Latin Stories Australia - Yeimy Orjuela Cardenas
“IF YOU HAVE A GOAL AND IT FEELS OVERWHELMING, YOU CAN DIVIDE IT INTO SMALLER STEPS TO ACHIEVE THAT GOAL”
Yeimy Orjuela Cardenas is a Project Manager at Jacobs Engineering Group and has been involved in several projects at companies such as Yarra Valley Water and the South Eastern Program Alliance for Level Crossing Removals. Jacobs is a multinational company and Yeimy is currently the Australian Pacific Leader for ENLACE (one of Jacobs’ Networking Groups whose mission is to empower the Latino talent within the company). She previously worked at a not-for-profit organisation to assist newly arrived Latin Americans in Melbourne and she is one of the co-founders for Latin Engineers Australia - a not-for-profit organization that aims to bring Latin Engineers together and help them to reach their career goals in Australia. To date there are over 11,300 Facebook members. Yeimy has organised several events in conjunction with Engineers Australia (the largest professional body for engineers in Australia) over the last few years. She enjoys giving back to the community and has also been an informal mentor to several Latinos living in Australia.
TELL US YOUR STORY
I decided to come to Australia in June 2014 to study English. I planned to be here only for 9 months but fell in love with the country and decided to stay. During my first year in Melbourne, I was just studying English, doing casual jobs and some volunteer work. It was a completely new experience for me as I’d been working as an Engineer in Colombia for many years previously. In the early days, things were new and exciting but also a bit tough: I was missing home a lot and sometimes found myself wondering what I was doing here as I’d given up my job as an engineer to be a cleaner. I remember one day when I was cleaning an office and looking at the staff, I was thinking: “one day I will be working in an office in Australia just like these people”.
After I finished my English course, I continued studying and improving my English skills, as my goal was always to work in my profession as an Engineer and I knew I needed to be fluent in English to achieve that. At the end of 2016, I made a “dream board” where I put what I wanted to achieve over the next year. I wanted to get my qualifications accredited, get a job in my field, host some events for Latin Engineers Australia and buy a car. For each of these categories I added the steps that I had to follow, and it was incredible to see how by 2017 I had achieved all of them! I am a big believer that with discipline you can achieve anything you put your mind to.
In 2017 I got my first professional job in Australia at Jacobs Engineering group. My first project was at Yarra Valley Water (YVW) where I was part of setting up the Project Management Office in the organisation. Whilst working at Yarra Valley Water I also participated in a challenge to help the Indigenous community in La Guajira, Colombia with Water Aid. As part of this challenge my team and I organised several fundraising events such as a Colombian fiesta where the attendees were exposed to Latin American cuisine and also had the opportunity to see a Colombian dancing group.
Working at Jacobs has been a fantastic experience for me. I’ve been given amazing support and also been given some great opportunities. For example, in 2018 I was able to go to Mexico to attend a summit attended by Jacobs Latino leaders from all over the world. Australia has opened the doors to many immigrants such as myself and I feel very proud to be working in a company where I can advocate for inclusion and diversity. In 2019, I started working on a project with the South Eastern Alliance Program (SEPA) who develop, design and construct level crossing removal projects around Melbourne which is where I’m currently working today.
During 2020 I had some extra time on my hands as a result of the pandemic, so I decided to dedicate this time to learning new skills. I had always wanted to learn an instrument, so I bought a keyboard and started to teach myself how to play. I also completed a teacher training course in Face Yoga which is where @memy_faceyoga Instagram page was born. Since starting Face Yoga I feel like it has really helped me to maintain a healthy relationship with myself both physically and emotionally. I believe dedicating time to yourself and practicing regular self-care is vital for our confidence and self-esteem and helps us to feel beautiful inside and out.
Language - This is one of the biggest challenges when I arrived in Australia. I had to look for different options so that I could practice English. I didn’t have many Australian friends at the start so my strategy was to start talking as much as I could in English even with my Latin friends, as well as reading and listening to English music.
Lack of professional connections - This was one of the reasons why we created Latin Engineers Australia, we wanted to have the opportunity to network with people who were already working in the industry, and to motivate others that it is possible to work here as engineers.
Community - Sense of building community is very strong in Australia. There are multiple companies and not for profit organisations willing to help and give support to people from all different backgrounds.
Ability to change careers: Usually in Latin America people stay along the same path after deciding what to study at university. In Australia however there are more opportunities to start a new life and change your profession if you wish. You will not be judged negatively for doing so.
Communication - As Latinos we always like to give the full explanations about any situation while Australians are more concise and get straight to the point.
PIECE OF ADVICE
Improve your English skills - The majority of international students come to Australia looking for better opportunities and to learn or improve their English. It is important to study as much as you can before coming to Australia. This will give you the opportunity to start at a better level in your college. The job opportunities will be better and you will also enjoy the experience more, as the language will not be as big of a barrier to communicate.
Focus and do not give up - People often get distracted or just do not feel confident so they give up too easily on their goals. Look around for inspirations and learn from them. If you have a goal and it feels overwhelming, you can divide it into smaller steps in order to achieve that goal.
Be positive - I believe that anyone can achieve their dreams if they are disciplined, hard-working and stay positive no matter what obstacles life throws at you.
Yeimy plans to continue be to be focused on her career progression whilst she also provides support to the Latin Engineer community. She dreams to see more Latin Engineers working in the field. Additionally, she hopes to further strengthen her side business “Memy Face Yoga” and to bring more and more awareness about this wonderful practice.