Like mother like daughter, like father like son

Your parents influence you in all aspects of life. How does that work for your career? Graphic Sheena Macmillan

How a parent’s influence can impact their child’s career path

“Oh, maybe it’s a good thing if you become a nurse,” is something many Filipino kids grow up hearing, and Aaron Gopez is no exception.

Gopez, now studying sciences at John Abbott College, spent two years in nursing because he knew it’s what his parents wanted him to pursue.

“A lot of my cousins are nurses, and a lot of Filipinos obviously are nurses too. They thought if I’d be like them people would be proud of me, like their family members and their friends would be impressed,” he said. “Because being a nurse is an honourable job.”

Only a year away from completing the nursing program, he felt it wasn’t for him. “In nursing you have to have the personality for it,” he said. “I’m more introverted so it was really hard for me to connect with the patients and naturally care for them.”

After two years in nursing school, Aaron Gopez realized he wasn’t meant for the field. Graphic Sheena Macmillan

His first working experience was in a nursing home, where him and his classmates were assigned to the less autonomous patients. “We would have to change their diapers, change their bed[sheets], dress them, give them baths, shave them,” he explained. “It was honestly not enjoyable, cause I don’t like cleaning up poop.”

It was when he spent time with heart attack patients that he knew he had to switch fields. “I saw how hard it was for them, [and] it was hard to watch them suffer around me.” He knew it was his job to help them, but found it difficult to be around so many people in pain. 

“I remember once I got close to a patient, she was really nice, and we built a connection. A week later I discovered she had passed away. It hit me really hard,” he admitted.

He decided to switch to sciences instead, because it offered more opportunities to discover a field that peaked his interest. Since then, he’s taken an interest in biology and coding. Now on his way to university, he’ll be applying to cell and molecular biology with a minor in computer science.

“It was horrible,” he said about the conversation with his parents that followed. “They were obviously very upset, because they know I wasted two years of my life, and two years of pay is a lot. So they see it as me losing so much money.”

Switching from nursing to sciences didn’t rock the boat too much, but he thinks if he went into an arts related program his parents would’ve been more upset. “They want me to have a more stable [...] job. They’re okay with me being a doctor—which obviously isn’t going to happen for me,” he laughed. “But somewhere in the lab or an engineer, they’d be happy with that.”

Growing up with parents who encouraged him and his siblings to pursue their dreams, Gurvir Singh Johal felt like he could follow any path.

When his grades fell short in elementary and high school, he recalls his parents spending countless hours with him helping him understand the material. “I owe them so much in return,” Singh Johal said.

With his parents always in his corner, Gurvir Singh Johal has been able to pursue many different paths in life. Graphic Sheena Macmillan

“They sacrificed everything,” he said about his parents leaving India. “They came to Canada to give us a better life.” To him, his accomplishments are like a reflection of his parents.

In CEGEP he studied pure and applied sciences, but didn’t feel motivated to further pursue it in university. Instead, he took time away from school to follow his first passion—soccer.

He travelled throughout Europe and Africa, where he was offered a contract but decided to reject it and come back to Canada. He tried out for the Canadian Premier League, but didn’t make the cut. 

Now, he’s studying accounting with a minor in real estate at Concordia.

His father studied accounting in India and played a huge role in Singh Johal’s interest in the field. He remembers his dad describing accounting as “the medicine of business,” because it comes in handy in any aspect of business.

“Money comes and goes, but people, once you become friends with them they stick around forever,” his dad told him. That led him to follow in his dad’s footsteps, being driven by the want to help others through his business savvy.

With a mom in the arts, Matthew Sanderson figured studying studio arts and art history would go off without a hitch.

However, the reaction he received from his parents was the opposite of what he’d expected.

His dad is an engineer, a “very mathematical and science type guy,” Sanderson explained. “My mom is very much the opposite. She went to art school as well, and I grew up with her art around the house.” 

“My dad was really excited for me to go to art school,” he recalled, surprised by his reaction. “My mom was actually hesitant,” he said. 

“Being in a creative field you have to deal with people all the time telling you your degree isn’t useful,” he said. “I was a little bit gobsmacked when I got that same response from my mom.”

Still unsure of what he’ll do after school, Matthew Sanderson finds his mom’s ever-changing career journey inspirational. Graphic Sheena Macmillan

After leaving art school, Sanderson explained, his mom went through a period of aimlessness and was uncertain about her career. Eventually, she found a career as a photographer and started taking peoples’ portraits for a living.

“Her experience has been impactful for me because I also kind of have no idea what I’m going to do after school,” he admitted.

Since then, however, his mom has gone back to university to pursue a masters in counseling psychology. This new chapter in her life came from building connections with the people she photographed.

“There’s something reassuring to me, [...] finding your passion in life when you're 20 or when you’re almost 50,” he said.

Even though his mom was apprehensive at the time, that didn’t deter him from applying to his dream art school—Concordia University.

“I always loved going to Montreal growing up, and the prospect of going to art school in Montreal ignited an imagination in me,” he said.

When it came to documenting his work for his portfolio, his mom became a huge help. “She showed me how to take really high quality photos of my artwork, and she was always the person I could ask, ‘Oh, do these look good? Is this okay?’” he said.

“It was a big risk,” he said. He applied to other universities in more academic fields as a back up, but told himself, “If I get accepted, I’m going to take it.” 

Now, the two of them attend Zoom classes together—him holding up his artworks up to his webcam, and her working towards her masters.