Rebooting for a Fresh Start: Elyssa McIvor Connects to the Tech Industry
“I just like learning new things and with this area there's so much to learn. It's not the same old thing every day. It's always something new and the job opportunities are pretty much endless,” Elyssa McIvor shares, reflecting on the career she chose for herself. A Winnipeg-based Sandy Bay First Nation member who grew up in Portage, she decided to try her hand in the field of IT after many years as a stay at home mom. It was time for a reboot, and a fresh start.
“What inspires me is just living. You're given a new day every day. Every day, you're given a new life. There's so many things you can do,” she exclaims. She noticed the shortage of IT people in Indigenous organizations and hoped she could fill that need with the right skills and training. McIvor always enjoyed computers and would fix her sister’s home computer. She finished high school in her early twenties, then took administrative and education assistant courses before taking her IT course as well as a year of university.
On the path to her current career, McIvor found no shortage of challenges. “I found it to be a struggle because the dynamics of First Nations people are different than the rest of society and there's a lot of things that you have to deal with and things that happen in life that don't seem to happen to anyone else,” she reflects.
“Things are changing, our rights are changing. There's so much opportunity and advancement for our people.”
Some of the things McIvor dealt with included childcare challenges and caregiving responsibilities for adult family members that made her miss school or work. It was a lot to keep up with and a lot of stress, and that cumulative load kept her from going beyond her first year of university. Despite those challenges, McIvor remains hopeful and encourages Indigenous youth to do the same.
“You just have to keep going and so that's what I've been trying to do, just keep going and look on the positive things in life and and try to better myself and try to be a good role model for young people,” she asserts, thinking about how hard she found it to find positive role models when she was growing up.
“Don't let anyone else's opinions affect what you want to do.”
She might have pressed pause on her education, but she didn’t give up on her dreams, and she doesn’t want Indigenous students thinking about leaving their home community for school or work to give up either. “I would tell the youth not to give up on whatever it was that they feel passionate about. Mental health and addictions are a big factor when you're going to school and you’ve got to take care of yourself and you’ve got to put yourself first. When you want something, go for it. But also, don't forget about yourself, your mental health, and your spiritual health. If those aren't aligned, and those aren't healthy, then the rest of your life won't be healthy, or positive,” she advises.
McIvor encourages youth to reach out to the many programs and resources focused on getting Indigenous students through college and university if they hit a bump in the road so they can keep moving forward. One of the bigger bumps she hit more recently, like many people, was the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant she had to find ways to take care of herself under difficult circumstances.
For McIvor, that looked like smudging, praying, and practicing gratitude so she could start each day with a fresh new outlook. She exercised, whether that was going out for a walk in the fresh air or doing housework at home.
She might have had to spend a lot of time at home, but she doesn’t have to look far to find inspiration, because it’s all around her. “A lot of the youth inspire me, because they give me hope that when I leave this place, they're going to be continuing to work towards the things that I wanted as a young Indigenous person. They're going to have more possibilities. They're going to have a lot of the things that we didn't have,” she muses.
“Youth are coming forward and they want to know where they come from. I see a lot of kids from foster care that are doing good things with their lives, and breaking generational curses. That inspired me to try to keep up to them and to leave this place better for them than it was for me,” McIvor continues.
She didn’t get her status until she was 16 because her mother was enfranchised, and she’s struck by how much things are changing for Indigenous people today. McIvor is full of pride about who she is and where she’s from. “Our people are resilient. They're always going to be resilient. We're smart. People make us feel like we're not but we are. I see so many people doing such great things with their lives with their families,” she smiles.
Elyssa McIvor is one of those people doing great things with her life and with her family. She’s resilient and smart and she found a career path with endless opportunities. Doing new things and learning every day, she’s upgrading her skills to fill the gaps she saw when she was a stay at home mom thinking about making a change. She needed a reboot and a fresh start and she found it in the tech industry, along with a future that’s connected and bright.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.