Monthly Archives: June 2018

Successful Brits in Toronto: Roanna Cochrane

Roanna Cochrane

If the BBC ever wants to green light “Posh Spice: My Tumultuous Times on Top Of The Pops” … just saying

Just like we predicted, it’s been drier than a hedgehog’s chuffer on the Successful Brits in Toronto front — and then similar to Toronto’s TTC buses, three come along at once.

But we’re not complaining. Just glad to be in this great city of Toronto. And actress Roanna Cochrane is too.

You remember that scene in the recent Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water, filmed in Toronto, where the cleaning lady tries to help the fish-man-creature in the tank? Yeah, we do too … it was really moving. Really well done. The actress caught the moment.

Anyway, back to Roanna.

This Successful Brit in Toronto’s credits include Vikings, Murdoch Mysteries and Saving Hope. She’s also done tons of voice over work for the very popular video games series Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed.

Here’s her showreel:

So, let’s find out more about Roanna’s life in Toronto …

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

Vikings, a Canadian-Irish co-production I worked on made me think about Toronto, which has an emerging international film and TV market with many productions now filming here each year.

It seemed that a lot of my friends in LA were auditioning for series shooting on location in Toronto, so I thought why not just move there instead. Also TIFF’s popularity has really put the city on the industry’s map.

I initially arrived thinking let’s give it three or so years and go from there. Now I’m planning on going for citizenship.

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

Before making the big move, I flew over to find a good agent which helped a great deal. Within weeks of moving here I landed my first job, a regular in a new animated series for Amazon Prime, Wishenpoof. I was very fortunate to land work quickly which has certainly helped the momentum for further bookings.

The Canadian experience has just made me work harder. And being British provides something different for casting directors which has helped me stand out a bit.

My first TV role over here was in Saving Hope for CTV and it was for a Canadian role but they ended up casting me instead which was a real win.

What are the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

Toronto is a cheaper city to live in than London which makes it more affordable for artists to live in. Torontonians always laugh at this as it is one of the most expensive Canadian cities but the cost of living in London is just that much higher!

I also love living in the downtown core as everything you need is nearby and the city is very walkable.

The worst aspects? Probably being away from family and friends. You get used to it but you miss out on important events and that’s hard.

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

I didn’t set out to meet other Brits but one of the first Ubisoft video games I worked on was Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate which was set in London so most of the actors working on it were ex-pats. Some of them have become my closest friends. We’ll all be cheering on England together throughout the World Cup!

Oh, and one of my pet peeves in Toronto are those cliche British pubs with tacky Tube maps and Beatles posters all over the walls. I can’t stand them! They are nothing like a cosy, atmospheric British pub.

However, I do rather like House on Parliament in Cabbagetown which feels the closest thing to a genuine British pub. They have Fullers beer on tap! And The Ceili Cottage in Leslieville is a lovely Irish pub with a great patio.

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

My advice to Brits moving to Toronto is this: get on WhatsApp and FaceTime so you can stay instantly connected to everyone back home which makes the distance much easier. Making new friends as adults can be a bit like dating but put yourself out there and you never know who is going to be your next lifer!

Enjoy the ride — it doesn’t have to be a forever move, just see how it goes and take things from there one step at a time …

And finally, what can we see you in this year?

I’m voicing a Cockney fox in a new animated series for PBS Kids called Let’s Go Luna which comes out in the fall. I mean, autumn. Yikes — listen to me. Someone pass me a tea and a Hobnob!

And … CUT! Thanks Roanna, brilliant stuff.

You can stay up-to-date with her work on IMDB, Twitter and Instagram.

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Successful Brits in Toronto: Emma Jones

Emma Jones

From Pontypridd to Toronto: One woman’s journey

Just like McDonald’s milkshakes, the Successful Brits in Toronto are now coming thick and fast. And thanks to Kathy Smart who sent out some intro e-mails to her friends — because we’re now a charity case who can’t find our own — today we have Emma Jones stepping up to the plate.

Emma is originally from Pontypridd, Wales, UK and has been in Toronto for seven years.

Here’s some fun facts about Pontypridd:

  • Pontypridd is twinned with Nürtingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany and Mbale, Uganda.
  • Notable people from Pontypridd include Tom Jones, Indie-folk band Climbing Trees and the drummer for AC/DC.
  • Pontypridd has its very own community radio station GTFM 107.9 run by a voluntary management committee.

Enough about amazing Pontypridd though. Let’s hear from Emma …

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

My partner is Canadian, from North Bay, Ontario, and we met while travelling in New Zealand. I originally came to Toronto with him to visit family. We had flights booked to go on to Australia, but for one reason or another, we kept extending our stay in Canada. That was more than seven years ago now!

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

For maybe my first four years in Toronto, my roles were mostly contract based because I enjoyed the freedom of being able to work remotely and travel back and forth to the UK. I think I felt the most homesick during those first few years so didn’t really want to commit to Canada through a permanent position.

I don’t think a lack of Canadian experience hindered me in securing work because a UK education and background is pretty well regarded. With that, I realize that I had advantages that may not exist for a large majority of newcomers to Canada and my immigrant experience is not necessarily representative of the majority.

I first worked for LexisNexis and then Microsoft Canada, with whom I stayed for over three years as a digital producer. After that I moved into marketing, working at an agency, DAC Group, and fintech startup, Quandl.

Recently I started a new role as a Senior Marketing Manager at RBC, which is proving to be a fantastic opportunity as I get to work on early stage start-ups and innovations that go beyond banking.

