On the way back to the Netherlands from my PhD defence in Turkey, I wanted to share a couple of my personal experiences for those who are on the pursuit of finding a software engineering job abroad. I will proceed in a Q&A form; feel free to continue reading from whichever part you wish.
I migrated from Turkey to the Netherlands for a software engineering position at bol.com – the biggest e-commerce platform in the Netherlands and Belgium. I have a BS in mathematics, MS and PhD in computer engineering. That being said, I had several job experiences in various half- and full-time positions in parallel to my education. Right now, I work as a full-time Software Engineer and my daily programming routine is constituted of a blend of Java, Scala, and SQL kung-fu.
Almost none. I can assure you none of my programming related enthusiasm or job opportunuity potential emanates from my educational background, but my interest in the field. That is, I had always found programming a joy and I still do. I have been programming while I was at high school or even nights while working in a catering shop kitchen to make my school stipend. Put another way, programming is not something I perform due to financial necessities or whatsoever. And this is what makes most out of you as a software developer vacancy candidate. Nevertheless, for certain positions (management, researcher, etc.) companies can ask for a degree partly due to the official requirements.
So, does this mean all these university certificates did not worth a dime during job search? No, it certainly did. First of all, HR people (the first official company entry point that yourself will be exposed to) are not developers and university degree one of very few things that they can have clue about the candidate. Nevertheless, here is the gist: If you are good at your job enough, you can put up a resume that can create more or less the same effect a university degree can do.
I followed a path composed of two major steps.
Here I need to note that the country was my second concern, while the job itself is the first.
During these meetings I tried to let people provide as much information as possible about the job, company, and the country. That is, I did neither advertise myself, nor ask for a job by any means. These talks were merely for the purpose of scratching the surface of what it feels to be a developer over there.
I put together an excel sheet of around 50 company positions and a dozen of countries. Then I scored each of them over a multitude of features that I set in the columns. After reducing the size of options to a handful, I shared this sheet (together with some personal comments) with people that I find experienced in the field and have potential to shed some light on certain pitfalls that I cannot oversee due to my inexperience.
First things first: Brush up your technical blog, GitHub and LinkedIn profiles and put together a catchy CV. Note that nobody cares about your LaTeX kung-fu, swimming enthusiasm, Excel skills, university TA-ships, college entrace exam rankings, etc. Put yourself to the position of the HR staff and try hard to think about what would you look for in a candidate. And one more thing: no long texts. Nobody will read them, I can assure you.
According to the feedback I collected from various sources around the internet (Skype meetings, employee blogs, company profile and products, etc.) I connect the pieces of the puzzle in my mind about the position and the required (both technical and social) skills. Then I delivered a to-the-point cover letter (less than a page) along with my CV (single page) to the relevant HR personal, if possible through means of another programmer at the company. I would like to emphasise two certain things here:
Following items are the highlights of things that I kept reminding myself during the interviews:
Realize that you are moving to another country. Given the fact that even the handling of the utilities (gas, electricity, etc.) changes from a city to another within the same country, think about the tremendous set of differences that you will face cluelessly. Below you can find a short list of miscalculations and unexpected obstacles that I experienced while relocating to the Netherlands.
Here I will try to address some of the questions raised by the readers.
@yazicivo eline saglik. Neden Phd aldigin alan uzerine bir is/sirket secmedgini, gorusmelrde buna dair sorulr alip almdigini ekleyebilr msn?— Ferhat Aydın (@ferhtaydn) May 24, 2015
Well… What this Tweet roughly translates is this: Why didn’t I go for a career aligned with my PhD study? I actually tried really hard to go towards that path. After all, thrashing out 5 years of experience on SDN was not also an easy decision for me. I needed to think on this quite some time. Nevertheless, it concluded with a bitter end.
Over the years, I had quite some idea about the SDN companies in Europe. (I did not want to go for United States for various personal reasons.) Further, I checked hundreds of other candidates listed in SDX Central’s NFV & SDN Companies Directory. But a majority of those companies were more or less like a black box. I mean, most of them are startups and it was not visible what they are actually doing, what are their products, what sort of a software ecosystem used internally, etc. Or they just did not have any positions for backend developers. Long story short, when I eliminated the companies that did not look like a suitable place for me, I ended up with a handful of candidates. Further, I actually applied to them. And guess what? None returned. I mean literally no responses.
One particular exception was Tail-f, which a month later my application was acquired by Cisco. I had heard about it a lot in various SDN news channels, but after getting to know in a mail discussion with Luke Gorrie that they employ hardcore programming veterans in the field and Erlang is used behind the scenes, I felt a strong interest in the job opportunities over there. And as with my other SDN applications, I literally got no reply from this company too.
All in all, I should also admit that the situation would be a lot different if I would have considered job vacancies in United States.
@yazicivo abi "aradigimi buldum mu?", "simdi nelerden sikayet ediyorum?", "neyi farkli yapardim?" gibi sorularin cevaplarini da istiyoruz :)— sinan (@sinan1111111111) May 24, 2015
Sinan asks for Did I find what I was looking for? What am I complaining right now? What would I do differently if I would have done it again?
I have mixed feelings on whether I found what I was looking for or not. And there are some things I still complain and could be improved. That being said, it is more or less ok and discussion of these subjects is out of the scope of this post. If I would stick to the subject, what would I have done differently? I would have tried to get more information about the software ecosystem and a working continuous integration cycle with all commit-test-review cycles. But those would not add much to my previous knowledge and not affect my decision, I believe. Additionally, I would have surely made a more in-depth investigation on how much will I spend for housing, where despite all my efforts, my estimations were way off.