Part of our series: FMHS community members from away – The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) is made up of diverse communities, including people from across Canada and around the world. This series recognizes those from outside the province who have chosen to bring their talents and expertise to McGill University. Thank you for all that you contribute!

Safiya Simon’s first day on the job as curriculum administrator in McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences made for a smooth transition – having obtained her undergraduate degree in anatomy and cell biology and a master’s in occupational health and safety at McGill, she was already perfectly familiar with her surroundings. 

 “I was so used to McGill already as a student that it didn’t feel like a first day. I felt as though I had never left,” Safiya says. 

That was the second time she experienced déja vu. Born in Montreal, her family moved back to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia when she was nine months old. Fifteen years later, she was back on Canadian soil pursuing studies in health sciences at Vanier College. Now, Safiya is Academic Affairs Officer (Team Leader) in the School of Biomedical Sciences’ Administrative Excellence Centre (AEC) where she is responsible for overseeing academic affairs, human resources and finance. 

“Academic affairs is pretty much HR for academic staff,” explains Safiya. “We deal with the hiring of staff, renewals of academic staff members, tenure and promotions. I’m there to provide support and training, to make sure the team is as effective and efficient as possible, and for when there are issues that need to be escalated. For example, recently, I have been dealing with funding complexities for post-doctoral fellows.”  

To obtain her current position, Safiya took advantage of a McGill staffing policy called ‘developmental assignments,’ which facilitates the mobility of its employees. “The good thing about McGill is that there are so many opportunities, and you do have an option to try a different role as a developmental assignment while keeping your current position,” Safiya notes.  

Safiya has found integrating into multicultural Montreal relatively easy. “I did French in high school so I had a working knowledge of the language and I didn’t find it very difficult to get to the conversational level because you hear it everywhere. At the same time, you really do have to make an effort,” she says. “Montreal is such a melting pot, there are people from everywhere. I just felt like I was part of that multicultural group.” 

For the short term, Safiya plans to continue to improve her managerial skills. “I still do consider myself a fairly new manager.” In the long term? “I see myself continuing on this trajectory of management and perhaps trying different levels.”  

For those considering moving to Quebec and studying and/or working at McGill, Safiya shares some advice. “Immerse yourself as much as possible. Quebec has a very unique landscape. It’s definitely unique from the rest of Canada. People, I find, are very proud of their history and their heritage, and just immersing yourself into the landscape, French and English and other cultures, would serve you well.” 

Photos courtesy Safiya Simon