Syrian-born Soulafa Al-Abbasi stresses the importance of communication skills for success in Canada

posted on November 24, 2016

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

Soulafa Al-Abbasi has always been good with people. The Syrian-born immigrant’s flair for networking coupled with her dynamic leadership qualities has held her in good stead in her professional life in Canada — she was recognized as one of Top 50 Atlantic Canadian Leaders under 40 in 2015. She explains why there is no greater skill to be acquired for a newcomer than top-notch communication skills.

You came to Canada for your master’s degree?

Yes, I did my master’s in development economics from Dalhousie University in Halifax. I always knew that I wanted to be Canadian. I have great admiration for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the way this country has been constructed. It’s very powerful.

After your studies, you stayed on in Halifax?

I later on was vice-chair of Fusion Halifax, a youth organization focused on improving city life. I was always interested in working with people — forming bonds and connections.

You have always lived in big cities — being born in Damascus, going to high school in Riyadh and then studying in Cairo — how was Halifax different?

It is definitely a small city (laughs), but the upside of that is that you get to know everyone. You form strong working relationships and you become a part of a tight-knit community. I was able to do a lot of good work there. I worked extensively at the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia as an employment specialist, before moving to Alberta.

What excites you most about your current role at Canmore and Area Health Care Foundation?

My main job is to raise funds for [health care in] Canmore and that means working with different people with very different personalities. The challenge is to understand people; for this, one’s social IQ needs to be high. I have to be strategic in my dealings with people and pull in various resources in order to create fruitful partnerships and also use my contacts to align various interests.

You stress the importance of communication skills for immigrants.

It is the single most important skill for people to be successful in Canada, or anywhere in the world, especially for newcomers who tend to be unsure of themselves when they first get here. They should try to learn the language before they come here and keep working on it. That’s how they will feel less isolated, by interacting and meeting with new people.

Volunteering has also helped you advance your career here…

That’s how you show your value to the community you live in. It is a great way to dispel any misconceptions or stereotypes that people may harbour about immigrants. Work hard at your day job, but find time to lend a helping hand in your community.

Any other tips?

Take ownership of your life in Canada — that is the way to feel Canadian.

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