Lately, I have been asked about how I got my job in the Bay Area after studying in Finland, and I figured the most convenient way to share my answer is to write a story about it :).
I’m sure there are many different ways that can help you get a job in the Bay Area. However, this is just a personal story about how I did it. And hopefully, it can help provide another option if you are planning to apply for a job in the Bay Area, especially from Finland.
A little bit about my background
I’m not a Finnish citizen. I was born and raised in another country. I came to Finland for my bachelor and master’s study. During my study time, I worked for a couple of IT companies in Finland.
Even though the study and work experiences in Finland were excellent, I quickly realized that I wanted to try out something new, to challenge myself in a native English speaking country, and to put myself in a more tech-focused region. What else could be better place than the technology capital of the world?
In short, that was the main motivation for me to start looking for a job opportunity in Silicon Valley.
Startuplifers — connecting Nordic Talent With The Best Startups
For those that don’t know about Startuplifers, as stated in their website, they are “a non-profit organization connecting talented tech, design and business students and graduates from the Nordics with the best startups in Silicon Valley and beyond”.
Before knowing about Startuplifers, getting a job in the U.S was such an impossible task for me thanks to all the stories I heard about the difficulty of getting a visa and some legal related stuff.
I first heard about Startuplifers during my 1st year of my master’s study, and to be honest, after checking their website and attended several offline meetings, I thought it’s a “too good to be true” opportunity since the program is 100% free since Startuplifers will pay for the visa, flight tickets, and help candidates with the relocation process.
Now, looking back at my process, I can absolutely confirm that it is indeed 100% free, and the supports I received from Startuplifers people were tremendous. I was even visited by one of Startuplifers members when I was working in my company in the Bay Area :).
What type of visa does the program use
The program uses J1 visa, an Exchange Visitor Visa, which is a nonimmigrant visa type for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States.
TL;DL, there are 2 main categories that you can apply depending your prior work experiences: intern visa, and trainee visa. For intern visa, you can stay up to 12 months, and for trainee visa, you can stay up to 18 months.
Researching about this topic might be time consuming and confusing at first, but the nice thing about this, at least in my case was that it was well taken care of by Startuplifers and the host company. And therefore, it was quite a hassle-free process for me.
How is the interview process
The application and interview process was pretty standard. However, you will need to do an additional HR screening round with Staruplifers so that the organization can understand you better before selling your profile to companies.
I believe the interview experiences are different from person to person, and from company to company. In my case, I did a couple of interviews with several companies, and the process could be standardized as follow:
- Screening interview with Startuplifers (non-technical).
- Screening interview with company HR (non-technical).
- Live coding with an engineer (could be several rounds).
- Take home challenge.
- Additional screening interview with VP of Engineering / Tech lead.
Depending on the positions and the companies, the agenda might vary. However, if you apply for a full-time position and are invited for an on-site interview, be prepared for a day long back-to-back interview. It’s a pretty popular process among the companies.
My personal experiences
To be honest, applying for a job in the Bay Area and working for a Silicon Valley startup company has been such a life-changing and unique experience that I’m forever grateful. I was able to meet many talented yet still very humble people. Each of them has an interesting and unique story to tell. I learnt a lot professionally and personally as well.
The innovation culture and spirit of Silicon Valley is pretty unique and I’m glad I was able to experience and learn it myself.
If you ever consider applying for a job in the Bay Area, I highly encourage you to do so. And if the opportunity feels right, let’s go for it!
If I can do it, you can do it too :)