How I Became a Programmer at 29 and Got a Job at Linkedin
Today I want to share a story from Julia. This story is interesting because the hero of our article did not have a technical education. Despite many problems, Yulia was able to find a job as a developer on Linkedin.
If someone had told me a few years ago that I would work in Silicon Valley as a developer and even in one of the top IT companies I wouldn’t believe it, but here I am – sitting here in my apartment, ready to tell you my story of how I got to such a life. So, get comfortable, guys and let me start with the backstory.
In 2014, I graduated from the Institute of International Relations with a degree in international economic relations. Due to the war in Ukraine, there were difficulties finding suitable work therefore I couldn’t get a job in my specialty. I had already met my husband Denys by this time and we lived with his mother, because we could not even afford to rent a separate apartment – this was the state of affairs at that time. As the situation in the country remained very tense, Denys and I started thinking about moving abroad. Denys started watching different blogs, such as youtube blogs about immigration to Canada and the USA, and we started thinking over where we can move, and what are the possibilities for immigration. In 2014 both Denys and I started participating in the Green Card Lottery. This is a very important step in our history, so pay attention to it – for now let’s postpone this migration story – we’ll get back to it later and I will start telling you about what I did after graduating from the university. As I said before, since I couldn’t find a job, because it just didn’t exist, I continued working as a model.
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Experience of filming
In my student years, I worked as a model and as I was currently looking for a job, I had different castings, and one of them was in an international film project that was filmed in Turkey. On this casting I met the director and producer of this project. They were from Europe but made films in Turkey to save money, because film shooting in Germany is quite an expensive business. There was a Turkish business partner and all the film shooting process was organized by the Turkish side but it was very unprofessional. Due to the fault of the Turkish side we went into processing several times. Also, many Turkish contractors simply did not know English so in general it was a complete catastrophe. I assessed the situation from the perspective of my previous experience of filming in Ukraine even during my student days, I thought that I could well organize the same shooting in Ukraine for a smaller budget, but much cooler in quality, so I offered the director and producer of the project to organize the shooting process in Ukraine so they accepted this idea.
It was 2014 and I was brought from modeling into filmmaking and I worked for about four years in this industry. I also involved Denys in this industry as he already had experience in managing the business in general, and since I needed someone who could help me organize shooting, we started collaboration with our first client. Everything was going great at first. We earned very well and invested the money in real estate, while in Kyiv the real estate market began to grow very rapidly and there were a lot of new buildings. At the beginning of 2016, we bought two new apartments in Kyiv and continued to work with our foreign customers. In general, everything was going well so the thoughts about immigration faded into the background, but it did not last long, because somewhere at the end of 2016, the production business went down. The fact is that our main client organized his own separate campaign, so all the activities we planned with him have been postponed for an unknown period and we found ourselves in a situation where we had an office and several employees of the company and we needed to pay salaries, but we had no projects.
Thinking about the IT sphere
Then Denys and I began to very actively looking for other customers and, in principle, we managed to find a very good Ukrainian customer, but in general, we realized that the film production market in Ukraine is very small and we are in such a sphere in which there is no great growth in fact and this did not suit us, so we began to think about what other sphere we could go into. Back in 2014, before launching the filmmaking business, we were thinking about an IT sphere and Denys even finished the QA courses in Kyiv, but his career did not take place because we began our engagement in filmmaking. But in 2017 we returned to this issue again.
Then Denys caught the eye of information about 42 (school), which was called a Unit Factory in Ukraine. 42 is a French private, nonprofit and tuition-free computer science school. It’s an innovative school with franchises in other countries around the world including Ukraine. So, Denys found information about this school and told me: “Listen, let’s try it, we have no projects at the moment and we aren’t busy with anything”. When we went to School 42/Unit Factory, we didn’t plan to become programmers – we just wanted to try something new, but in the end, we were dragged out by this sphere. The school was very difficult to get into, this process lasted for a month, and this period is called “la piscine” – a “pool” in French. This is such a metaphor, as you know, how blind kittens are thrown into the water – they will swim out or not – this is just what happened in this pool – a huge wave of new information falls on you and you need to study, and throughout this whole month show some results. The studying process was difficult for us because neither I nor Denys ever dealt with programming – we are both not a techie, I am an economist by education and Denys is a financier, but we both managed to get into school.
