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How to get an engineer job in Silicon Valley as foreigners?

acro5piano profile image Kay Gosho Updated on ・1 min read

Hi, I am 25 years-old Japanese web engineer. I am enjoying programming everyday.

I would like to work in America, especially in Silicon Valley because America is the mecca of software.
Almost all new technologies and breaking innovations are being born there.

Then, what should I do for getting a job in America? I don't have any foreign experience. I have some foreign friends but neither study nor work experience.

I am planning the following parallel three strategies (I am working at a startup now but will become a freelance soon):

  • Going to University in America for master degree of Computer Science.
  • Get a job in America straightly by standing out in Social activity, such as OSS contribution or writing dev post (like here).
  • Widen my network(=meet people)

The first one looks hard but robust way. However I might not be able to go to a good university as my terrible GPA in bachelor of economics...

Do you have any ideas? I appreciate any advice.

Thanks!

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Discussion

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I don't have a lot of tips about being a foreigner looking for a job exactly. I imagine you'll be on the lookout for H1B visa jobs. I can tell you what has worked for me in job searches.

First, I figure out what kind of job I'm looking for, so I can efficiently search job boards. My favorite job boards are theladders, hn, stack overflow and angelList.

I collect a bunch of jobs that look like I might be a good fit. You'll probably want an additional filter that the company is ok with sponsoring a visa.

Then I go to linkedin and find the recruiters for the company and connect with them. I have a brief spiel describing where I found a job posting and why I want to connect. I have a pretty high hit rate of that leading to at least a phone call and initial screen.

Assuming you are prepared for the standard American software interview, I suspect you'll get the most mileage out of tuning your initial pitch, and your screener interview responses.

Another option, which I have no personal experience with, is starting a US company and looking for contracting gigs through your US entity. I have heard of people doing such things, but like I say, no personal experience.

 

Thank you for your advice!

I have applied jobs via LinkedIn but there are almost no response.
Of course I don't have H1B visa so I will try to companies who can be visa sponsor.
It sounds good approach to send a direct message to recruiters.

I am feeling I have never done my best effort now...

I will try what you did. Thanks again!

 

I don't actually apply via LinkedIn. I connect with a recruiter (or hr professional, or talent manager, or whatever the company calls "person who fields potential hires"), then I explain that I think I may be a good fit ("I may be a good fit because I have these outstanding qualities, and your job posting asks for these similar mediocre qualities") and ask if they are interested in a chat to determine mutual compatibility.

The number one thing is to get in contact with a real human who has the power to put you in front of a hiring panel. Places where you send in your resume are just black holes.

Typically this results in them asking me to forward a resume with a short cover letter (just an email where I talk myself up, using the company's language), and then a screener phone call.

In terms of those initial contacts, I like to have something of a narrative. My resume and cover letter show where I started, what I've done, the impressive skills I've gained along the way and how I want to use those impressive skills to make your company more money (successful, organized, good looking, whatever it is they need/want).

Thank you for the detail information!
I saw "Send Inmail" button at LinkedIn for premium users but never press the button. Next time I will definitely reach out recruiters or administrators directly who can affect the company hiring process.

Actually I can't imagine which jobs are fit for me. I have a kind of full-stack engineer with no speciality in development. I can launch instances in AWS and write server-side to front-end code, but these are not so difficult and complicated skills. It looks like I should figure out which kind of jobs are suitable for me at first while reaching out recruiters and getting in the process.

Sorry for telling myself a lot. I really appreciate your advice!

I've avoided paying for premium linkedIn and sending inmail by just adding the recruiters to my network. Instead of the generic "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn," I put a quick note about why I want to connect. After they accept the connection, LinkedIn messages are free.

No worries, it's always very interesting to hear about what other people do, and where they are in their career.

I would not discount your abilities. If it was so easy to write all that stuff, everyone would do it! To me, you sound like you'd probably match with any of the following: "frontend developer, backend developer, fullstack developer". I imagine there are more. The question is really what are you interesting in pursuing?

