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How much do IT specialists earn in California: immigrants talked about a career in the USA

Does it make sense for a tester to move to the USA and build a career there? Is there a demand for QA? Does anyone else need manual testers? What salary can you expect? Edition DOU collected the stories of three Ukrainian testers in the US to find answers.

Photo: Shutterstock

Natalia Bondarenko, Software QA Engineer at YouTube

I studied at the National University of Water Management and Environmental Management in Rivne. Specialty - geographic information systems and technologies. After university, she tried to work in her specialty at Visicom in Kiev. I didn’t like it, so I went to get an economic education and worked in the tax police of Rivne for almost 6 years. Later I realized that this type of employment does not bring anything useful to my life. I decided to radically change everything and move to the USA, to Silicon Valley. It was 2016. I had a visa for a long time, because I flew here several times on vacation - I traveled, visited friends.

Say, is it possible to just go and go to the USA? Can. All frames are only in the head. I know a lot of stories of people who came to America with three hundred dollars in their pocket, got on their feet and built successful careers. My story is no exception. I chose San Francisco because I had acquaintances there with whom I could stay for the first time. Further, search for housing, study, work. It was not easy at all, I even returned to Ukraine for a while. Now I understand: emigrating to the USA was the best decision in my life.

In California, it was logical to try yourself in IT. Friends advised me to start with Portnov Computer School. This is an educational institution founded more than 20 years ago by emigrants from the post-Soviet space. It trains specialists in manual and automated testing. Tuition lasts 4-6 months and costs about $ 5000 for the entire course. The school then sends students to practice, helps write a resume, and prepares for interviews. Within a month after graduating from high school and interning, I found my first job.

The employment process here takes place in several stages. First, you post your resume on all possible job search sites. In addition, every day I sent my resume with a cover letter to at least 10 companies. About three out of 10 companies called me back and scheduled a phone interview with a recruiter. The next stage is a video interview with the manager. Next - the actual interview with all team members in the office. Typically, this interview lasts four to six hours and includes lunch with the team and many different tasks. You are appreciated not only as a specialist, but also as a person. As a result, with one company out of 10, to which I submitted my resume, I reached the final interview. It's all a lot of stress. Therefore, it is important to send your resume over and over again every day and continue to study, otherwise you can be disappointed in your abilities and give up. This lasted for a month, then I received an offer from one company.

Silicon Valley doesn't need content viewers

The smartest developers in the world are gathered in Silicon Valley. Mostly they come on work visas at the invitation of companies. QA engineers are not given work visas, because usually the profession of QA Engineer does not meet the requirements of the migration service for the provision of an H1B visa. This profession does not require higher education in the field of information technology, and therefore is not considered special. There are, of course, exceptions. But I have never met a QA Engineer who came here on an H1B visa.

There is a demand for testers here, but no one runs down the street and catches them. Good companies are looking for experienced professionals. Many people, having heard enough of successful stories, come to schools that teach testing and just wait for the manna from heaven to fall on their heads. But it doesn't work that way. Companies in Silicon Valley don't need content viewers. They will outsource easy work in Indit or post-Soviet countries, because it is much cheaper.

The work of a QA engineer is not only testing the final product, but also interacting with the entire team at all stages: from understanding the client's requirements, controlling the development process to testing the finished product. First of all, of course, a specialist must be technically savvy, well familiar with QA, SDLC methodologies, be able to work with Linux / Unix, databases, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, have at least a basic understanding of networks, be able to read logs and find the root of the problem ... It is also very important to be sociable, active, understand the product and the market as a whole, be flexible and ready for constant changes.

Considering the number of schools that teach Quality Assurance in Silicon Valley and the United States as a whole, you understand that there is a demand. It all depends on the desire to learn and the skills acquired. For example, Apple, twice a year before major releases, recruits a huge number of testers on short contracts of two to three months to test new products. I know people who live from contract to contract and feel great. Conclusion: if a person has the necessary skills, constantly learns, improves, then he will find a job without any problems. For example, my Google employment process lasted five days. The recruiter found my resume on Indeed, scheduling all the interviews very quickly, and on the fifth day, I got an offer.

