For this month’s Employee Spotlight, we’d like you to meet Kelly Morales, who has recently taken on a new role as the Creative Director at FISPAN — Congratulations, Kelly! Kelly started her journey with us over two years ago as the Web Developer/UX Designer, shortly after immigrating to Vancouver, Canada, from Cartagena, Colombia. She carries extensive experience as a graphic designer, web developer, and illustrator and has proven to be an integral asset to our team. Kelly graduated from the University of Magdalena, and has studied Graphic and Web Development in both Canada and Argentina.
Let’s get to know a bit more about Kelly, her journey in Marketing from Colombia to Canada, and what advice she has for other immigrants seeking careers in new countries.
Why did you choose to move to Canada from Colombia?
Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of living in another country, especially one where I could practice and improve my English and one day be able to speak the language daily. A couple of years before I arrived in Canada in 2017, I started hearing stories about how great the country was as a place to live and the many opportunities available to be explored. So, I decided to give it a try and took that leap of faith. I’ve now been working at FISPAN for two and a half years and love it!
Are there any challenges that you encountered with the Visa process and securing a job in Vancouver?
I can’t say it was exactly easy. I already had many years of experience in my field, but it was easier for me to come to Canada as a student, so that’s what I did. For many international students, it’s especially hard because you can have lots of experience and be considered a professional, but most companies still struggle to understand the Visa process. Thinking it’ll cost their company additional time and money for recruitment and onboarding efforts, they prefer to hire candidates who already have their full status.
For over a year, I applied to several jobs, went through a ton of interviews, and passed many of their steps. But, once it came down to my Visa status, I’d always get a “no.”
With five months left before I had to go back to Colombia, I went to a recruitment event to explore more career opportunities. It was there where I met my now CTO, Val Novikov, and CEO, Lisa Shields, where we talked about my experience and followed up with a call. Initially, they also did not fully understand the Visa process, but they took the time to let me explain it to them, and we were all able to move forward and say, “let's do this.”
What advice do you have for new immigrants trying to find a job or employers looking to hire new immigrants?
To new immigrants: don't give up. It might take a while, but keep knocking on doors because you never know which one is going to open. For me, it was FISPAN. We’re more focused on getting the right people, regardless of where you come from, as long as it's the right fit. Employers should try to use similar hiring practices. There are many exceptional individuals who pack up their lives to come here and have the skills and experience that match the job description. I believe everyone deserves a chance; it shouldn’t come down to their Visa status.
You were also a Creative Director in Colombia before joining FISPAN. How do the roles differ based on the industry?
Even though they’re the same title, the jobs and outcomes are quite different. In Colombia, I was on the Marketing team, where I worked closely with clients to create different Marketing campaigns and events that helped increase the company’s exposure. At FISPAN, we’re helping end-users (everyday businesses) get their jobs done. I’d say that the work I do at FISPAN resonates more with me since I, as a designer and product creator, love creating things that help make people’s lives easier. Here, we’re creating products and applications that businesses need, which has also been one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
Kelly and the team at FISPAN explore British Columbia's best playground: nature.
If you were to give any piece of advice to those applying to FISPAN, what would it be?
There is tough competition in the marketplace, and you need to stand out. Particularly, when it comes to designers, you must have a really good portfolio. I’ve noticed that junior designers, especially, tend to want to show off everything they’ve ever done, but I suggest that you only showcase your best work. This will highlight your greatest skills in the best way possible.
When I’m reviewing applications myself, I often don't look at schooling or GPA. Instead, I spend the most time looking at the design skills. Starting with an applicant’s resume, I try to look for the passion that they possess — I feel as though this is the most important thing for designers. Passion is everything. If you really love what you do, it's not a job at the end of the day.
What has been your favourite project at FISPAN so far?
I am so happy to have been a part of the creation of a majority of FISPAN’s products thus far. Specifically, the Companion App will always hold a special place in my heart since it’s one of the first projects I worked on when I joined FISPAN. Really, it’s been like my baby, and I’ve been able to witness just how much it's grown over the last two and a half years.
Have you enjoyed working remotely over the past year and a half?
Remote work is nothing new to me; I used to do freelance work for many years, so I’m used to working at home (in my pajamas and without any shoes). I also love having the opportunity to video call my family during lunchtime instead of after work when they're already getting ready to sleep. However, I miss the social aspect where I get to interact with my co-workers in-person — coffee runs, Wednesday company lunches, or even playing PlayStation with Florian Krauthan, our ERP Development Lead, after work. A mix of both would be a great balance for me.
Kelly (left) joins the team for a picture at FISPAN's fourth anniversary rooftop party.
What is a professional skill you are currently working on?
I’m always trying to gauge the next trends in graphic design and design in general, and lately, I’ve been trying to learn more about Marketing. I want to learn more about creating meaningful content for end-users and developing products or applications that keep them engaged. I’ve mostly been listening to podcasts and reading books to gain this knowledge.
In your area of expertise, what has been the most dramatic change since you started?
When I first started, everything involving web design, in particular, seemed to be really busy or cluttered. There were all sorts of different hyperlinks and pictures. Now, things are much more simple and minimalist, and overall more focused on helping the user achieve what they want to achieve (user-centered design principles). Design has changed a lot, and I really like that users are ultimately getting better quality products, and a lot quicker, due to this change.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love sports. You can find me biking around the city and playing volleyball, basketball, and soccer. I’ve recently picked up ultimate frisbee as well. When the weather is poor, I turn to my Nintendo Switch, which is the perfect excuse to stay at home and play video games.
In general, I love hanging out with my friends and having a glass of wine or a cup of tea. My sister is currently in Vancouver too, so I’ve been spending time with her as well.
Outside of FISPAN, Kelly enjoys biking through the streets of Vancouver and playing beach volleyball.
What is the best compliment you have ever received?
Some people have told me they admire me. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I came to Canada by myself, left the life I had behind in Colombia — a good job and all of my family — and basically started all over. Although it feels strange and makes me blush, it also makes me feel really grateful, lucky, and happy to be where I am today.
What is your favourite quote?
“Design won't save the world, but it damn sure makes it look good.”
We invite you to get to know Kelly further by connecting with her on LinkedIn and exploring the many career opportunities we have here at FISPAN for designers, creatives, and individuals of all backgrounds and experiences.