Anywhere but here was probably the first thought I had when thinking about where to go, but when it came down to checking off criteria, Australia was one of the few options that made sense.
Tech startup presence. Check.
Active ruby community. Check.
English speaking country. Check.
Visa options. Check.
Proximity to adventure. Check.
As I started to reach out to recruiters and companies, I felt a strong tinge of fear and uncertainty. It’s the demons we all battle.
“Am I good enough?”
“Have I grown enough for a company to consider me?”
It was hard to believe that a year and a half of exploring and self learning had brought me here. This felt like a moment of truth; A test that would feel like a true milestone.
But here in lies part of the problem when you wander without a defined pathway, people will often tell you that they believe in you and that you must “believe in yourself”. The reality is that you don’t always believe in yourself. It is far easier to have faith in others since the core responsibility of making it happen does not lie with you.
The thing with belief is that you can’t fake it. You either have it or you don’t.
And I will admit, during the interview process, for the most part, I did not have it.
My belief stems from my own process rather than a core belief in myself. My process was simple enough; If I continued to follow my own mantra of learn, explore, create with the focus on getting better, I would eventually reach some sense of validation. At least, that is the hope.
After my initial outreach, I realized that most companies would not consider sponsoring juniors like myself. One recruiter told me that it boiled down to this,
“Looking for sponsorship will mostly be a waste of time. But if you show a commitment to coming here, I’m confident that we can find something for you.”
And so I did. I changed my approach and committed to a target date of June.
I remember when I arrived back in Vancouver, about a few months in, I felt the need to find work to pay the bills. I didn’t have enough programming under my belt to qualify for many tech positions, so I was willing to take almost anything of modest pay. I remember one of the developers telling someone else who was also in my shoes, “Don’t do it. Keep going on this path. You have no idea how valuable you can become.”
He directed his next comments to me. “You too. You have the startup bug. I see it in you. Your hunger will give you options.”
I didn’t think too much about the comments he made at the time, but he was right. I decided to hold out and about 6 months later, I saw a glimpse of what he mentioned.
“I am surprised to see you use this technology. This is not what I would expect from a junior.” One company said during the interview process.
Another company called me back for a re-interview after rejecting me for initial role suitability. They figured that “with my motivation levels and eagerness to learn, there may be something we could work out”.
My first taste of validation.
But the company that stood out was the one that was in the late stages of the recruiting process. I asked them about their progress during the first interview.
“We have someone in mind right now, but we can take two people if we want.”
I knew I had my work cut out for me. I would have to make my own spot. I was facing three hurdles that most people didn’t have: I was an international applicant; I was a self taught developer; And I was a junior.
In the end, I did something right because they offered me that second spot. I feel pretty lucky. Most juniors will take whatever they can get. I had a shortlist of six companies and I got my number one choice. It hit all my checkboxes of preference:
- Single product company
- A product that I actually find interesting
- Smaller company size
- Mentorship and support in growth
- Freedoms within the company
But this was not about the offer. The offer represented progress and growth. Unlike Malaysia which felt somewhat like a blind walk, I feel more assured of my next steps and where I need to progress.
While some may wonder if I am heading in a totally different direction from my initial goals with let’s chill and apps, the answer is: not really. I was pretty naive and clueless when I started out. I still am but now I understand a bit of “knowing what I don’t know”. You can’t be hemmed in by your original thoughts.
I know I still need to and have a strong desire to grow my development skills. I know I needed to solve my money issue. I know I still want to live abroad. So to me, this was the most sensible decision I’ve made to date.
Like all my choices, it’s true that I don’t know where this will go. I don’t know if I will like them or if they will like me. But my eyes are now on a bigger prize: could I take equity in this company?
One of my developer friends has missed out on similar opportunities on two occasions. He tells me, “If you are given a cookie, you take the cookie.”
I have been given a cookie. Let’s see how it tastes.
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