December 7, 2021

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Michelle left the Bratislava company to install windows on skyscrapers in Canada: hard work is valued much more here (Interview)

Michelle left the Bratislava company to install windows on skyscrapers in Canada: hard work is valued much more here (Interview)

“I almost got up when I got there on the first day, and I went upstairs, and I looked down, and I said to myself, Coconut, I can’t do that,” Michel Harniar, 32, from the village of Opochoa near Ružomberok, describes his first feelings when he started working in Canada as a window installer on skyscrapers.

He had to directly deal with the 200-meter-high buildings, but fear with respect and adrenaline did not deter him. He has lived in Canada for over 7 years to date and recently applied for Canadian citizenship.

Isn’t he tired yet of working hard with windows? “I know people who have their own business like me and earn $35,000 a month. That’s why I said that when I finally think about the industry, I’ll wait to pay and immediately see it differently.” He notes in words that he was closer to leaving when his hand froze and his fingernails fell off.

In this article you will read:

  • When Michel got tired of working at IBM in Bratislava.
  • How he managed to obtain an entry visa to Canada thanks to a clever trick.
  • What career position did he start when he first came to Canada?
  • Why shoveling snow in Canada is such a difficult task.
  • Why didn’t he meet Slovaks or Czechs in Canada from the start?
  • How much more can he earn in one month?
  • What he considers the most dangerous in his work as a window installer.
  • When it happened that the plumber’s entire window fell off a skyscraper.
  • Does he want to stay in Canada after he has already applied for citizenship?
Source: Michal Hrnciar

While studying, he joined IBM in Bratislava, where he worked for three years. Does your story begin as with many young people who work in a company, but their work gradually ceases to entertain them?

I joined IBM as a student assistant when I finished my bachelor’s degree. At that time, they offered me a full-time job on the condition that I complete my university externally, which I accepted. Eventually, after three years, I realized it wasn’t a job for me, so I left. My job description was very boring and kept repeating itself, so it didn’t make sense that it was a very good position for Slovak conditions.

Was there a turning point that inspired you to leave it at that?

Looks like it was a change of manager at IBM when I worked for two years. We got on really well with the first manager, but last year a new one came along that we didn’t get along with, so I started thinking intensely about going abroad. I’ve always thought about Australia or Canada, so I’ve had plans for many years to experience life outside Slovakia for at least a year.

How long did it take you to decide to go to Canada and actually do it?

My decision was very quick and the whole process took three months. When I left for Canada, working holiday visas worked for one year and only once in my life.

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Each candidate must be under 35 years of age and only 315 people are assigned annually to Slovaks. Once a year, a portal was opened where these first visas were accessed by the first 315 people who filled out a 20-page form. I made my macro, which auto-filled in a few seconds, so I had no trouble getting the visas.

I went to Canada for a working holiday visa. I guess the window installer function was not exactly the one you had when you arrived.

My visas were limited to one year, so I thought I would work for half a year, save money, and travel for half a year. I got to Canada in the winter, maybe it was a mistake, but he’s been here for ten months and two months have passed. When I arrived, I found a job at a company that had an exclusive contract with the city to remove snow, renovate city buildings, and mow the lawn in the summer. I shoveled snow for half a year, then mowed the lawn and finally traveled for half a year.

If you have your own business and get a contract to mow the lawn or clear snow, you can charge $200 per month from one home, which is collected when you contract with 20 or 30 homes.

Was it a big change for you when you replaced your desk years later with shoveling snow in the streets?

From the beginning I enjoyed it a lot because I saw a new country and my life changed. I also enjoyed the harsh winters, with temperatures sometimes quietly dropping to -35 degrees during the day. However, the longer I worked, the more I realized that snow removal was not the way to go, because these companies have a clause in their contracts that all snow be removed from the streets at seven in the morning.

In practice, this means that you may work from two in the morning until late in the evening. While working as an employee in a company, you could earn maybe $17 an hour, which is nothing. I finally opened my own company, which I worked for for two years, and tried to win contracts.