No confrontation between automated and manual testing

Each area has its own niche. Companies are driven primarily by business interests. Where automation is more cost effective, automation is used. But it is often very expensive and therefore not profitable in the long term. There may be various reasons for this. For example, the product changes frequently or the implementation of automation is difficult. Therefore, there will always be demand for manual QA.

In Silicon Valley, for example, an after-school QA internship pays an average of $ 15-25 per hour. Junior Manual QA earns $ 30-40 per hour. Senior Manual QA has over $ 100K per year. The largest salary that one of my friend manual testers receives is $ 75 per hour, which is about $ 150 thousand per year. This person has 5 years of experience and works in a California startup. But this is rare. This is mainly the salary of an experienced Automation QA. In other states, the QA salary is lower by an average of 20-25%. Of course, of these amounts, you still have to pay taxes, 20-30% of income.

Note that the average income of an ordinary American is about $ 50 a year. That is, even working Manual QA, a person receives a salary that significantly exceeds the average income in the United States. In addition to the actual wages, companies also provide employees with a package of bonuses, for example, health insurance, retirement programs, free meals, money for training, discounts in fitness clubs, tickets, and the like.

QA gives you endless possibilities

In general, you need to understand what the soul is in and move in that direction. You can become a QA manager if you have leadership inclinations, or learn a programming language and choose Automation. If you like to manage the process more - become a project manager. If you communicate with customers and make decisions about products - the product manager. The QA profession is, perhaps, the easiest path to the IT world, which provides endless possibilities.

Until recently, the US economy was growing, so, of course, more positions appeared. Wages also rose gradually. But in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has changed. After four weeks of the pandemic in the United States, there are 20 million more unemployed in the American labor market. This is the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. So far, this has not greatly influenced IT, but it must be understood that IT companies serve different types of business, and this will ultimately affect the tech industry as well.

For those looking to better understand QA, there are many YouTube videos about training, job search, demand for testers. At one time, these videos helped me decide where to go. There are even courses of lectures. For example, SiliconValleyVoice, Portnovschool, Alexander Hvastovich, Dmitry Shyshkin, JobEasy. To improve my skills, I am currently using online courses on Udemy, Coursera, Codeacademy.

On the subject: 'Work, work, work, die': a programmer from Ukraine talked about moving to Silicon Valley and working at Netflix

Yuri Sitar, Principal QA Engineer at Xevo

At one time, I worked as a system administrator at the Lviv Inspectorate of the State Technical Supervision of Ukraine. Work, as they say, don't hit someone lying down - I have established the Internet and you play Counter-Strike all day. By chance, I learned about the profession of a tester: you “break” software, and you also get paid for it. It was a winning story for me. Subsequently I saw a vacancy at SoftServe: I went and got it. And two years later I was hunted by GlobalLogic. I worked there for about 10 years - half of that time at the company's American office in Texas. Now I am 35 years old. In total, I have 15 years of experience in IT. I currently live in Seattle, Washington.

I never planned to move to the USA, but then GlobalLogic started a relocation program. I had no children, no family, nothing really kept me, but in my heart there was a love of travel. I thought: why not? Sold the car, sorted things out. I was sent to Kansas on an L-1 visa. According to the rules of this visa, you are not allowed to work for any other company in the United States. Probably, often at such jobs, employees are not given a salary increase, knowing that they will not run away anyway. But this is not my story. In total in the USA I worked in Kansas, Texas and now in Washington.

The conditions are very dependent on the state in which you live. The more companies there are, the higher the demand. However, when demand arises (for example, a new company is actively recruiting people), we immediately see a large supply on the market in the form of cheap, unskilled labor. According to my observations, then supply very quickly begins to exceed demand. This was recently the case in California, but this ratio is changing - it all depends on the market.

Manual testing is dying, and automators are not needed everywhere

They say that manual testing is dying - it is. It's a shame when they say that this is not so. The world is being automated. It's easier, cheaper and faster. And this is a logical step in the evolution of software testing. In contrast to Ukraine, this is already quite critical in the United States. In my opinion, it is also a myth that the world needs only automatics. This is not entirely true. I've noticed that few searches for QA Automation on Glassdoor or LinkedIn in recent years in the US. Looking for SDET - Software Developer Engineer in Test, that is, developers who can test. SDETs have the same salary as developers.

