DIVERSEcity’s Vandna Joshi featured in Canada Tabloid magazine

Uplifting success: Vandna Joshi’s journey from newcomer to a leader at DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society shared in Canada Tabloid magazine

When Vandna Joshi came to Canada from Punjab, India, almost 20 years ago, she, like many other immigrants, faced unexpected challenges in her journey. With a degree in ayurvedic medicine, she was a highly trained and experienced health professional who owned her own nursing home in India. Interested in pursuing other educational opportunities, Vandna started exploring opportunities overseas to start a new life with her husband and son.

“The avenues were limited back home and, after some research, we applied to immigrate to Canada. But I did not hear back on our application for four years!” says Vandna. “It was a long wait and in the meantime I was accepted at an Australian university for nursing. I was ready to go there, but destiny had something else planned when we received notice that our permanent residency application to Canada was accepted.”

They chose Canada with high hopes and many dreams. But after arriving, Vandna was faced with the credential recognition headache so many skilled international professionals face.  “I wanted to go back to school and hoped to do nursing here, but I was told I’d have to start at Grade 12 because my education had been completed more than five years ago!” she says. “That was very disappointing to hear as I had a family and I realized I needed to find a job to help support our son.”

Thinking back on those early days from her current executive office at DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society in Surrey, BC, Vandna shares how hard it was to find work related to her field of expertise, even though she was fluent in English. She remembers feeling frustrated and uncertain about her future.

“My biggest challenge was to get employed while adapting to unfamiliar customs and overcoming homesickness and culture shock,” she says.

However, Vandna forged ahead, seizing any opportunity that came her way — including a job at Walmart for minimum wage and then a front-line job at a financial institution.

But she wasn’t content.

“I knew I was capable of so much more, so I started browsing educational opportunities again and came across a program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and enrolled. Then, I completed a practicum at DIVERSEcity, which confirmed to me that I wanted my Canadian career path to focus on helping other newcomers.”

After graduating, she started working full time with newcomer-serving agency ISSofBC before returning to DIVERSEcity as a work placement facilitator with a youth employment program.

“And I never looked back,” she says. Recognizing her talent, savvy and passion, Vandna has risen up the ranks at DIVERSEcity to a leadership position, guiding the employment division of the registered charity to new heights.

“I understand firsthand the barriers and challenges many of our clients face as they try to enter the labour market and succeed in their careers in Canada. I care about their success so have always looked for ways to provide impactful services that help them achieve their goals,” she says.

One way is by building relationships with the local business community. “I am so grateful to the employer and academic partners that work with us to give new immigrants and underemployed Canadians important work experience and educational training,” she says.

Today, after more than a decade working with DIVERSEcity, which she refers to as “her second home,” Vandna has taken her place at the top of the organization as Director of Social Entrepreneurship. In this newly created role, her connections in the community will be more important than ever as she trailblazes new paths for DIVERSEcity focused on innovation and growth.

“I am thrilled to be taking on this opportunity and leading this exciting portfolio of DIVERSEcity, which includes our pioneering Diverse Entrepreneurs Business Incubator, supported by TD Bank, and several social enterprises,” she says.

As a non-profit organization, DIVERSEcity runs Buy Social-certified social enterprises that offer business-to-business services and fee-based skills training to help earn funds to benefit its charitable works, including its longstanding DIVERSEcity Interpretation and Translation Services, DIVERSEcity Skills Training Centre and CELPIP Language Testing Centre.

“Looking ahead, our social enterprise growth plans will be innovative, sustainable models that have a positive impact on our communities,” she explains.

For Vandna, leading the Social Entrepreneurship portfolio is as much about people as progress.

“Leadership is a business of kindness and nurturing in all aspects. Prioritizing this not only leads to happier and more engaged employees but also contributes to the overall success and wellbeing of the organization,” says Vandna, who is also known as a cultural ambassador at work, organizing staff celebrations for Holi, Vaisakhi and Diwali annually.

As a woman leader, Vandna also strongly advocates for women empowerment through education and financial independence and has been instrumental in designing programs that support this. For her efforts, Vandna was named the Surrey Women in Business Non-Profit Leader Award winner in 2022.

“My mother has been an inspiration to me in my life and the reason I admire strong, independent women who strive to balance work and family priorities while uplifting others,” says Vandna.

A strong professional and mother who strives to uplift others while succeeding in her own right? That’s certainly the perfect description for Vandna Joshi herself.

Download the full issue of Canada-Tabloid_July-2024.

The publication was celebrated at a launch event on July 1, 2024, Canada Day. Here are a few snapshots from that event!