Green Card Lottery
Here, guys, the most interesting moment – as you remember – we started playing in the Green Card Lottery in 2014 and we didn’t miss it in 2014, 2015, and 2016. And so in 2017 when we closed our company and got into School 42 – we were informed that we won the Green Card Lottery and got a chance to move to the USA! So, we decided that we were on the right path and it was an opportunity to move to America and start a new profession there from zero. Our training at school began in November 2017, and from that time till probably August 2018, we had been studying, collecting the needed documents for an interview at the embassy, and writing the code. As School 42 has campuses in many countries, it also has one in the city of Fremont in the Silicon Valley so we asked the Unit Factory in Ukraine to connect us with this American campus and so we were transferred to the American campus of school 42 in the city of Fremont in the Silicon Valley. Before moving to the USA, Denys and I sold those apartments that we bought in 2015-2016. Then we packed 4 bags – two per person and 7 per plane, and in the fall of September 25, 2018, if I’m not mistaken, we landed in San Francisco. On the same day, we came to school 42 to settle in a school dormitory when we moved, and even having quite a large amount of money, that sum was not enough to live in the Valley, as even renting a separate apartment here costs about two and a half thousand dollars. So, we decided that if we have the opportunity to live in a school dormitory we should take it.
As soon as we started our new life chapter in San Francisco we began to realize that the competition in Silicon Valley is much higher than in Ukraine – guys are coming here just from all over the world and so the knowledge we got in Ukraine wasn’t enough to get an internship program. At that time we knew exclusively the C programming language, but we weren’t familiar with object-oriented programming. We knew neither non-web technologies, nor mobile development technologies in general, and we decided that we had to keep on learning and keep searching for work at the same time. Denys and I went through a two-week C++ Bootcamp and somewhere starting in winter we began searching for internship programs. We also found out that ordinary internships are closed for us because we didn’t meet the American requirements such as a higher education degree in computer science. Also, the main requirement when submitting to a similar internship is that it is necessary to be a student of a higher educational institution accredited either here in America or somewhere else and often need to have some kind of visa. Here in America we had a working visa, but we were not students of universities, accordingly, we could not enroll in such programs, and even if we strive to find any – our chances would be zero because of the fantastic competition of hundreds of students coming here from all over the globe, so we had to face the truth and understand that most likely the road was closed for us, but as it turned out, we found an alternative path with the programs called apprenticeship programs.
The apprenticeship program is the same internship program but for people who have an unconventional background – who either studied themselves in some online courses, either finished the boot camp or graduated from such a programming school as we did and many large IT companies began to carry out such apprenticeship programs, for example, Microsoft, Linkedin, Twilio, Twitter, Pandora, Dropbox.
In general, a fairly large number of technology companies conduct such programs several times a year, and so we began to look for these programs and started the submission process. The first program to which I submitted my application was Pandora – a music streaming platform, a competitor to Spotify, which is quite popular here in America. They conducted an apprenticeship program for Android developers in the winter of 2018. The entire submission process lasted 3 or 4 months and during this time I learned Java in such an enhanced mode, before my interviews I did not sleep or slept for half an hour a day, and as a result, I did not receive this internship. In general, this whole process took quite a long time and I was almost kicked out of the school dormitory as all this time I couldn’t carry out any projects as I was developing my Android app for Pandora.
So when I found out that I had not passed I was very upset, it was such a very big disappointment because I really wanted to get there and it seemed to me that this was an awesome opportunity. A few days later there was a hackathon at School 42 conducted by Samsung and I decided to participate to switch from thinking that I will never succeed and in general I will never get a job and will always live in a dormitory. As a part of this hackathon my team created an application for people learning English and somehow miraculously took second place and so were invited for an interview at Samsung. As a result, I was offered to start an internship at Samsung. I got into the voice assistant department and was engaged in helping developers improve their voice applications. When the internship was already coming to an end, other interns and I started a conversation with our management about our future career steps and the management said that at the moment they cannot hire us but they want to extend our internship for several months and only after that our future fate will be known. All that made me take the situation into my hands and continue searching for other internship programs.
In August I decided to apply for the internship program conducted by LinkedIn. While filling out the application, I had to describe the projects I worked on, I reworked some of the developments I did for Pandora and pressed the “Apply” button. In a month or maybe even in a month and a half I received an email from the recruiter and we scheduled a technical interview for which I could choose any technology. I chose Android development because when applying to Pandora I was developing my Android application.
The interview process lasted the whole day. I had several sub-interviews with several programmers plus an interview with a LinkedIn manager. The interview process went very well, I completed all technical tasks on time. The whole interview was conducted in such a relaxed environment that I did not have any kind of tension. I was able to relax and prove myself from the best side and a month after the interview I got a job offer. What was my surprise when I realized that this was not just an offer, that this was an offer for full-time work at Linkedin, as it turned out, I did not know this when I applied for an apprenticeship program on LinkedIn. I have been working at LinkedIn for already three months and I can say that so far I like absolutely everything: I have a wonderful team, a great mentor, and a community of people whom we support and help each other. Also, there are plenty of cool training sessions held for us. Well, we have all benefits with all privileges just like all the other employees of the company, and this is something just incredible. There is 20 % of the time that can be devoted to studying and training sessions.
After coming all this way and looking back, I am incredibly grateful to myself for the fact that I once set foot on this path and did not give up even when I had some failures along the way. This is the whole story that I wanted to tell you today. I hope it was interesting for you, guys, to spend this time with me and you learned something new.