To score a job in Canada Eat some Bacteria
In 1981 Barry Marshall, an Australian physician-trainee, was doing a rotation in gastroenterology at Royal Perth Hospital in Perth Australia. At Royal Perth he was seeking to take on a new project. He asked his boss, Dr. Tom Waters, if there was anything in the gastroenterology division of the hospital that he could start working on. Dr. Waters directed Barry to another physician Robin Warren who was also doing work in the division. The hospital had received patients who had severe stomach pains. At the time it was difficult to diagnose what such patients really had or what the cause of their pain was. The only thing that was known was that a biopsy of the stomachs of these patients revealed the presence of bacteria. What was this mysterious bacteria? The two of them decided to start exploring this question.
Barry had diagnosed many of the patients with the stomach pains as having peptic ulcers, a painful condition which could in some cases lead to stomach cancer. It was commonly believed that peptic ulcers were caused by factors such as stress and spicy foods. Patients who were diagnosed with peptic ulcers were told to drink milk, reduce their stress levels, and were often prescribed various medications which ostensibly treated these ulcers but which, in fact, really did nothing. Various companies were, however, nevertheless, making billions of dollars on these medications.
The question that Barry became fixated on was what the real cause of these ulcers was. Barry became intrigued by the presence of bacteria in patients with the ulcers. He began to form a hypothesis in his mind that it was the bacteria that was causing the ulcers. At the time this viewpoint was heresy because it went against the commonly-held belief that it was simply impossible for bacteria to survive in the acidic environment of the stomach.
When Barry began to vocalize his hypothesis on a larger scale, virtually no serious academic or medical researcher believed him. Aside from the fact that bacteria could not possibly survive inside the stomach, it was simply impossible for an Australian physician-trainee from some relatively unknown institution to solve a major medical problem and upend a multi-billion dollar industry. Barry tried to present his findings at various conferences but was always pushed aside and not treated seriously.
Barry knew that he was right but faced massive opposition and disbelief. What could he do in order to get people to believe him? He realized that all the talking in the world would do little to convince anyone of his discovery. So Barry decided that he would swallow a large portion of the bacteria himself in the hope that he would develop an ulcer and prove once and for all that he was right. He said that drinking the bacteria felt like drinking swamp water.
Within days of ingesting the bacteria Barry began vomiting violently and had severe stomach pains. After a few more days he did a biopsy of his stomach. Barry was diagnosed with a peptic ulcer. His experiment worked. Barry took simple antibiotics and the ulcer was completely cured within days. This demonstration became the turning point for convincing the world’s medical community that bacteria were the cause of ulcers and that cheap antibiotics were the cure for ulcers rather than the expensive but useless medications that companies were earning billions selling. For his huge insight and efforts Barry received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2005.
Why was it so difficult for Barry to convince people around the world about his hypothesis despite having strong data to back up his views? Part of the reason, as mentioned, had to do with perceptions based on deeply entrenched views. Researchers simply refused to go against the dogma that bacteria could not survive in the extremely acidic environment of the stomach. In addition, in people’s minds Barry did not fit the part of a world-class research scientist whose work could revolutionize the treatment of a condition that affected millions of people every year.
This problem of perception is one that is also faced by people seeking to get a job in Canada. Like Barry, international employees with amazing experience and great potential face an uphill battle against the deeply entrenched views of employers on what comprises a good employee. Barry, however, has shown us that it is very possible to overcome even the most steadfast disbelievers.
So what can we learn from Barry’s experience? Rather than using words to convince people, Barry used a concrete demonstration that was impossible to dispute. Similarly, employees can demonstrate their abilities concretely. How? There are many ways in which this can be done. If you know that a company is facing a particular problem then rather than tell them how to solve the problem, start actually solving it and show them that you have begun the process.
If you are a civil engineer interesting in applying for a position with a civil engineering firm in Canada, then find out what kind of work they do and what problems they face in their current projects. Of the problems they face see which you have experience dealing with. If, for example, the company builds bridges in remote northern regions of Canada then show them that you have done similar work and that your efforts solved problems very similar to the ones they are facing. Alternatively, as another example, if you are a wood worker seeking to get a job in Canada with a chair manufacturing company then get familiar with their products and demonstrate to them how you can improve their products while simultaneously reducing the cost of materials.
The key then is proof through action rather than through mere words. It took Barry several years to ultimately convince the world of his brilliant discovery. The opposition was immense but Barry proved that even an entire medical establishment and billion dollar industry could not win out against his persistence. Luckily, finding a job in Canada is not as long or hard as the journey Barry went through but Barry has shown that even the greatest of obstacles can be overcome.