If you have your own business and get a contract to mow the lawn or clear snow, you can charge $200 per month from one home, which is collected when you contract with 20 or 30 homes. It worked this way until 2018, until the harsh winter lasted from October to May. It was still snowing at that time, so I had to shovel the snow every day and it was no longer worth my money business.

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Source: Michal Hrnciar

I worked for half a year and traveled for half a year. What happened when the initial visas were about to expire?

Two months before my work visas expired, I realized I wanted to stay longer in Canada. At that time, there was a points system, according to which you needed 486 points for permanent residence, and points were awarded for education, whether you had a university or for any kind of work you did in your country. I finally managed to get 488 points, so I met the limit, but all my friends had to go home and I was left alone.

That’s when he started his own snow removal and cutting business.

Once I got permanent residency, I opened my own business. That’s how I worked until said winter, when I realized that it wouldn’t pay off financially. I had a friend I met in Bratislava who was working for a window company in Canada at the time, so he arranged a job for me. We worked together for about a year, but I eventually opened my own window installation company.

This is a major shift from shoveling snow to installing windows on skyscrapers. Have you always had the entrepreneurial spirit that attracted you to start your own business?

I’ve always seen the difference between working as a subcontractor or as an employee. As an employee, you have a fixed hourly wage that does not motivate you to perform, but as a subcontractor you can earn according to how quickly you can. In Canada, opening a business is a short process, because all you have to do is say the name of the company in the office, they will check if it is not occupied, you will pay $500 and you will get the same company. day.

I think independence was a good decision because you will earn more. Most importantly, you can put almost all the costs of living as an apartment or a car into the cost of doing business, so you pay less taxes.

I started from the basics until after installing the windows and moved on to a competitor company, they made me the master installer and now I supervise them for the complete installation of windows on buildings.

How did you get into such a high-altitude business?

By the time I finished defrosting, I had hit dead time. A friend told me he was looking for people for one project – it was a 12 storey building, but it was wide, so we had to install 270 windows on one floor.

I need people for prep work. When you install the windows, the floor and ceiling moldings are installed first, then you install the windows, so I started doing these prep work, which took probably a year. I started from the basics until after installing the windows and moved on to a competitor company, they made me the master installer and now I supervise them for the complete installation of windows on buildings.

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I only install windows in tall buildings. I don’t install windows on houses, because houses don’t pay well and it’s not a very stable job. Since Canada is a young country, a lot is being built here, especially in the city center, where tall buildings grow – thanks to which we always have a full diary.

Source: Michal Hrnciar

You work as a master window installer on skyscrapers. Try to get closer to what your normal day looks like.

My normal day depends on the project and the stage the project is in. From the start, the buildings are constructed by digging a deep pit, in which five floors of underground parking will be built, until the above-ground floors are created. When the fifth to the tenth floor stands with concrete, we come to the construction site and begin preparatory work, installation of slats and membranes.

Once the preparatory work has been completed on the first five floors, the teams will be formed. One of the teams continues the preparatory work up to the top of the building so that in the meantime the master installer can start installing the windows. There are usually two teams of plumbers starting in the corners of the building, splitting and flanking it until they meet again.

But in my current project we agreed that I’d be the only one installing windows, but we’d go with what both teams usually go for. Sometimes we finish the floor in five days, other times in six days. In the contract, we stipulated that one floor be completed within a week. It is up to me whether I will do it in three days, which is practically impossible, or in five.

Seems he doesn’t make bad money in Canada. How much can you earn by installing Windows?

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  • Why didn’t he meet Slovaks or Czechs in Canada from the start?
  • How much more can he earn in one month?
  • What he considers the most dangerous in his work as a window installer.
  • When it happened that the plumber’s entire window fell off a skyscraper.
  • Does he want to stay in Canada after he has already applied for citizenship?

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Preview image: Michel Harniar