Zara Obaa Feature

For Zara Obaa, having one person give her a push to be courageous, changed her career path. Originally from Nigeria, where she graduated from Ahmadu Bello University and the Nigerian Law School, with her LLB, Law and B.L and was called to the Nigerian bar in 2009.  

“When I moved, I really didn’t think I would go back into law practice,” says Zara. “Maybe I’ll go back into admin or go back to school for a master’s degree.” 

Her friend questioned that choice, telling Zara “[Law] is the only thing you’ve studied all your life! This is all you know.”   

Zara decided that volunteering would be a good place to start making connections and building an understanding of the Canadian legal system. Zara began volunteering with the Elizabeth Fry Society.  

“I found myself on the criminal law floor of the Calgary courts here,” says Zara. “All I was doing was handing out information.”   

This volunteer role led her to her first legal role in Canada as a legal assistant with Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP. Sadly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she lost her job, leaving her uncertain about her next steps as she had already registered for her NCA exams.   

“And then, CRIEC stepped in,” says Zara.  

A Mentorship Partner Coordinator (MPC) connected Zara with another volunteering opportunity as the Contract Coordinator with United Way of Calgary and Area, where she eventually was hired.  

Through CRIEC, Zara became a mentee herself, matched with a mentor who could understand her goals and the steps she needed to take. This mentorship experience proved invaluable as Zara navigated the process of requalifying in her field.  

“You should have someone who has walked on the same path, who has experienced your journey,” says Zara.   

Zara’s mentor, Gabriella Koritsanszky, had a longer path to requalifying in Canada, the process taking her seven years.  

“Hearing that made me pause and breathe,” says Zara. “You’re going to be OK. You are not late; you are not behind.”  

Her mentor’s guidance and support provided the reassurance and perspective she needed while writing and awaiting the results of her NCAs.  

Reflecting on her mentorship, Zara shares, “I’m someone who values giving back, and most times, I find that conversation can be just what you need.”  

With her career on a promising trajectory, Zara felt compelled to give back and share her experiences with others facing similar challenges.   

“I tell my mentees, ‘It’s a process — So go through it,’” says Zara  

Embracing her role as a mentor, Zara has mentored four people since rejoining CRIEC as a mentor in March of 2022.  One of her mentees successfully secured an articling position within two months after finishing his NCA exams.  

“I remember I met him, and he had just finished the NCS. He was about to start applying [for his articling]. He didn’t know where to start,” recalls Zara. “And I’m like, ‘You’re going to apply, we’re going to throw them out. I’ve looked at your resume, it’s an amazing resume! I would want to hire you.’ And that was where we started. And he secured articles with a firm downtown here in Calgary.  

I think I sent Rosa that e-mail with so much joy.”  

Zara’s commitment to mentoring extends beyond professional development, as she understands the importance of being a supportive presence in her mentees’ lives and takes pride in seeing her mentees succeed.  

As Zara embraces her role as a mentor, she shares the valuable lesson: “Your journey is not a sprint. Most immigrants who come in think it’s a sprint, but you’ve uprooted your life to start all over. So, give yourself some grace and take the time you need to breathe in the good air.”   

With her dedication to giving back, Zara Obaa exemplifies the power of mentorship and how, with the right support, internationally trained professionals can thrive in their chosen field while inspiring others to do the same. 

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