My journey overseas as a programmer

Charles Bridge, Prague — Photo by Anthony DELANOIX

On a Tuesday, 18th September 2018, I received an offer for a Javascript Developer position at Socialbakers in Prague, Czech Republic. I’d actually been in contact for a few months prior, and went through several steps before making a final decision. Here, I want to share my experience so it may enlighten you if you decide to pursue a similar path in your career.


Why move?

There are multiple factors that make someone want to change their lives. The biggest motivators for change are pain and desire. Pain motivates change simply because evolution told us that pain is an indicator of something bad. If your current situation causes you pain, physically or metaphorically, you start looking for ways to change that situation.

I wasn’t in pain. I was doing well at my job at the time, with good opportunities to grow. I had a good life, considering the limitations, but wasn’t completely satisfied with my current situation. I wanted more. I had desires.

Desire can be a motivator for change simply because it’s natural to want better things. People aren’t usually one hundred percent satisfied with their lives, they always want something more. I wanted to leave the country.

Initially I considered places with good opportunities in the tech industry, such as the US, Germany, Ireland, Australia and Canada. The US was vetoed by my girlfriend, but I still had plenty of options to choose from. The hardest part was getting a job proposal from one of those countries.


What’s so good about leaving your country?

If you’re from what’s called a “first world country” you probably never had this feeling. Usually things work as expected, even if there are issues here and there.

Brazil is not a “first world country”. Although it is one of the biggest countries in the world, and has a relatively strong economy, there’s multiple factors that are not up to “first world” standards. Given my situation I didn’t experience the true horrors that some families go through every day, but the effects of the poor management of the country rippled everywhere.

I wanted something better, so I made up my mind early that I was going to leave for a better country. Anywhere that’s better than my current situation, and I can continue from there until I am satisfied.


Who am I?

I was 24 years old, about to graduate from university in the countryside of Brazil. I had been working for a couple of years and held the position of Frontend Developer at Arquivei, a company that I cared very much about.

About a year ago, in July 2018, I received an email asking if I was interested in a job in a company I had never heard of, in a country I had never considered before. To this day I’m not sure where they got my contact, so I’m just glad I had my LinkedIn up to date and a few projects and packages on Github to serve as my portfolio.

In fact I graduated from university only a month after I received that email, so I wasn’t expecting too much from it. I scheduled a call just to see what it was about, with a “go with the flow” mentality. I had a dream of working in another country, but I wasn’t really planning on doing it this soon. I decided to use it as an experiment, to see if I was capable of going through the hiring process.


The process

It all started with a couple calls just to get my vibe, and for me to understand a little bit about Socialbakers. After each call I was told that they would evaluate and contact me again if I were to continue with the process. I was actually doing great (or I like to think so) because they kept scheduling more calls.

Then came the time for the coding test. I joined a call with one of the developers, and used an online live shared code environment for me to solve some tasks. I managed to solve them all, but hit a few bumps on the way. Needless to say I was already happy with the result because I learned something new and would probably never make the same mistakes during another interview. My “experiment” was going well.

To my surprise they contacted me again (I thought they wouldn’t), and it was time to meet the VP of engineering, along with the HR representative, again. By that point they felt I could handle myself, and the interview was focused on my strengths, weaknesses and failures. It’s always important to understand you’re human and can make mistakes. The hardest part is not to undersell yourself too much while not overselling yourself to the point they feel you’re bragging (or worse, lying).

They decided to invite me to the final part of the process: an in-person interview in São Paulo, just a couple hundred km away from me. That was it. It was time to decide if I was really going to pursue this.

I discussed everything with my wife (girlfriend at the time) and we settled that if I were to pursue this I might as well embrace it. I wasn’t going to spend time and money for the trip just to refuse the job in the event I was chosen. So we sat down and decided that it would be a good thing, and I went for the interview.

The interview in São Paulo was pretty much a repetition of the process as a whole. They were there to ask me questions and answer whatever I wanted to know. There was also a much more complex task, compared to the first coding interview, that I had to complete within an hour.


Photo by Kelly Sikkema

The long wait

After I got the job there were eight long months of stress. After the bliss of accepting the job and getting married, we had to bag our belongings and prepare for the journey of our lives. And bureaucracy is your biggest enemy when moving to a new country. There were six of us going to the Czech Republic for Developer roles at Socialbakers.

I traded dozens of emails, traveled hundreds of kilometers for a single stamp on my diploma, spent loads of money to authenticate my documents and spent long nights preparing for my trip. I had to stamp some documents multiple times, and got a few things wrong the first time.

I was only able to apply for the visa 4 months after I accepted the job. All the time in between was spent dealing with documents and translations (did I mention I didn’t speak a word of Czech?). I’m sure that this won’t apply for all countries, but that was the case for me.

I also had to sell most of my belongings, since I had only a 46kg baggage allowance to move my whole life overseas. It’s true we have more than we need, because even though I didn’t have much, I was able to get rid of a bunch of useless stuff and donated more than half of my clothes.

One thing that’s important to mention is that even though the process was very long, Socialbakers always kept in touch with me during every step of the way, making sure I had everything I needed or clearing any roadblocks that were delaying me. If I had to do everything by myself, it’s safe to say I would’ve given up.


brown duffel bag beside white and brown wooden chair
brown duffel bag beside white and brown wooden chair
Photo by Erol Ahmed

The final stretch

In March of this year my wife and I had our visas approved, less than two full months before I was set to start in Socialbakers. I understood companies have priorities and deadlines, so I talked with my wife and pushed our trip back a couple of weeks so we could tie up loose ends in Brazil.

As the date of the trip got closer things were actually settling down. We’d prepared everything in advance, so the last couple of weeks before the trip we had a well deserved rest and visited our families.

On May 5th 2019 we arrived in Prague, Czech Republic, after almost 16 hours of traveling. Socialbakers took care of everything for us, from transport to accommodation.

The first two days were spent with more bureaucracy, going to the police and making sure to present ourselves (me and the other guys that came for the same job) as employees in the Czech Republic. The third day was my first day at the new job. Needless to say that after everything I went through, it was a big relief.


The landing

Was it worth it? I’ve been here for less than six months, but from my experience so far it was the right decision. Socialbakers is a wonderful place to work, and Prague is indeed one of the most beautiful cities in the world. All my expectations were surpassed.

I didn’t know anything about the Czech Republic before the initial contact from Socialbakers. After I dug a little I found that beer was cheap, unemployment was incredibly low, and overall the country was experiencing a great economic period. My hopes were high.

And once I actually arrived, I found that Prague has outstanding public transport (which is also very cheap), mild weather (still waiting for winter to prove me wrong), great food, beautiful scenery and friendly people. If you have the chance to visit I highly recommend it.


I’d like to personally thank Renata Vostrá and Thuy Nguyen for helping me through the whole process, as well as everyone at Arquivei, my previous company, for also helping me during this transition.

If you want to experience the feeling of being hired by an amazing company, and working in a beautiful city, just remember that Socialbakers is hiring right now.

Socialbakers

We want to give you a sense of all the systems and technologies that power Socialbakers, and introduce our thinking, principles and our tech stack.

Vinicius Marchesin Araujo

Written by

Front-end developer and dolphin impersonator. Currently working as a JavaScript Developer at @Socialbakers in Prague. | https://vmarches.in

Socialbakers

We want to give you a sense of all the systems and technologies that power Socialbakers, and introduce our thinking, principles and our tech stack.

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