In our company, most of the specialists previously worked at Microsoft and Amazon. From their experience, they say that in global companies, a developer has long been obliged to test his own code and give it to testers for final user testing. Also in my company. When I worked in Ukraine, developers gave out builds that might not even start. For this in the United States they are fired immediately, it is considered irresponsible behavior.

The difference between the United States and Ukraine is that the United States hires people for practical experience and skills. That is, concrete examples of projects are needed. In Ukraine, in my opinion, for theory. I got some education, made several certifications - that's it, you're cool.

To know what to teach, you need to understand what happened 10 years ago

Mobile testing is a popular area. Appreciate DevOps and people with cloud expertise. Now in IT, everything goes to the cloud, especially after the coronavirus pandemic. To understand what will be in trend, you need to look at what happened 10 years ago and what is the trend now. For example, we had telephones and we only used them to make calls. Now, the telephone means everything from banking to photography. Or a car. Until recently, it was just a means of transportation, and with the release of Tesla, everyone realized that a machine could be intelligent. If before everyone wanted a Ferrari with a w12 engine, now - a car with an autopilot. Because while she is driving, a person can watch Netflix, play games or hold a conference in Zoom. Thus, users have a vision of what they want in the future.

In my opinion, the markets of the future are Automotive, entertainment, cloud services, Data Science and AI. This is something without which it is impossible to imagine the world. Therefore, testers need to bet on learning such programming languages ​​as C ++, Java, C #, Python.

How to achieve the goal? For example, you love DevOps, start learning AWS, become an Amazon Cloud specialist. You need not just take an online course, but do something in practice. Only when you try to solve a problem, knowledge remains forever. The main thing is to choose your direction and move in it. I know a person who made accessories, bought a Raspberry Pi on Amazon, did something with him, and two years later he got a job at Samsung. This is the result. You can always just make money. But to grow, you need to look for opportunities.

Salaries depend on the state, this applies not only to IT. For QA, the least is $ 50 per year. In California, the average QA salary is $ 000 per year.

If you stayed here for a year, that's good

When I moved to the USA, the most difficult period of my life began. People think that every day you hang out in cafes, swim on the beaches of California. In fact, everything is different: you sit and work day and night. This is yet another fundamental difference between the United States and Ukraine. In Ukraine, it happens like this: I quickly finished my work, went with a girl in the center to sit somewhere. And so every day. Here in the US, the working day is from 8 to 17, but this is for McDonald's workers and the service industry in general. Testers and everyone else who wants to achieve something and has jobs in good companies, in fact, work irregularly.

Moreover, due to the influx of cheap labor from India and China, the labor market here is very competitive and it is not easy to find a job right away. You must have good experience and add value to the company. Messages come to the mail from 5 am. When you go on vacation, you take your laptop with you, it's not even discussed. I remember my wife and I were in Vegas. 8 am, I tell my wife and children to run to the pool, and I myself promise to come soon after a small rally. I was released at lunchtime. And in this mode, I spent my entire vacation. Considering the experience of friends, if you've lasted a year here, that's good. One couple said that there are no friends here, they miss their family. Others didn't like the work they were doing. There are many reasons to leave.

Once I came to Lviv on vacation and met with colleagues from GlobalLogic. They said: “Yura, why don't you want to come back? You work there for ridiculous money. " And this is so. In Ukraine you do not earn much compared to the USA, but the purchasing power is obviously much higher. If in Ukraine you pay mainly 5% of the tax, in the USA it is about 30%. For $ 1000 you rent a nice apartment in Lviv. In California, $ 3-4 thousand will cost a room. My friend from Lviv is a project manager, he has already bought two apartments and is assembling for a third. According to his capabilities, he earns more than I do, and he is right when he says that in Ukraine I will allow myself more. But somehow I never wanted to go back. It is difficult in the States, but there is something in it. I'm not sure I can explain. This is probably an understanding of a great perspective.

I remember trying to create startups with my friends in Lviv. Because of the bureaucracy, it was easy. And here everything is done by clicking. If you want to be an entrepreneur - signed two pieces of paper, if you want to open a store - here's the license online. This opportunity is captivating.

