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As a daughter of a forester from Belarus, she earned a million in Silicon Valley

Anna Vasilko says that in her childhood nothing foreshadowed her high-tech career. The forester's daughter, she grew up in Rakov, 30 kilometers from Minsk, and after school and music lessons, she spent a lot of time in the family garden. After graduation, she entered the Faculty of Engineering and Economics, and after graduation decided to try her hand at the United States.

On the life and work in Silicon Valley, Anna agreed to tell the project "Our Abroad"

About moving

- Before the move, I managed to work in BelHard and HTC in Minsk, life in Belarus and the IT industry here seemed familiar and understandable to me. I wanted more experience of life in another country, new opportunities.

- I considered the options of moving to Western Europe, and my husband Andrei purposefully worked on moving to the United States. In 2011, he received a job offer. Within a couple of weeks, we received visas (H1 and H4) and went to a “new life” in the legendary Silicon Valley, near San Francisco. It was quite exciting to move: we have never been to the United States, that is, we went to an unfamiliar country. In addition, my visa did not give me the right to work, and the thought that I could not be realized scared me most.

- The job search in the USA for me began with “pumping over” technical skills and English. The requirements and interview process were very different. I filled my hand, solving problems of programming algorithms, and in parallel went to the meetings, where I learned to talk smartly about my experience in English. At the time of the move, I could write and understand technical documentation, to speak uncertainly, that is, the conversational level was still weak. I attended courses, but the practice of live communication with native speakers was the most helpful.

Anna sent a resume of almost a hundred companies and interviewed dozens of times. Over time, she realized the best way is a recommendation from a person who is already working in an organization. This gives priority in hiring, ensuring that resumes are reviewed. The candidate will still have to prove that he really fits the position, but for the employer he looks more attractive, because someone from the inside has vouch for him.

When asked about the importance of a diploma in finding employment, Anna replies that it definitely helps if a candidate has studied at a university with a great reputation (for example, at Stanford or Harvard). They don’t know about Belarusian universities in the Valley, so it’s much more difficult for Belarusians to be noticed at the level of resume.

- The standard scheme of the interview for the programmer is as follows: a couple of telephone interviews (including technical interviews), and if the candidate passes, then he is invited to “onsite”, to the company's office for the whole day. As a rule, about five interviews occur, the candidate solves technical problems, writes code on the board. In some companies, the stage is practiced when a candidate writes code on a laptop and immediately shows how it works.

About work at google

The first place of work of Anna was Google. She got the position of a test engineer in the Google wallet project through the intermediary company Epam.

- Google wallet is a fairly new and revolutionary product at the time. He allowed to pay for purchases in stores, simply putting his phone to the checkout using NFC technology (short-range wireless data transmission technology. - Ed.)

- It was terribly interesting to work at Google, I had the opportunity to work side by side with the smartest people of this planet, in the truest sense of the word. Some of the colleagues had patents, the degrees of the most prestigious universities in the world. Also, using Google as an example, I experienced how they spoil their employees here.

In the valley, companies compete for talent, they try to look more attractive, providing a lot of "goodies" to their employees. For example, in the offices of Google there are free restaurants, cafes, gyms, swimming pools, cinemas, game rooms. I personally took breaks at work to play the piano in a cool music studio right in the office, I also took yoga classes and loved to play billiards with my colleagues. I liked the fact that the cooks in Google restaurants prepared the cuisine of different countries, sometimes they even arranged the days of the Belarusian cuisine and diligently cooked pancakes, borscht and even chill maker. (Smiles.)

- Companies in the valley give employees everything they need for professional development, send them to conferences and trainings, allocate time for experimenting with new technologies. In addition, the manager of each employee is extremely puzzled by his state of health, motivation, they regularly (once a week) meet to discuss whether everything is good, what the employee likes or dislikes, where he wants to go in his career.

- The schedule of work in technical companies is quite flexible. As a rule, there is no strict requirement to be at the workplace at exactly nine o'clock, you can leave during the day, finish things in the evening or at the weekend, the main thing is that there should be a good result in the end. A very important point: in addition to the salary, company employees also own shares, that is, a part of the company. Therefore, they are interested in its success, the growth of the company's value increases their condition.

Work ethics

- People from all over the world work in the Valley, people from 40 countries (this is from their own experience) can be in a team from 30: people from different cultures, mentalities, religion, skin color, etc. I personally like it, my colleagues help me to broaden my horizons, to see things from the other side, I sincerely enjoy how different we are!