It's also worth saying, resumes and job interviews are not the time for modesty. You want to be honest, but it's ok to swagger

I didn't know we can avoid paying for it! I can pay some money for my career but hacking LinkedIn seems to be interesting itself:) Thank you for sharing.

Oh really! I always tend to blame myself as "There are a lot of people who have a lot knowledge on <any language, frameworks, ...>". Currently I am interested in Frontend dev. I can pursue JavaScript world. I will try such jobs.

Fortunately I have an American friend who can advise my resume.
I will improve my resume with her!

 

It looks like H1B season for 2019 will probably start around April. My best advice (and this is not based on personal experience) would be to lurk forums that cater to Indian devs, because I bet they have good advice on finding sponsors.

Thanks for further advice. Do you mean that I should check forums with Indian devs and get useful information from it?
I didn't know Indian devs provide such advice.
I will check Indian devs forum! Thank you.

I know there are many developers out there who come to America and work. I am certain they talk about it on the internet, and there is not reason not to see if there are any watering holes where people in similar situations hang out. There's probably gigs and gigs of good advice

Yeah I will check the watering holes more!
I thought only the special people (like genius engineer who started to code when he/she was 5 years old) can work there. Now I feel it depends on how much I make effort.

Thanks!

 

I know a lot of people think that Silicon Valley is the mecca of technology, but I think it is actually decaying now. Lots of companies are embracing remote work, the housing crisis in SF and the Bay Area is just a nightmare, and who would want to work in country where the president is a xenophobe?

I know my remarks are off topic, but I would love for you to reconsider. Tech life does not start and end at Silicon Valley.

Ok now that I got that out of the way, getting a job right out of University is probably your best bet to get an H1B visa. Also be mindful that the H1B process is a lottery, and there are far more applicants than visas available. The application process is long, and you need to find a company willing to support you and back you at every step.

It is also well established that there are companies gaming the system. Placement companies from India, like TATA, flood the system with thousands of applications, in the hopes of getting someone in. 1

I would never put myself through that process, but if it is your ultimate goal, I wish you the best of luck

 

Thank you for your advice.
I heard that silicon valley is not good for living. Salary is extremely high but rent fee is also high.
I am wondering why new technologies are born in America. When it comes to web Technologies almost all frameworks and new tools are origin from America.

As you say Tech life does not only in Silicon Valley. I will create or contribute to OSS. Learn Design pattern, Computer Science, then Write code while looking for jobs:)

According to your comment, It sounds really difficult to get H1B visa. Flooding visa is bad for foreigners who want to work there. I also check remote work jobs.

I appreciate your helpful advice! I will consider what to do in the future.

 

I'm glad you liked my advice.

Regarding your comment about new technologies always coming from the US, that is totally not true. Let's start with Ruby, that is from Japan 🙃

Ruby on Rails was created by DHH, who is from Denmark

Elixir was created by José Valim, from Brazil

Python was created by Guido van Rossum, from the Netherlands

And these are just from the top of my head. There are many other great engineers creating new technologies that are not from the US.

Now, the reason a lot of advances are made in the US, is because of the amount of big companies that invest in new technologies.

Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, etc. all started there. It could be a cultural thing, I'm not sure, but the fact that there is a lot of people with money to invest on new things certainly helps.

There are also other big companies that are also investing in new technologies that are not from the US, Alibaba is a great example. The tides are changing in the world. The US will not be the biggest technology hub in the world for much longer.

It seems that I had a bias about technologies.

I searched who created webpack then found a German engineer did. Also a Chinese engineer created Vue.js(Though he had worked in America).
Definitely there are a lot of great engineers in the world not only in America in terms of individual.
Regarding to business market scale and investment for technologies, Chinese company must be a big player already.

I am wondering about my career... to be a good engineer.
Thank you for telling me your opinion with various aspects about career.

Any time. I really think you can really advance your career outside the US. It might even be better to do that first and then try to move there. Applying for an H1B visa is easier if you already have a Master’s degree. You get put on a different list, and there is a higher priority for applicants with higher education.

Yeah, actually I don't have Master's degree so it will be hard to get a visa.
I will start to get Master's degree in Computer Science.