Personal experience: why Belarusian programmers no longer want to work in the US
Mathematician Artem Tsai, a graduate of Vitebsk State University and postgraduate studies at the Belarusian State University, has been living in California for the last 9 years. About his life, he told the portal Dev.by.
Artem went there as part of a Minsk startup bought out by the American corporation NetGear. The team successfully used peer-to-peer networks to work with Xbox game consoles, which attracted the attention of the Americans. Over the five years at NetGear, Artem grew from a developer to a leading software engineer, then moved to the CTO position at Folium, which has been cooperating with Minsk ITS Partner for many years in R&D, cloud, embedded and mobile solutions.
Being engaged in hiring, he sees well how the migration flow between the two markets is changing. If five years ago, according to him, the trend to move Belarusians to Silicon Valley was clearly visible, now the vector of movement has changed.
“We have partner relations with ITS Partner, the guys from Minsk always came to us on business trips, they liked it. If someone wanted to apply for a work visa, there was no problem with that. At first, business trips and the possibility of moving to Silicon Valley were strong motivations. Belarusians were burning with this. But gradually the desire to move here began to disappear. Many refuse from the already received work visa and return, someone leaves from a very good position. Even 5-6 years ago, such cases were rare, but now they are quite common. We can say this is a trend. Is he good or not? Probably good for Belarus, ”he says.
So, what difficulties do Belarusians face when migrating to California?
Those guys who come specifically to participate in our project and already on the spot want to change the company, understand that they will not be able to do this quickly, they need to be retrained.
Working interview in California is very different from similar in Belarus. Applicants are not asked about technology, programming languages, programming techniques, patterns - all that is interesting to our students. Nobody needs it there.
A narrow specialization has been adopted in Belarus: someone follows the profile of a Java programmer, the requirements for which are approximately the same in all companies. In the US, they say: we need Senior software developer, and in what ways it solves problems is unimportant.
If you come to the company Oracle, then the knowledge of Java looks ridiculous. But the knowledge of exotic data structures and the solution of Olympiad problems looks solid. Developers need basic sciences: number theory, discrete mathematics, algorithms, data structures. Therefore, the interview will take place in the form of solving an Olympiad problem: sometimes mathematical (there is no need to program, there is a need to write a formula), sometimes algorithmic. Our guys are very surprised. After the 3-5 failures, they return home. This is not related to their intellectual abilities, they just did not prepare for this.
And coding is usually checked at the stage of telephone screening. You will be asked to write something and send it over the Internet. You ask, in what language, you will be answered: in what you want. In large companies, everything is useful: Python is great, Java is excellent. And, most interestingly, in two weeks they will tell you: “Do you have Java? But we need Python. It's okay: go with us, you'll figure it out. "
Another difficulty is the language barrier. Visitors, for example, are difficult to communicate with employers from India. When they talk to you quickly, with pressure and an unusual accent, this is a great stress. The applicant may simply not understand the problem, and time for the solution is limited. Therefore, many visitors come to the beginning of the course for comrades from India. For half a year they solve problems with them, listen to their accent, undergo trial interviews, receive recommendations - and only then go to real interviews. Such courses cost about $ 5 thousands, but this is the most correct way. The chances that you will get into the corporation from the street are practically nil.
“See the house and submit the price offer in the envelope”
Finally, the main thing - it is expensive. Over the past five years in the United States, and especially in California, everything has gone insanely expensive, at times. And salaries at times, unfortunately, have not grown.
An apartment of three rooms will cost approximately $ 3500 per month. Public transport is also expensive and very slow. The electric trains are well equipped, but they stop at each post, and you spend two hours a day traveling.
Salaries? If you believe Glassdoor, then the salary, on which you will come to Google as a beginner, will be $ 135-150 thousand before taxes. Take away 36% tax, insurance, housing, food, water (only for water a monthly bill can be $ 250-300) and in the bottom line you will not get much. Clearly more money is left to those who live in Minsk.
My situation is somewhat different. When there are two programmers in the family with a stable income, a husband and wife, you feel much better. This is exactly the scenario in most Asian programmer families in California.
In addition, we arrived earlier and managed to gain a foothold here before prices began to rise. Now we would not be able to buy a house.
In California, a house will cost millions of dollars. Yes, there are loans, but you need to understand that the down payment must be at least 20%, otherwise the loan will be very expensive. That is, if an old house in a good area with a good school is worth $ 1,5 million, then you have to pay 300 thousand for it in cash.
Even finding a home is very difficult: you have to have a good agent. A purchase is generally an auction. Family applicants are looking for housing and in envelopes they give the realtor their price offers. Compete with your family from Facebook, where a husband and wife, originally from Bombay, have been working for eight years and can pay $ 1,5 million in cash, it will be difficult.
