Prospering on their own terms: Q&A with First Nations VAs

by
Virtual Gurus Staff
Published:
June 1, 2022

Whether faced with limited work opportunities in their own communities, tired of long commutes, craving more variety, or seeking a more flexible way to earn an income, more and more First Nations people are building rewarding careers as virtual assistants (VAs). We spoke with three of our Indigenous VAs to learn how working as a virtual assistant supports their goals.

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Q: Where are you from?

Lauri Forcade 

I’m registered as Métis, but have a lot of family members who are related to the Papaschase Cree. I live on an acreage in Sturgeon County, north of Edmonton.

Leona Sayer

I’m Métis-Cree-Saulteaux from Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan. My father is from Yellow Quill First Nation. I moved to Edmonton a few years ago. 

Stacey Wells 

I am Squamish First Nation, living in Wetaskiwin, Alberta.

Q: What made you decide to become a VA?

Lauri

When I came back to Alberta after working in Inuvik for a few years, I knew I wanted to work from home so I didn’t have to commute. I kept seeing ads for Virtual Gurus, thinking I should apply. I found out they would be able to give me work right away with clients in different provinces, and I liked the idea of trying different things. 

Leona

When the pandemic came, I lost my job. I knew about Virtual Gurus and I liked that it was contract work and that I would be able to choose my own hours. Also the concept of working from home; it saves a lot of time if you don’t have to drive or take the bus. It’s a lot easier, and good for mental health too.

Stacey

I was laid off after working in administration for many years. Our community is small, so there’s a lot of competition for any job that’s posted. After looking for a while without any luck, my stepson suggested I look into Virtual Gurus. 

I liked that I would have control over my schedule and who I worked with, and the freedom to be able to step away and support my family when they needed me. I have a son who needs some extra support, and my Mom has some health challenges. Being able to take my work with me if I have to travel, and even work while I’m away; those were all huge selling points for me.

Q: What do you like about working as a VA?

Stacey

Every day is different; I like the variety and the diverse challenges. I’ve had two of my clients for over a year, so they trust me with a lot of different things. I like to be able to work by myself, but also to know that I’m not necessarily alone, since there is a great VA community online. 

Leona

I like that my clients have been all over Canada, and from different kinds of organizations. I like the fast pace, and I never get bored. I haven’t felt burnout; I feel I have the right work-life balance.  It’s also appealing to me that I’m learning new skills, and I’m using them too.

Lauri

I like that I can work as much as I want. If I want to work more hours, I let them know and they’ll give me more hours. If I want lots of clients, I’ll get them. Or I can take a break when I need to. 

The flexibility of hours is great too. Sometimes I’m wide awake from 11 pm to 1 am. With everything being online, I do a lot of my work then. It gives me the chance to spend time with my grandkids in the afternoon, then do my work later. And I don’t have to spend hours commuting on the bus, I can just wake up and do it from here. It just fits better. 

Q: What have you learned through your VA work?

Leona

Definitely a lot about communication and dealing with different people. I have taken several courses, including one on how to be an executive assistant, which I’m putting to use with a client already.

Lauri

When you work with different types of organizations, it gives you new skills.  I’ve been able to expand into different areas beyond my original focus in legal, whether it’s managing emails, recording meeting minutes or working with different apps and software. 

Stacey

I’ve learned that I know a lot more than I used to give myself credit for. But if I don’t have the answers, there’s always somebody else out there in the Virtual Gurus community who does.

Q: Any advice for new or aspiring First Nations VAs?

Stacey

Be open and be real. Even if my kid or my dog comes into the room when I’m on a video call, my clients understand, and even appreciate it. We’re all human; don’t try to hide it. 

Leona

Be grateful for everything that you have. When you’re given a client, work hard and give ‘er! And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re stuck. The community is really supportive.

Lauri

Go into it with an open mind. A lot of us doubt our abilities based on how we’ve been treated in the past. It might not seem easy at first, so take your time, keep talking to other VAs, ask questions and hang in there. Take some of the courses they offer. And if you’re wondering about it, just apply! You never know what could happen.

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At Virtual Gurus, our virtual assistants are our North Star -- the reason we do what we do. Learn more about our commitment to providing work opportunities for underrepresented communities on our About page.

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