How to Restart a Career Abroad

These seven steps took Aurelia Vlascov from Moldova expatriate to financial leader at AmerisourceBergen Specialty Canada

Aurelia Vlascov doesn’t let pesky things such as learning a second language or moving to a new country stop her from taking control of her and her family’s life. Before moving to Canada through the Professional Immigration Program in 2004, Vlascov, Romanian by blood but born and raised in the Republic of Moldova, was merely making ends meet in Europe’s poorest country. So, at 31 years old, she began to teach herself English and save up her money for the trip across the Atlantic. Today, a decade later, she leads a staff of 10 as the controller at the market-leading pharmaceutical company AmerisourceBergen Specialty Canada.

1. Understand where growth begins and ends

When the USSR collapsed in 1991, Aurelia Vlascov was working as the chief economist for a midsize company specializing in wholesale produce, and her responsibilities included planning, budgeting, forecasting, and financial analysis. She continued on this path through 1996, when she and her family moved from their small town to Chișinău, the Moldova capital, so that she could work as a bookkeeper for a growing local business. She soon took on more roles there, including receptionist, admin assistant, custom broker, dispatcher, and buyer, before eventually reaching a more strategic position as CFO and controller of five different entities, building and overseeing a team of five accountants to run day-to-day finance operations.

However, despite the promotion and the many interesting challenges of her job, Vlascov and her family were still only earning enough to cover the bare necessities. “We wanted more, and we felt that we had to do something to change the situation,” she says.

2. Analyze your options

Vlascov’s inability to have a decent quality of life forced her to reevaluate her choices beyond Moldova. She and her husband thought that if they moved to a nation of greater opportunity, they could leverage not only their professional expertise but also their strong drive for success, their ability to learn quickly, and their adaptability in new environments. They decided to immigrate to Canada through the country’s Professional Immigration Program, which allows professionals such as the Vlascovs to obtain permanent-resident status and eventually citizenship in just four years.

3. Don’t take “no” for an answer

The program had three major requirements that Vlascov did not meet: English fluency, intermediate knowledge in French, and proof of at least $16,000 in personal savings.

“I decided that there is nothing in the world that I cannot learn in order to live in a country that [would] allow me to build a future for myself and my family,” Vlascov says. So, with no knowledge of English, just a handful of French phrases, and a meager fortune at the time, Vlascov began learning and earning what she needed to make the leap to North America. Eventually, in August 2004, she and her family boarded a plane in Bucharest, Romania, and 14 hours later they landed in Toronto.

4. Research, research, research

Long before acquiring a Canadian Visa, Vlascov began reading about life in the country, seeking tips on how to adapt and what to do first. She scoured hundreds of articles, forums, and websites produced by earlier immigrants to gain any edge she could find. Mainly, she sought advice on how to find a job in a country where nobody knows you. Through her research, she discovered she could only gain an entry-level position in Canada at first, and even for that she had to have Canadian experience and references. Basically, she needed to start off volunteering, but to find those opportunities, she had to enroll in a co-op program.

Vlascov began at ABSC 3 years ago as an accounting manager with 4 direct reports. Within 9 months, she was promoted to senior manager of financial accounting, where she oversaw 9 direct reports.

5. Don’t be afraid to start from square one

All Vlascov’s preparation led her to the Yorkdale Adult School in Toronto. Just three days after her arrival, she took and passed the English test, had a short interview with one of the facilitators of the program, and successfully enrolled in a four-month co-op course. A month after completing that course and learning how to behave in a Canadian office environment, Vlascov snagged a position as a volunteer accounting clerk, doing work the rest of the team did not want to do.

6. Seize all opportunities

Fresh off of her co-op contract, Vlascov began working full-time at LEO Pharma Inc., where she started as an account-payable and account-receivable clerk in April 2005. Within just five years, she was promoted three times and was even encouraged to return to school to acquire her accounting designation.

7. Never stop learning

Three years ago, Vlascov joined AmerisourceBergen Specialty Canada as an accounting manager, and within nine months she was promoted to senior manager of financial accounting. The role challenged her as she adjusted to working for such a large, multilayered company, but her duties eventually levelled out, and in August 2013, the company offered her the controller position, making her responsible for the accounting books of AmerisourceBergen’s four legal entities in Canada.

She has since been learning her role while building and polishing the skills of her team—which has grown from 3 to 10. “The situation has been very challenging, but the fact that I knew what I was striving for has kept me focused and motivated,” Vlascov says. “And my focus and motivation are helping my team stay on track and be successful.”