Many people, having suffered, say: we have no need for these difficulties, we’d rather move to another state. And indeed, in Seattle, they buy a house for half the price three times better. There, too, there are offices Google, Microsoft, where they are arranged. It’s not a fact that they will receive compensation when moving, but this is still a good option.
“Instead of celebrating Christmas, everyone is looking for accommodation”
The price of the house depends on the school to which it is assigned, the law on registration is very hard. This is generally a separate story.
Schools are graded on a 10-scale, from 2 to 10 (there are no one-point grades, probably, these are no longer schools, but correctional colonies). Two points usually have schools in Mexican areas where children often simply do not study. Schools in Asian areas have ten points: everything is imprisoned for intelligence (7 days of study per week and no holidays), and as a hobby her students attend a mathematical or chess class. Our children to study there is very difficult.
Since there are a lot of visitors from all over the world in California, it turns out that national companies are formed around companies with a certain specialization. For example, around Cisco - a community from India. And if you buy housing in the area, your children will be forced to study in the Indian community. It is difficult for a child, so parents are trying to arrange a child where compatriots study.
For our children, 4 and 7 years, we chose the 10-point school with the American population, but for this we had to pay huge money and change housing.
By the way, due to the large migration flow of Elementary school are overflowing. If a brother or sister is already studying at school, they will take the child. And if not, then they can not take it.
Therefore, housing is usually bought in the middle of winter, for example, in January. Instead of quietly celebrating Christmas and New Year, everyone is looking for a home. And as soon as you make a deal, then, having no more housing, but only with a contract on your hands you go to school and register your child.
It also happens that in the area there is a good elementary school, but not a very good middle or high school. What to do? Sell the house again and move. When you start explaining these problems to our guys, they get lost: how do we cope with them? Life in California is a huge competition, and it is difficult for those who come from peaceful places to participate in it.
Our community consists mainly of Belarusians, Russians, Ukrainians. If someone comes from Belarus, then we are going to visit someone and communicate. On weekends we collect children in parks, play and do not welcome communication in English at this time.
There is a problem: since children go to American schools, they begin to lose Russian. English is easier, and they try to speak it with their compatriots, and then they forget Russian words, which makes us sad. So one of the tasks of the community is to preserve the Russian language, since bilingualism is a value.
In the big competition that is life in California, the family, of course, does not add points to you. But the lack of a family can also be a problem, as there’s little chance of marrying a Belarusian IT specialist there. Firstly, there are no girls. Secondly, a different language, different cultures. Thirdly, there is no time. The working day is from dawn until it is done. Even by US standards, Silicon Valley is a mad place, a place of detachment. Some hours do not work there, they always work there, and rest for some hours.
Maybe you should not touch on this topic, but often the reason for the move for our people is the difficulty in adapting here. Gay people go to San Francisco and work very well there, they are loved in companies because they are creative, unusual, and this is what is needed for innovation.
“Who has something, Facebook has a bar with cognac”
The flip side of the medal of high prices and cramped housing conditions are luxurious offices. And I see that the same trend is coming to Minsk. The idea is to make the working environment more comfortable and attractive than home, so that you don’t want to stay at home, but want to live at work.
The offices have a shower, washing machines, hammocks, relaxation rooms ... Who has what: for example, in the Facebook office there is a bar with cognac. Many companies have a common space where you can invite friends. You can come to a friend on Google or LinkedIn, you will be given a guest badge at the front desk, a campus will be shown, food will be fed for free, you will play tennis with a robot - the doors are open. The bottom line is to make employees proud of their place of work. It is clear that this is all hiring, engagement, but it works.
No, employers are not afraid to spoil people. They know how to choose the best and involve them in their work. We are far from this skill to squeeze the maximum out of a person. In California, they are able to do it, and their progress is based on this.
The hiring process is very expensive, the costs go up to $ 300 thousands. But everything is arranged so that the employee this money worked. The corporation has already calculated how many people are able to work at this pace. Maximum - 5 years. Once a moment comes when a person says: everything, I can not more! He is taken to Starbucks to drink coffee, there they are handed an envelope and they declare: you are fired. Then a person rests for a couple of months and gets a job in another corporation. Normal practice.
This is considered to be very bad if you have been working in one place longer than 5 for years. This indicates that you are in a comfort zone and are not doing anything. Therefore, usually, having completed the 4 of the year, a person receives the promised package and begins to attend courses to refresh old knowledge and find a new job.
Total you live in a crazy high cost, eat disgusting, almost do not sleep. But you are doing something that has never happened in the world, you are changing the world - for this feeling, people are ready to live in a truck in the company's parking lot and even refuse money.
So if you are a maniac, if you do not have a family, you are madly in love with your work and are ready to renounce everything to be in a dream, collect things - you will like it. If there are any doubts and plans for life, Silicon Valley is not your place.
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