The pursuit of H-1B
A personal story about VISA & Expectations.
(or why I have to wait for my dream job)
Last Wednesday (April 1st) my application for the H-1B VISA has been submitted. That’s the second time in two years that I apply for this VISA and I really hope this will work this time!
At that time, I have no idea about the total number of applications.
All I know is that the cap of 85,000 H-1B visa for 2016 has been reached in only 5 business days and I wish I had more fingers to cross on my hands, because now it’s just a matter of luck!!!
From now on, all I have to do is wait…wait for the lottery, wait for the results, wait for something that could change my life.
I’ve been waiting for a long time now and that’s why I wanted to share my experience in this article. After all, isn’t it the best way for me to kill time?
But first of all, let’s rewind a little bit ☺
Me + Myself + I
For those who don’t know me, I’m 25 and I’m French. I was born and raise in a small town called “La Souterraine” where cows outnumber habitants.
I literally love too many things for one lifetime, from video games to platypus.
TL;DR - If I had to make a list I guess it would go like this: Basketball, Design, Photography, Typography, Nut-Free Cookies, Beavers, TV shows, Stephen King, Polaroid, Books, Wood, My Husband, Star Wars, Pancakes, Music, Hoverboards, Screen-printing, Tech, Baseball, Poker, Donuts & Chocolate Chips Mint Ice Cream…and so on.
I’m, what I like to call, a versatile designer, because I don’t want to be stuck in one design field and forget about the rest.
Today, I live in San Francisco, I’m happily married, I have everything
I want…except for a job!
Studies + Designer path
I’ve to admit that I’ve never really planned my path to get into design. I got there with a combination of random chances and a little bit of luck. When I was young I wanted to be a baker, a teacher or sport journalist…it’s miles away from design.
My first design experience happened when I was 7 or 8 with this wonderful object called Video Painter© *___*. I spent countless hours on that thing.
But I didn’t know back then, that designer could be a real job.
After my high school graduation in the literary field, I choose the wrong path for me, so I stopped my studies for a while to figure out what I really wanted. Meanwhile, I took several jobs such as cashier and saleswoman. These jobs were clearly not the first professional experience I was looking for, nevertheless they gave me motivation to find my real passion and taught me how to communicate with customers. I knew that my future dream job should be about communication, to give people what they want/need, to find a way to share ideas with them.
Then I studied 2 years to get a general technology and computer science diploma and 1 more to get my ‘bachelor’s degree’ in Sensitive Webdesign and Online Communication Strategy. A lot of words isn’t it?
In fact it was a really wide and rich education. The courses were made to teach me a lot of things: design, code, photography, communication, math, project management and even computer networking…but you can’t humanly focus on every subject at the same time, so you have to make choices.
Sebastien Gabriel explains that very well in his article: How I joined Google. He says:
School is not about teaching, not really. It’s about opening your mind. I forgot most of what I learned at school but it helped me visualize and understand the things that I wanted to do and the things that I wanted to avoid.
I chose communication & pixels and I put my mind into it, every damn night after school.
That’s how my passion was born.
That’s how I became a designer.
Experience + Digital Agency
Right after my studies, I started to work for an European digital agency. It was a huge opportunity for me to work for great clients such as Karl Lagerfeld and Nike. I learnt a lot while I was in there. It was great to finally use the skills I had acquired during my studies on real life projects and I think that I couldn’t wish for a better way to start my design journey as a professional.
But even if I truly loved my co-workers over there, I knew this was not made for me. You know, when you work for an agency you constantly have to jump from one project to another without taking time to focus on details or finishing. It’s all about shipping things ASAP even if you’re not satisfied. Let’s face it…it was all about money and, I quote my former boss:
“Design was just about putting colors into pixels, no big deal!”
At the end of the day, I know that I needed this experience to figure out what I really wanted in my professional life. This stop actually taught me how to work fast and to be polyvalent, but it also motivated me to keep looking for the perfect job for me, because that was clearly not my vision of being a designer.
Freelance + Couple life
So I started freelancing. It was a way for me to ‘double’ my work experience and to build a strong portfolio so I can find opportunities elsewhere…oh and extra money too!
It was truly hard to take care of my personal life at that time.
My boyfriend (who was gonna become my husband) Robin is a designer too and we are both hard-workers, so to summarize, our lifestyle used to be: Full-time designers by day and freelance designers by night.
How cool is that? (Not so much!)
Freelancing gave me the opportunity to work for american clients. It was great to see how design was perceived in a different country. They cared about my thoughts, they trusted me, they needed pixel perfection and the best part was…they cared about design! I finally had a chance to take time to analyze problem, think about relevant solutions and design clean and thoughtful products.
Decisions + Opportunities
After months of efforts I decided it was time for me to move forward! Robin and I decided to take our chance and set ourselves the goal to move in the US by the end of the year 2014.
I fell in love with San Francisco the moment I land in SFO in 2012, so naturally we focused our search in the Silicon Valley.
Every night (because of the time difference between France and San Francisco
+9 hours actually) brought new interviews and Skype calls. It was truly exhausting to keep up the pace and sometimes hope was seriously decreasing, not to mentioned all the rejections because of the VISA issues.