On the subject: How to create a successful startup and move to Silicon Valley: tips from an investor

Bogdan Vovk, Senior QA Analyst at MentorMate

I have been working in the field of software quality assurance for over 5 years. He lived in the USA for 4 years. It all started in 2014. I was 22, and I studied at the Kiev Polytechnic Institute at the Faculty of Electronics, and at the same time worked as an engineer for the maintenance of ATM and other banking software products. I decided to try myself in testing on the recommendation of a classmate who at that time got a job as an intern at Cogniance. Since then I have been working in this field.

I had no plans to move to the USA. But one day my wife won a green card. And since it affects the whole family, this is how my American story began. I went there primarily for life, not because of my career. By that time, I was still working remotely in one of the grocery companies in Ukraine. The job search process in the United States took 6 months. I was looking for it myself. These were regular job sites like Monster. com. I saw few reviews there, and employers very rarely wrote. Therefore, I switched to LinkedIn, it works much better in this regard.

Job should be sought through recruiting agencies

In my opinion, this is the most optimal way. You communicate with a professional who can represent you in the best way for the company. In addition, agencies have a database of vacancies, and therefore they more accurately select what you need. I have worked with Talener Technology Staffing and private recruiters. How is the process going? You come to them, then an introductory interview. They test knowledge, what do you expect and so on. Therefore, they offer vacancies and after choosing they bring you to the company. It's free for job seekers. If you are eventually hired, the employer pays a commission to the recruiters.

I worked as a tester for a startup (in the field of restaurant optimization). I was not a co-founder, but I had a stake. We sold the startup a year and a half ago. After that, I decided to take a break from my career to understand what I want. Therefore, the next year he traveled the world. A few months ago I returned to Ukraine and work remotely with MentorMate, which develops software. Main offices in Bulgaria, partly in the States.

In the United States, a year before leaving, I also taught QA courses. It all started like this: one day I stumbled upon courses for migrant engineers. It was a retraining program for Ukrainian, Polish QA or other countries for the American market. This is how the courses positioned themselves, although the specifics of teaching or materials did not differ in any way from how it happens in other courses. But only migrants could get on these. The courses were at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York State. By the way, state ones. There are many such programs throughout the country.

I thought it would be great to share my experience with others and help them adapt. First I wanted to volunteer as a teaching assistant. They took me. Subsequently, one of the familiar teachers asked if I would like to try myself as a mentor, but this time in private courses, that is, from the company. I agreed. We had two different classes. The first is manual testing. There I taught the basics, which partly related to the introduction to automation: what it is and where you can develop. The second class, automation using the Selenium WebDriver + Java technical stack, is popular in the market.

The main mistake is the wrong choice of profession

The main mistake that the students of the courses made was not knowledge or skills, but banal, wrong choice of profession. Because of the hype of a low threshold for entering IT, people overestimate their capabilities. In my experience, a person may or may not work in IT. It seems obvious. After communication, learning the basics of testing, you can immediately tell what will come of it.

The main character trait that is needed to work in this area is curiosity. Many of the course participants thought that they would quickly pass this training and immediately go to work for a lot of money. But the reality is not quite that. You need to constantly develop and be interested in what you are doing.

Salary in the USA is a very individual thing, which depends more on the person who is looking for a job, his knowledge and skills, than on the company. The salary ceiling for manual testing is about $ 95, Junior Automation QA receives from $ 000-90 thousand to $ 110-200 thousand, for example, in Google.

I don't think that testers have little promise. If you take Google, Facebook as an example, then the most paid job in software development is SDET.

How to develop in the profession if you are already in IT? The tester is a multifunctional role. A good test engineer must know the entire product at the level of a business analyst, a programmer, in some cases, he can even write code and take responsibility for the entire process. Therefore, there is an option to move into business intelligence, development, or combine. Or develop in QA in the future and go into management, become a team lead or QA lead. There are many paths.

To go or not to go to the USA? One thing I have learned for sure: if you cannot find yourself, it will be difficult in any country. There is no need to look for answers in external factors. If you wish, you can develop in any market.

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