“But on the employer's side, such heterogeneity in the office is not an easy thing, they try not to let conflicts arise on this basis. Companies try to form employees, conduct trainings on how to behave, so as not to offend each other. Jokes or statements that may offend members of a race, religion, nationality, appearance, age, etc. are prohibited in the office.

- Also in the States, much attention is paid to the lack of women in the technical field. Companies agitate girls to enter technical specialties, arrange code-camps for them, organize meetings of exchange of experience. I am also concerned about this problem. I would like the girls to take an active part in creating the technologies of the future and directly in shaping the very future, and at the same time enjoy high salaries and class working conditions. And yes, while I am surrounded mostly by men.

About the first earned a million

“After Google, I worked in another giant company, Intuit, as a senior programmer in automation. Working there, I realized that in the future I want experience in a smaller company in order to grow with it, influence business decisions, make products and streamline processes from scratch. I seriously approached the choice of the next place. I was looking for a young company that makes a technically challenging and interesting product that has a healthy culture and great growth potential. My choice fell on Twilio, and after a couple of weeks I accepted their job offer. At that time, 300 worked in Twilio, it was no longer a small risky startup, but for them it was only the beginning of the journey.

- Since I came to Twilio (for 3 of the year), the staff has grown to 1500 people, its value has increased from 0,5 to 8 billion dollars, we have released new products, built new teams, opened offices in more 10 countries of the world. We often worked late at night, it was a lot of stress, but I am grateful for this incredible experience, 3, flew in the same breath!

- One of the brightest and climaxes is Twilio's entry into the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of the company, including shares of all employees, became available for sale / purchase in public. This is the very moment of truth when the early employees of the company became millionaires and multimillionaires.

- What does Twilio do? We make software interfaces for communications (SMS, voice and video calls and not only). A huge number of companies use them for communication in their products, it is just not obvious to the end user. For example, Uber: when the driver comes to you, he can send you an SMS or call. So, you get a call or SMS Uber application thanks to Twilio! (Smiles.)

- In Twilio, I quickly grew to the position of a manager, that is, I began to manage engineers. As soon as my advancement took place, the company sent me to an intensive class at the University of Berkeley (Berkeley), where I was taught competent management by the best professors and practitioners, it was an amazing opportunity to appreciate the beauty of American education!

- I like my position as a technical manager, I still need to remain in good technical “form”, but there are more responsibilities related directly to people. Of the features of management here is the predominance of a positive approach. It is believed that the manager needs to understand what motivates the person, what his goals are, and try to create all the conditions so that he is as open as possible, happy and not even thinking about leaving the company.

About life in Silicon Valley

- My life has not changed much after the financial success of the company, that is, I do not cool off in a mansion surrounded by servants. (Laughs.) I continue to work and go towards my goal. Perhaps the biggest change is the purchase of a house in the Valley, and we also began to actively develop in the sphere of investments - this has become more urgent.

More recently, we lived in Palo Alto - the heart of Silicon Valley, within the 15 radius of kilometers are the main offices of Google, Facebook and Apple, hundreds of startups, and Sand Hill, where the largest investment companies are located. Before the move, I read a lot about it and for some reason expected to see the city of the future.

In fact, Palo Alto looks like a nice green village, only it integrates the latest technologies in a very harmonious way and it has a unique business climate. For example, on the road you can often find an unmanned vehicle, and at the next table in a cafe to hear how an investor and a startup are discussing a deal for millions.

- Now we have moved to San Jose - it is a little further south, a fairly large city of about a million people. In San Jose, as elsewhere in the valley, the population is mixed and almost half are first generation immigrants (born outside the United States). The fact is that here investors are less conservative than, for example, in Europe. They are ready to invest in more risky ideas and technologies, this attracts entrepreneurs from all over the world, and at the same time engineers are catching up.

Sometimes we meet talented guys from Belarus who come here to receive funding for their start-ups. I am very glad to see this trend, as previously Belarus was mainly made products for foreign customers. And now our own products are being created, this is, one can say, the following level! I personally was very impressed by the founders of the Belarusian startup Storyline, I think these guys have a great future.

- You may ask, what would I like to say to schoolchildren and those who are just starting a career? When I went to a rural school in Belarus, I had a dream to go to London or New York. At that time I didn’t know a single person who had been there, and the dream seemed simply out of reach. But I have been to these cities, and also to 30 in other countries. And everything else that happened to me during school years I could not imagine! I think you do not need to limit your goals and desires. There are many opportunities ahead of you regardless of your gender, location, wealth, environment, and so on.

Read also on ForumDaily:

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