Our aim is to change people’s perception of Latin Americans. As you might know, in the USA this perception is not great, so it is in our hands to convince Australians that we are Professionals.
Q: When you first started Latin Engineers Australia, did you think it would become so popular?
Eduardo: Not really. My only objective was to help the Latin community, show them that they can do the entire migration process by themselves and save that money to establish here in Australia.
They always ask us how much we are going to charge them, and we always say: “We only ask you to repay that by helping another Latin American when they need it.” We understand that when you first move here it is not easy and you need some savings.
When I created the group I was so happy that we had fifty members! Now we are nearly seven thousand, but what really keeps me going is seeing that our community is getting stronger and we are helping each other.
Q: Who can join Latin Engineers Australia? Do you have to be in Australia to become a member of the organization?
Eduardo: We support any Latin American, no matter their background. Some of them are just interested to know more about moving to Australia so we have many talented professionals in our group. Employers and Recruiters are welcome to join or group too.
Q: What are the benefits of joining Latin Engineers Australia?
Eduardo: The main benefit is that you will have access to a vast network of professionals that are willing to help each other in many aspects. Some people are looking for support in how to find a new job, or their first job. However, every person has different needs and there is a lot of information that we have gathered over the years.
We want to channel this information to each individual so we have created a chatbot on our Facebook Page, so each engineer has the information that they need, for example, what organisations to join in Australia, how to get a permanent residency by themselves, links to pages to improve English, even how to create their company and how the government is helping startups.
Q: Do you run any workshops and what do they cover? Are they free?
Eduardo: All our events are free. We try to run them at least four times a year. We run events in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and have just had our first event in Brisbane, which was a success.
Most of our events focus on networking. We want our new members to hear success stories which give them the hope that working as a professional or creating their own company is possible.
Q: Can you tell us more about the new mentorship program?
Eduardo: The mentorship program was open to us by Facebook when we reached five thousand members and it has been a success. The idea is to provide personalised support to the mentees from Latin Engineers working in Australia.
The program, like everything else we do, is free of charge and it covers different needs of each mentee. Some people are looking for a job, some want to change careers, other need help with an assessment for Engineers Australia, just to name a few. At the moment we have 22 mentors active.
Sometimes, as Latin Americans, we don’t believe that people are willing to help for free. But this group is proving every day that we are an amazing community and that the people who settle here, in Australia, are willing to help each other because they know from their own experience, how difficult it can be for new migrants.
Q: What are the goals of Latin Engineers Australia for the future?
Eduardo: We want to create more links with employers and recruiters so they can start looking for resources in our community. We had a beautiful surprise last year when a company approached our group because they wanted to increase the percentage of Latin Engineers working in their company. They saw the professionalism in our engineers and our warm and bubbly personalities.
Q: Where can we find Latin Engineers Australia?
Eduardo: We are in all the platforms and below are the links to our social media.
Q: And finally, what advice would you give to Engineers who are considering relocating to Australia?
Eduardo: You only need one thought in your mind: nothing is impossible. It is not easy to migrate here, so if you have this mindset, you are going to overcome any challenges that you will experience here. You might not have anybody here, you might discover that is difficult to find a job, but nothing is impossible. Australia is an amazing country and has the top professionals in the world so the competition is tough. Also check if your profession is in demand in Australia. For some Professionals this might be more challenging than for others so going to meetups is the best way to find out.
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