Hard work pays off for computer programmer graduate

Rafael Almeida sitting at his desk in his new position within Niagara healthcare as a systems administrator.
Rafael Almeida sitting at his desk in his new position within Niagara healthcare as a systems administrator.

Rafael de Castro Almeida is a 2018 graduate of Niagara College’s Computer Programming program and was a research assistant with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre from April 2019 to August 2020. Today, Rafael is a systems administrator with Niagara Health. 

Tell us about where you work:

I was hired in April 2021 as systems administrator for Niagara Health, a regional healthcare provider with multiple sites (including five hospitals), serving the residents of the Niagara region.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

The role of the systems administrator is related to the management of the various systems to support the day-to-day systems operations of the hospital. My responsibility is specifically to administer SharePoint servers, a Microsoft tool that is used at Niagara Health to provide a platform for all intranet websites within the company. In addition, it serves as a collaboration and document management tool, used to spread the news about new procedures inside the organization and share documents securely. 

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

Working at R&I made a huge difference for me for various reasons. Firstly, besides helping me financially, it was my first job here in Canada in my area of knowledge. Secondly, I started working when I was studying, so I could apply the fresh knowledge I was receiving in the classroom to the research projects I worked on. Lastly, I was able to meet new people, and create great networking opportunities with knowledgeable and experienced co-workers that helped me to understand the market and the details about this new culture.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

The most important project I worked with was Keyframe Studios, a project that we had to integrate different knowledge from engineering, software and business. It made me see beyond the code, but also look at challenges from an engineering perspective. In addition, it made me dig a bit more into the IoT (Internet of things) world. Being part of the task force to build the face shields was also important due to the meaning it had during the battle we were having against the [Covid-19] virus. 

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

The region of Niagara played an important role in my family’s decision to emigrate here from Brazil. However, in our research about colleges here in Canada, Niagara College stood out by its programs and good reviews online. Also, NC provides a scholarship to Latin American students, which helped financially in our decision.

Most memorable experience at NC?

When all my efforts materialized in a 96 per cent overall score (GPA) at the end of the program, despite all my struggles to manage two jobs and a family in a foreign country.

Is there a particular mentor who influenced you?

I had two people who influenced me the most. First was Alex Davis [former R&I research associate], who mentored me when I needed support with coding and understanding the legacy we had in our department. And the other person was Amal Driouich [project manager], who helped me in numerous situations regarding career counselling, project management and task direction.

“I would like to thank R&I and Niagara College for the opportunities I had and for helping me build the foundation – it will last forever in my life.”

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

Give your best. No matter what you are struggling with – in your personal, student or professional life – always give your best. It might sound cliché, but being comfortable with yourself throughout your journey, knowing that you are doing the most you can, despite all the workload and responsibilities you have, is crucial for your mental health and professional life.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

That all efforts count. I can see now that all I did is paying off today. All the nights with little sleep, having two or three jobs at the same time – it is all experience, no matter what field you’re in. I learnt from my time at Walmart collecting carts in the parking lot that being humble and treating customers well matters. I learnt that building a computer to meet the client’s expectations is important. And here at Niagara Health, I know that I have to do the best I can to provide the platform all Niagara residents will benefit from when they need health care (which makes me proud to be part of).

Proudest achievement since graduating?

Getting a good job to be able to provide for my wife and my daughter.

Interests outside of work?

Spending time with my family. Now that our life is starting to get back on track since we started from scratch since we came to Canada, I will probably be looking for some sports or physical activity to have a healthier life. I used to play paintball and soccer in Brazil.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Do your best and give opportunities to those you see are genuinely trying their best. Be kind, especially to immigrants.

Anything else you want to say?

I would like to thank R&I and Niagara College for the opportunities I had and for helping me build the foundation – it will last forever in my life. I’m truly grateful.