My journey from Africa to Canada and the lessons I learned in the process

Guest Blog by Rasie Bamigbade

I have always visualised what my life would be like, become a doctor, get married, have beautiful children, and always serve others by giving back. Visualisation is something I did a lot as a child and up to now, I have discovered that it brings me closer to the service I have to offer to our world.

I am not a doctor, I am a widow, I have no children of my own, I have many nieces and nephews and I am serving leaders and youth with the intention of closing the opportunity gap in leadership and paving the way for our next generations. When I moved to Canada from everything I had known and everyone I loved, the parts I knew about myself were soon to be in the past and not at arms reach.

I was excited because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one that I needed to maximise on. I needed to make my family proud in every way that I could. I did not know what was about to happen next.

These are the things they don’t tell you about when you are preparing to move to a new place, country, continent, or home. The culture is significantly different; you will not see many black people; it is a very cold place; you will have to make new friends; people will say and ask ridiculous questions about what you look like; you won’t be seen as equal no matter how hard you work; you will be reminded that you are black and from Africa from time-to-time. I had to learn all this, experience it very quickly and adapt, if I was going to pave the way and help more people.

One of my favourite quotes is “History has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own,” by Michelle Obama. I feared being in the environment I was in at home with my guardian I moved with to Canada. I felt unsafe going to sleep in my own home. My courage to keep going and my hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel kept me alive and smiling no matter how difficult things got. I was once asked by one of my friends, “did you live in a tree back in Africa?” Let’s just say I walked away and listened to the sound of my mom’s voice in my head – “Walk away from what doesn’t serve you well.” It was not my responsibility to answer that question, and this is when I started to learn about who I could be friends with. The relationships I had at home, at school and at my corporate jobs taught me a lot of lessons, the most difficult ones from when I was 13 years old.

Moving to Canada was the most extreme experience I had ever visualised and as a result of those experiences, I am effectively coaching corporate and business leaders through my six-weeks Jumpstart Process, I have published my first book “Lead In Your Truth” on authentic leadership, and I have mentored 28+ youths through my 12-month mentorship programme.

One of the experiences that paved my way into coaching corporate and business leaders, leading teams, was working my way up the corporate ladder in Canada.

I am a black, young, enthusiastic woman. This meant I would miss out on promotions, work harder than everyone else in the room, be cautious of my tone of voice, wear my hair differently to look professional, know that my passion might come off as aggressive and not laugh out loud-as-I-wished in business settings. This was my reality. Despite the results I delivered, the teams I impacted, the ideas I converted into profit, I still had to work twice as hard to be seen as an equal in my leadership roles. This changed when I met a female leader – and now a close friend – who supported me and taught me the importance of being authentic. This is when I started to be brave and show up in who I am and embrace every part of me. I shaved my head, rocked my natural look, wore more colours, spoke up boldly even when I did not have the whole room’s attention, laughed out loud because it felt so good and became passionate because it brought me joy.

The challenges I faced at 13 years old, the problems I solved in my self-leadership – and not stopping there – and helping other people in the process, has shaped the woman I am becoming. She is authentic, full of joy and love, helping others, closing the gap in corporate leadership, and paving the way for more generations.

People will see you for what you are and only the truth matters of how you see yourself. Embrace your authenticity and show up as who you are proudly. I am celebrating you and rooting for you.

Rasie has led teams while she was employed at McDonalds, Starbucks, HMS Host at Vancouver International Airport and the Immigration Services Society of British Columbia. She wrote and published her first book – Lead In Your Truth – this year and has inspired more leaders to take action to lead their lives and teams more effective.