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

The best aspect of living in Toronto is how multicultural the city is. I love that every weekend in the summer has a different festival celebrating ethnic diversity.

I also love the summer weather and cottage lifestyle, which is like a levelled-up version of going to the caravan for the weekend in the UK, only with less rain and a few more bugs [that’s “insects” for those Brits who have been here less than seven years].

I think there’s a pretty strong consensus that the worst thing about living in Toronto is the house prices. I’m from a small town in Wales and, when I look at what I could buy there for the price of a small condo in Toronto, it really makes you question your decision.

Other than that, I dream about good cheese, cheap flights, carveries and Boots meal deals!

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

I usually meet fellow Brits when chance allows, but I do have a tendency to gravitate towards them at events. It’s like a strange Union Jack honing beacon, but it’s rare that I meet fellow Welsh people.

Even during Six Nations or the football World Cup — the one that Wales actually did well in — I’d watch at the pub (the Rose and Crown at Yonge/Eglinton) and would never see other Welsh folk.

As for recommended eateries for homesick Brits, I don’t think you can really beat a good British Indian, but Banjara (Bloor and Yonge/Eglinton) does a pretty kick-ass [that’s “arse” for those Brits who have been here less than seven years] butter chicken.

For fish and chips, Len Duckworth’s on the Danforth is the closest place to home.

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

My best piece of advice for Brits moving to Toronto is to learn to ski or take up some kind of snow sport because the winters here can be long.

Also be prepared to get a lot of stick from people back home when you start dropping the second “t” in “Toronto.” That’s when you officially know that you’ve become a local!

Great stuff, Emma from Pontypridd. If anyone wants to connect here’s her LinkedIn profile.

Successful Brits in Toronto: Kathy Smart

Kathy Smart 2

And only then did Kathy realize it wasn’t a Canadian fish and chip shop

Back in 2016 Kathy Smart was looking for a job, and then she found a job, and heaven knows she’s not miserable now because she became a manager, then a senior manager, then a director.

We take full and utter credit for that.

Moving on, now that Kathy is a successful mover and shaker in Toronto, let’s catch up and find out what she’s up to now and how life is as a Successful Brit in Toronto.

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

Roughly seven years ago I lived in Vancouver, working on an IEC visa. I absolutely loved it. Vancouver is beautiful, outdoorsy and a great experience but, having moved from London, I found it a tad too chilled for long-term living so after six months chose to head back.

Fast forward to 2016 and the opportunity arose to move internationally with my husband’s company. We looked at options in San Francisco, Sydney and New York, but there was something about Canada (maple syrup, bears, baseball, beavers and checked shirts maybe?) that kept calling us back, so we chose Toronto.

We landed with a three-year visa. Eighteen months later we applied for permanent residency. We love it.

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

After 12 years of working in different facets of recruitment in the UK I was pretty confident I would secure work quickly. I expected that my knowledge of recruitment processes would give me the edge. I was wrong. My thorough understanding of the London market did not map across AT ALL here.

I was applying to jobs online, taking time to tailor my CV and cover letter for each one, then following up with phone calls and emails. I got zero traction. It was horribly frustrating, humbling and mind-numbingly boring.

After six weeks I decided to hit the networking loop. I checked out Eventbrite and Meetup and attended anything that looked like it even loosely could help me meet people in my field.

It was through networking and meeting people and asking that I finally got interviews, and from there ended up with two job offers. Lack of Canadian experience did indeed affect my application.

It meant I had to take a job two steps down from the one I had in London, but then, once in the role, I was promoted quickly, so 16 months after starting had worked my way back up from Manager, to Senior Manager to Director.

Not a perfect system but manageable once you know how to negotiate it.

Key suggestions:
– Go to networking events. Meet people, follow up, chase, talk to people about your experience;
– Be prepared to step down and work your way back up.

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

Best:

1. Living effectively in a village, but being a 45-minute walk to work in one direction and a 45-minute walk to the beach in the other.
2. There’s a sense of community here without being claustrophobic.
3. Lots of opportunity to get involved, am part of a Dragon Boating club, I volunteer for Lean In Canada and Merit Award.
4. Genuine work/life balance even for senior staff.
5. After-work summer activities like kayaking, biking, baseball.
6. After-work winter activities like ice skating, sledding, snow shoeing.

Worst:

1. Being so far from home; it’s particularly hard with older parents.
2. There’s no “beer after work culture here” so very hard to make friends with your colleagues.
3. The traffic.
4. Generally, Canadians are very polite, reserved and avoid confrontation … it’s sometimes hard to know where you stand or how your idea is being received.

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

Absolutely! I love working with Canadians Mon-Fri but on the weekends it’s nice to hang out with other Brits, mainly for the sense of humour and the similarity of situation.

I have Canadian friends as well but they’re a little less available on weekends as they have family commitments and well-established friendship groups, which can understandably be difficult to join.

In the first few months of being here, we collected all the waifs and strays together from every event we went to and now have an awesome group made up of Brits/Americans/Irish/Kiwis for games of baseball and the like.

Would heavily recommend joining the Brits in Toronto Facebook group — it’s awesome for finding other Brits, finding cheap furniture (from people moving in and out of the city) and hearing about events.

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

[KATHY — YOU LEFT THIS QUESTION BLANK OR COULDN’T BE ARSED TO ANSWER.]

So there you have it. One woman’s dream to arrive in Toronto and make a go it it. The pure epitomy of a Successful Brit in Toronto.

Thanks Kathy … and here’s her LinkedIn profile if you want to endorse her for dragon boating.