Is touch-typing a necessary skill?

I should have known that not knowing how to touch-type would impede my job prospects. The first time my lack of touch-typing skills stood between employment and me was when I got a job as a content writer at a small printing company. After nine days of working there, the manager fired me for not writing fast enough. Of course, that was not the official reason. But I figured as much because he had been constantly nagging me about typing with two fingers and taking a long time to write stuff up. At that time, I sided with myself thinking that I wasn’t a typist and that I didn’t need to type like a pro. But now, after failing at quite a few writing tests, I can feel how typing with two fingers can slow me down. At one such typing test, I had to write and edit long-form content (1250 words) in 45 minutes! With my mediocre typing speed of 45 words per minute and having to look at the keyboard each time I typed a key (causing numerous typos onscreen), I proved to be no match for what these employers were expecting.

I did try a few online touch-typing training websites, but I started getting frustrated pretty soon with them. I could not keep up and felt like my muscle memory was too strong to break. And then one day, I stumbled upon a cool website which made so much sense (its keybr.com if you’re wondering what it is). Pretty soon, I was totally into it and learnt all the keys in 14 hours spread over 11 days. Of course, my typing speed is way low than it was before I learnt how to touch type. But I believe a little bit of practice will take me where I need to be. My goal is to achieve a typing speed of at least 70 words per hour. Right now, I have an average typing speed of 31 words per minute.

It is a difficult feat to achieve, but I’m glad I got a start.

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Immigrant update: A year later…

A lot has happened over the last year and three months in my life, both personally and professionally. Some of the highlights include: me joining and finishing an eight-month professional writing course, my subsequent job search and associated experiences, my husband working for a call centre and then quitting the job, my husband taking a nosedive by enrolling for a full-time IT advanced diploma course, and my kid growing by a year and three months.

In terms of my life as an immigrant, I (or we as a family) have gone through an emotional and experiential roller-coaster. We started off from a place of positivity, then found ourselves struggling with daily realities and now have somewhat found our balance back. By balance I don’t mean financial stability. I mean the ability to see things as they truly are. I now realise that the road to achieve your dreams (or at least your most basic requirements, such as a house) involve a steep uphill struggle. I have to admit, I’ve lost much of the positivity that I had in the beginning. But I do have a realistic understanding of what must be done.

I love it here, I’ve found great friends here. Most of them have undergone the same uphill struggle that we are going through right now. My child is adjusting really well to the country, except for the issues with dryness and blocked nose during the winter. My husband is absolutely zen with how things are going, and he feels positive about our future. Despite living on a meagre income, we still enjoy a minimum standard of living.

Some of the things I’ve learnt as a recent immigrant are:

  1. There are two types of immigrants – those who came on a permanent residency (PR) visa and those who came on a work permit. Those who came on a work permit have to struggle way less than those who come on PR visas. They already have a high-paying job when they land here. Their road to obtaining PR is relatively easy. They are financially and professionally far ahead of their PR counterparts. Those who come on PR, however, have to start from square one. So if you see recent immigrant doing well, it would be interesting to find out whether they came on a work permit or a PR visa.
  2. PR immigrants need to enrol in Canadian courses or programs to begin their career here. This is especially true for regulated professions such as those in the medical and financial fields. But it extends to other non-regulated fields as well. Let’s take my case for example. I’m a content writer. There are no Canadian certifications that I need to take. But my job search before I took the course was significantly less successful than after I had taken the course. I did some volunteering and had a great internship which boosted my chances at getting interviews. Even my husband, who had five years of experience, got very few call backs. Until finally he decided to jump fields and join an IT course (my husband was in talent acquisition before). Its more than just the technical skills and knowledge that you learn. You will learn interpersonal skills that are probably way different than the ones you’ve seen back home. You will also find that your professors could provide you great job references in the future.
  3. Relationship-building is key. Along with joining a course, relationship-building skills are very important in your professional pursuits. No matter how academically and technically qualified you are, if you don’t have people-skills, your career will suffer. You must realise that you’re competing with a well-connected, locally qualified pool of candidates who know this landscape well. Your ability to connect with people is considered a crucial skill, without which employers will be nervous to hire you. They take it so seriously that you will be asked to involve in team bonding exercises during the interview itself. Being open, affable, confident and conversational helps in getting you that extra edge.
  4. Managing expectations can help with the transition. One of the biggest problems that immigrants have are with overwhelming expectations, both personal and social. So many immigrants are initially shocked at how long and arduous the struggle looks like that they immediately turn surly. Couple this with their family’s expectations back home, they really find it difficult to cope. This is my message to whoever wants to come on PR: research your fields, read about the Canadian work culture, talk to people who live here and come with the least amount of expectations as you can carry.

Seriously, the worst thing about Canada is not the winter, but the amount of expectations that you carry as a new immigrant.

Screen-time Struggles!

I started giving my kid my iPad and mobile phone to watch when he was about a year old. This was the time when he started showing pickiness in eating. It was a harrowing time for me, like any other parent. I wanted my kid to eat more. I asked myself (against all the blaring sirens in my head): What could go wrong?

Well, what started as an innocent curiosity, became a full-fledged addiction.

I was happy in the beginning. He was eating better when he was watching his favorite nursery rhymes. He started learning the nursery rhymes by heart. He also learnt the alphabet, the numbers, the shapes and colours in no time. When I needed him to remain distracted, even in public, I could just fish out my phone and put on a video, and he would stay glued to the screen.

