Umang Patel arrived in Vernon in August 2017 and is already contributing to the community’s non-profit sector and charitable causes. His positive demeanor and gratitude to his new country are especially inspiring given the discouraging hurdles he leapt earlier.
Umang graduated in India with a bachelor’s degree in commerce and was just four months away from finishing his masters in advanced accounting, which he hoped to complete in Ontario as an international student. However, his bachelor’s degree was not transferable so he took a business finance diploma and got licensed in mutual fund investments, all while working nights as a gas station attendant and commuting four hours each day.
With his studies complete, finding related work was a challenge. “Basically, I didn’t know anybody. I had to start from scratch.”
His nearest relative was an uncle in the U.S. “As a new immigrant moving to a totally different country, there are millions of people but you don’t really know them and you are kind of lost.”
For Umang, after six months of job searching, the opportunity for full-time work and permanent residency came in Saskatchewan. Despite his hesitancy to move, he says, “I’m fortunate that I chose Canada as I have lots of friends in many other countries who are struggling for permanent residencies as well as a suitable career. I think Canada is a really good choice.”
He started his banking career in Estevan as a financial services representative and made strategic career moves eventually progressing to commercial account manager.
“I always had the desire to learn something new.” He also wanted to help new entrepreneurs, so he volunteered with Community Futures, sharing his knowledge and honing his commercial banking skills with start-ups.
Although grateful for the five years he spent in Estevan, Umang tired of the cold winters and transferred to Vernon when a position opened at the RBC Royal Bank.
“I always had a desire to give back to the community,” says Umang, who takes pride in working for an organization dedicated to social responsibility. Through the bank, he has been involved in many fundraising and community events including Special Olympics, the Hospital Foundation, United Way and the Diwali Festival. He is humble in acknowledging that, “even though it’s a small contribution towards a large community, every effort counts.”
Umang is a former director of the Downtown Vernon Association board where he served as treasurer and on their municipal liaison committee. He enjoyed being part of a dedicated board and is excited about the new developments downtown.
A Canadian citizen now, he obviously loves his new home, quickly naming Vernon’s many natural amenities. Golf is his passion and he has putting practice daily in his office, he jokes between clients or with staff. His office has no windows, but it’s sunny with Umang’s optimism about the city and his future in it.
In 2018, Umang’s wife Pooja joined him in Vernon. After connecting with Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society, she’s been working towards her early childhood education certificate at Okanagan College.
Together they are integrating in the community, meeting people including some from the Indian community, through networking and charity events.
“I believe in ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, so if my community is not growing then I’m not growing,” says Umang, who clearly is helping to build community in Vernon.