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From Burkina Faso to New Brunswick: Jean Severin Bouda's unique journey

Posted on Wednesday February 12, 2020

From Burkina Faso to New Brunswick: Jean Severin Bouda's unique journey

From his application for a student visa and his move to Moncton to being hired at UNI in Caraquet, the remarkable journey of Jean Severin Bouda, MBA holder and head office project manager, is the result of well-considered choices. This is the profile of an employee who came from afar and shares UNI’s values.

Choosing a new life

After studying electrical and energy engineering in Burkina Faso, Jean Severin worked for a few companies in his home country. Back home following a contract in Niger, he struggled to find a job, so he decided to start a small business with a friend. The precarious economic situation, corruption and lack of financial support for SMEs made life difficult for them: “After some time, we were forced to close down.”

Destination Moncton

Far from feeling sorry for himself, the young engineer-turned-entrepreneur had the idea of studying business administration to bolster his knowledge in the field. He chose to head for Canada. Above and beyond the outstanding education, it was the many job prospects for graduates that motivated his decision.

In 2016, with student visa in hand, he began a master’s program in business administration at Université de Moncton. When asked why he settled in New Brunswick, he was quick to answer: “I wanted to be able to study and grow in both an English- and French-speaking environment, and New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada. The choice to move to Moncton was personal and entirely voluntary.”

Adapting to his new country—winter!

Burkina Faso and Canada are separated by many degrees of latitude, longitude—and Celsius! When we talked to Mr. Bouda about how New Brunswickers welcomed him, the conversation instantly turned to winter. The reality of the climate hit him, but in a nice way. As soon as he arrived, he experienced what a real winter culture is all about: people helping people withstand the cold.

When shopping for his first winter clothes, a woman approached him and asked, “Can I help you? Because that little fall coat you’re thinking of buying won’t ever be warm enough!” She left him her phone number, gave him a tour of Moncton and helped him better understand daily life in North America.

Perhaps it was because of this chance encounter that he can now wax philosophical about winter: “If you hate snow, you’ll hate half your life in Canada.” That’s the spirit he likes to pass on to the newcomers he meets!

Working at UNI: A natural choice

In life, sometimes it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. During the second year of his master’s, Jean Severin had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Claude Béland, director of Desjardins Group from 1987 to 2000. It was professional love at first sight: he fell head over heels for the financial cooperative. “I come from a more community-based country, where the values of mutual aid and social commitment are very present and shape many cooperatives. These types of businesses are firmly rooted in New Brunswick, more than anywhere else.”

It was on his way to the career fair at Université de Moncton, then sponsored by UNI, that he had a lucky break: a marketing agent was looking to fill the position of senior project manager for the cooperative. Aware of his student status, he wrote a cover letter suggesting he act as the right-hand man for the person hired for the job.

Growing within the company

Several months later, he received a call that would change his entire career path: he was offered a position as project management officer—a student summer job. “I said yes right away even though I had received other offers, because it was an environment I was very interested in,” said the young professional. His decision proved to be the right one. Three months later he was promoted to junior project control officer and then project manager, a position he has held for the past 18 months. When asked where he sees himself in 10 years, Mr. Bouda’s vision is clear: senior project manager at UNI!

“Here, there are no worries!”

Beyond the strictly professional world, Jean Severin points out his colleagues’ immense generosity. “With their support, and thanks to their patience, I overcame my stuttering. They really helped me integrate more easily and gain confidence,” he says, the words flowing naturally. “We still laugh about how I was unable to say soucis (worries in French) and that my expression Il n’y a pas de sushis (There are no sushis) left many people puzzled!”

Presumably, the young man feels right at home in his new environment. In fact, if he’s not at head office developing projects, you’ll find him on the shores of Shippagan, where he’s discovered a growing passion for fishing!

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