All the while, I heard, read and witnessed horror stories of children turning into little monsters due to excessive screen-time. But I kept denying that I had a problem. My kid wasn’t a monster (yet).

Fast-forward to when he turned 2 1/2 years. The following factors opened my eyes:

  1. Worse eating: Despite the initial spike, my kid’s eating began going on a downward spiral. He was pickier than ever. He would cry for the screen even to eat his favorite food. When he went to the day-care centre, he wouldn’t eat properly because he couldn’t get his regular ‘distraction fix’.
  2. Temper Tantrums: Even though I took his temper tantrums as normal behaviour during the “terrible twos”, I knew that it had to be curbed in some way. Going out with him was an absolute nightmare. He would throw tantrums in the middle of the road! He would fall on the ground and writhe like a snake. Imagine being that parent, when all those judging eyes are on you! Apparently, the screen started losing its charm with my little fella when it came to behaving in public places.
  3. Impatience: This goes hand-in-hand with temper tantrums. But impatience is a much larger issue. It was affecting his patience to play, to learn new things, to overcome challenges etc. He would just give up after trying a little – a scary thing to watch when he was just two years old.
  4. Warnings from people: Friends and family started showing their disapproval when they saw me giving my son screen-time, expecially during his meals. They told me that eating shouldn’t accompany bribes, especially something as addictive as screens. I saw how parents who caved into their kid’s screen demands suffered as a result of it.
  5. Speech impairment: My main concern was his speech impairment. He knew nursery rhymes by-heart, but never spoke very many words outside of it. He struggled with expressing his needs. He couldn’t say some of the basic words that his peers could say. He was ‘babbling’ a lot – while this meant that he wanted so badly to talk, he didn’t have the vocabulary to express his thoughts.
  6. Other developmental issues: What does it mean if your toddler screamed and cried for screen-time when he was bored? That he doesn’t want to play with normal toys. Playing with normal toys develops motor skills, eye-hand coordination and creativity. He had reached an age when he should start learning to brush his teeth, to put his clothes on and to eat by himself. Screen-time was a huge barrier to all this.

One fine day, I took the giant leap of taking away his screen-time altogether. I was expecting a hurricane to hit, but only a small storm swooshed over us. He became a little confused for two days. But then he came back to normal.

Of course, this meant that I had to get creative… a hell lot more creative. By goodness’ grace, I found out that my toddler gets competitive when it comes to food. Sly me! I would pretend to eat his food, and he would cry and snatch it away from me, and eat it himself. For now, that seems to work everytime.

Slowly, but steadily, my toddler and I were overcoming all the cons that screen-time brought with it. His apetite is improving, and so is his temper, speech, creativity and motor skills.

Life Update – Moving To Canada

On 27th January, 2017, we made a great leap. Like, literally. We will leapt over half of the earth, all the way to Canada. After almost 1 1/2 years of patience, preparation and prayers, the moment had finally arrived.

My mind is still whirling. I’m both excited and anxious. Its like visiting another planet. We even landed smack dab into the middle of a Canadian winter. Everything is going to be new, and we have start from square one. But at twenty-six, am I too old to learn new tricks? *nervous laugh*

I’m a second generation ‘Gulf’ kid. Hordes of Indians migrated to the GCC to make fortunes, and to help their homelands prosper. I am truly thankful to this endeavour by our forefathers because it has given us many valuable things. But three years in Dubai, the hedonistic capital of the GCC, had got me yearning for more meaning.
And so, we decided to take this risk. The risk of leaving behind a comfortable life to tread unknown waters. The risk of being so far away from our beloved parents and family. This is for us and our children to come. I think it is now our generation’s time to endeavour, looking for better oppurtunities.

The journey to Canada was full of hiccups and if it weren’t for our excitement for landing here we would have been burnt out completely. A day before our connection flight from Kochi to Delhi, my husband and baby boy contracted viral fever. Then the Air India flight from Kochi was delayed by two hours which made us miss our Air Canada flight from Delhi to Toronto. We had to stay in Delhi to catch the next Air Canada flight the following day. Owing to this, we lost our booking for infant meals and premium leg room seats which would have been crucial for the long flight.

The worst was to come when we entered the flight. It was a 14 hour flight and our baby decided to cry for fourteen straight hours. I cannot explain how harrowing it felt to see him cry like that. He had never cried so badly on any other occassion. It got so severe that we had people coming up and asking us what was wrong and to do something to stop the baby from crying. We were so helpless, we tried everything under the sun.

Miraculously, when there was just half an hour left for landing, he stopped crying. He returned to his playful self and hogged down a packet of biscuits to satisfy the hunger that he had raked up during his 14 hour crying fit. He drank a whole bottle of water. We were baffled, but we were so relieved.

Our landing process went by swiftly with no hiccups. The officer who processed our landing papers, with a disarming smile and an open demeanour set our first impression of Canadians. We proceeded to the luggage carousel, and found out that one of our bags was missing. The baggage official assured us that our bag was with the aircraft, and will be sent to our place of residence later.

We got onto our Uber to our hotel, where we slept like logs after our tiresome flight.

I hope that the optimism and perseverance does not run out too soon because there are surprises hidden everywhere. The game plan now is to keep navigating around these surprises and to hope to reach a time and place where we know Canada by heart.