That’s the difference between Europe and America…it’s really hard to get to work in the United States when you’re from another country. A lot of small companies were really interesting in our work/abilities but every time the discussion came to immigration matters, they got cold feet.
Robin was doing great though! He had more experience than me and big companies such as Evernote, Google and Pinterest, approached him. By the end of January, Facebook had offered him a job.
Blue Dream + Facebook
I was genuinely happy for him, but also really concerned about my situation. But one day a tweet changed my life.
I receive a notification on Twitter:
“Michael (@BSidesNarrative) is now following you”
It turns out, Michael was a recruiter at Instagram/Facebook. He contacted me via my portfolio:
As a pessimist, I was keeping my expectations low to avoid any disappointment, after all it could have been a joke. But I answered that I would love to have a chat about his team.
After that everything moved very fast, you know, like in a hyperlapse movie.
At that time I avoided myself of hoping because it was to good to be true. So I dealt with one step at a time, doing my best so I would have no regrets.
I had a call with Michael, then with Austin Bales (@arbales) and then radio silence for an entire week.
In my mind it was obvious that this adventure would not go any further.
I kept saying to myself that I was expecting this and it was a really good experience anyway!
But I couldn’t be more wrong! I was in New York when I received an email from Michael, asking me to come in Menlo Park for an on-site interview.
I was SO happy and, I have to admit, scared to death.
One week later I was on the Facebook Campus, ready for a day of interviews. I will not tell you every details of the interview process, but I can say that this was one of the best day of my life. The Facebook culture is incredible and even if it was supposed to be a really stressful day, I actually enjoyed every minute of it…every question, every design exercise, every talk!
I’ve done my best that day. I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have done
Lottery + Bad Luck
Ultimately, my efforts paid off. On February, 2014 I got a job offer from Facebook! At that point, Robin and I were supposed to start as Product Designer at Facebook on October 6th, 2014. HOORAY!
But something went wrong…VISA issues. ☹
To clarify the situation, when you’re not american you need a VISA to live or to work in the United States. In our case the H-1B. It’s a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields. You can apply once a year in April and if your file is approved you can start working in October.
The problem is the increasing number of applications year after year. The government delivers 85,000 VISAS per year. In 2014, the number of applications was around 172,000. I let you do the math. So there is a lottery…Robin’s name did went out, mine didn’t.
My dream was falling apart, not because of me or my abilities, just because of a lack of luck!
Mrs. Brightside + New Life
I learnt from my experience to always look for the bright side of a situation. That’s a strong advice if you want to avoid the ‘dark side’.
Since Robin had his job and his VISA, it was unimaginable to waste his opportunity. So we decided to get married so I could follow him in San Francisco.
On September 2014 we landed in SFO and settled in our new home. It was hard to say goodbye to our friends and family. It was a complete freaking fresh start!
Golden Gate + Frustration
Since I’m married with a H-1B holder, I got to get a H-4 VISA. It means that I can stay on the US territory, but I’m not allowed to work at all, not even freelancing. How frustrating is that?
At first it was hard for me to hear Robin talking about his days at Facebook, and sometimes it’s still the case. I’m not jealous or anything but a part of me knows that I was supposed to be there with him and it’s killing me to stay home with a job waiting for me in my dream company.
Just to be clear I’m not idealizing things. I know there’s gonna be some rough days over there when I’ll get to work, but I just can’t wait to be in an active and social life again.
You’ve already heard about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, well in my case the “belonging part” is quite missing.
Some days I used to forget that my skills and work were not questioned.
I’ve done the best I could and I don’t have the right to beat myself up for a lack of luck.
The good news is Facebook
is waiting for me too!
Self projects + Chocolate Chips Cookies
And here I am, one year latter in my sofa, writing these words…waiting.
I’m not gonna lie, my heart is full of hope and excitement, but I have to be careful. I’m not the patient type. When I want something I want it now (Thanks Freddie Mercury for these powerful lyrics), but this experience brought me a lot of good things too:
- I live in one of my favorite city in the world and I can call it home.
- I’ve met a lot of great/inspiring people and some of them are really close friends of mine now.
- I can take time to develop my skills and knowledge.
- I can work on all the personal/side projects that I want.
- I have plenty of time to take photos.
- (I spend a lot of time cooking and baking…so my chocolate chips cookies are awesome now!!)
— — —
It was hard to Start and Finish this article. I’ve been procrastinating this writing for almost a year now because it’s a really sensitive subject for me, but maybe it could help. I know it’s kind of messy, but in a way, my head is messy too right now.
I wish I had a good news for the end of this post but for now I’m in the dark. So while I’m in sitting, waiting, wishing, dreaming about my first day at Facebook and wondering “How long I’m gonna have to wait?”, I keep faith and ask every reader to cross their fingers for me ☺
And if your situation is close to mine or if you dream about coming in the US to work, please always keep your expectations high. Be bold and keep working. Yes, there’s gonna be some disappointments but just get ready for luck…it might come sooner than you think…and you deserve it!
Patience is not simply the ability to wait, it’s how we behave while we’re waiting. _Joyce Meyer
Feel free to reach me on Twitter if you have any question, feedback
or just want to chat! ☺