Zahirah Ismail can’t easily describe her role at Visa Solutions Australia as it’s so varied. She oversees all the administration of the migration agency, but she also looks after accounts, deals with incoming phone calls, prepares case work for the migration agents and trains new recruits to the business. Her workload is extremely busy but that’s what make her job far from dull.
Zoo life for Zahirah
So how did Zahirah become part of VSA? Well her journey also starts in another country – in Singapore and her first job was more unusual than most as she explains.
“My background is customer service. My first job was at Singapore Zoo; I started working when I was 16. I was a showcase presenter for the Night Safari. So, I studied at polytechnic by day and then at 4:30pm, I’d head over to the zoo and be the compare for the sunset show three evenings a week. I did this for four years before I decided to emigrate to be with my father in Busselton where he ran a restaurant.”
Zahirah’s father came to South West Australia in 2002 on a business visa. For $250,000 he secured a visa and ran a restaurant in Geographe Bay. While studying in Singapore, Zahirah would come and visit him, work as a waitress and then go back to study graphic design and photography in Singapore. But she soon realised that there was no money in photography and decided to move to Australia.
“I was able to get a temporary visa because my father was here. I enrolled at the University of Western Australia and studied for a Degree in Management Accounting and Marketing. I had to pay for my education as I was still classed as an international student so money was tight.”
Her father’s battle for permanent residency
Zahirah explains that while she was studying at UWA her father was trying to progress from a temporary visa to permanent residency status for himself and his family but every time the application was submitted, it got denied. This went on for years and Zahirah felt very unsettled on a bridging visa. It was only when they decided to use a migration agent that their application was successful.
Boom time and Barrow Island
Having seen how the migration process worked, it prompted Zahirah to enter the industry and she became a visa and mobility administrator with the CKJV Project for Barrow Island. Her role was to ensure visa applications were correctly prepared with all the right documents, and ensured that expats were taken care of as soon as they arrive in Australia. But after 22 months she felt it was time for a change.
“It was during the mining industry boom period and I was earning a lot of money but working an incredible number of hours. I was doing over sixty hours a week and I felt my health was deteriorating, that’s when I decided to leave.”
Not long after this she joined Dan Engles at Visa Solutions Australia.
Why Zahirah is so passionate about her work
Outside of work, she loves being a mum to her two-year old son, but even on maternity leave was still doing paperwork from home.
“Yes even when I was on maternity leave, I found it difficult not to separate work from home life, I enjoy my job that much! I can see that if you put a lot of effort into something you get so much back. I get to see results and that gives me job satisfaction. I am settled in Australia now and this is our home. Now I want to help others realise their Australian dream too.”