I moved to Germany because Brazil is not exactly a stable and prosperous country

February 26, 2020

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Andre Pena

Senior Software Engineer at Zalando

Location: Germany

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Can you introduce yourself? (name, age, country of birth, study background, job before moving)

Hi. My name is Andre Pena. I'm a 34 years old Brazilian. I have studied computer science and I have been a developer and a software architect for 11 years before moving to Berlin, Germany. 10 out of these 11 years I've worked in Brazil, mostly at Thomson Reuters building legal software. I also had a brief experience working remotely from Brazil to the UK before moving to Germany.

Why did you decide to move abroad?

Because I wanted the experience. Brazil is not exactly a stable and prosperous country and it is very common, for people that have the opportunity to leave, to look for opportunities abroad. There is a lot of uncertainty with regards to the economy and the job market for software engineers is not very good compared to Europe and the US.

What do you do now and how did you find your job abroad?

I am a senior software engineer at Zalando.de. Mostly frontend.

Since I got comfortable with programming, I started answering questions on Stackoverflow. I don't do it often anymore, but I did for quite a long time. In 2016, when React was getting super popular, I managed to be top 1% on the "react" tag. This brought a lot of attention to my profile and a UK company got really interested in hiring me.

At the same time, I started writing on Medium. My blog posts were not doing very well on Reddit, for example, which is the only way I knew for advertising my content. However, Hackernoon.com got in touch and they published one of my stories, which got featured on their front page for about two weeks. Hackernoon, at least at the time, was the second largest Medium publication, after FreeCodeCamp. This taught me the power of reaching out to the right community.

My writing brought me a lot of attention, and some recruiters from Europe started getting in touch. One company in specific, Zalando, got me interested. But because I was still not convinced to move to Europe, I decided to accept the offer from the UK company as a remote, partially in locus developer. After ten months at the company, I decided that I actually wanted this experience of living in Europe, and so I did.

If you want to actively look jobs abroad, the best resource is StackOverflow jobs, that offer the option to filter for companies that have VISA sponsorship.

What made you move to this country in specific?

I always thought Germany would be a cool country, not sure why. Maybe because it is an intriguing country in terms of history, maybe because of the tradition building machines. But to be honest, I decided to move here because of the job offer I got and because the company seemed like a very good place to work and learn. I did not have the intention to move specifically here.

How was the interview process?

The interview process was, essentially: 1) Talk to the recruiters and determine whether the company would be a good fit for you and the other way around. 2) Technical algorithm interview using Codility (this is very common here, and not common at all in Brazil). 3) Systems design, where they present a business need, like a new hypothetical application, and you have to propose a technical/architectural solution and explain your reasoning. and 4) General questions, where they ask technical questions related to your role.

How did you prepare for the interviews?

Fortunately, HackerRank is an invaluable resource when it comes to algorithm/problem solving tests. I spent approximately one months going there and solving algorithm problems. The Zalando exam was not particularly difficult when compared to Google, for example, but I had to prepare. You don't solve this type of problems every day. With regard to System Design, I relied solely on my own experience. It would be interesting if there were more resources available to train this subject online, but I could not find any. For the technical questions. There's not a lot to practice. You have to have hands-on experience on the topics.

What was the process for you to get the work VISA? What were the requirements? How long did it take?

Germany, or maybe Europe as a whole, is seriously in need of good software engineers now. For that reason, the VISA process was pretty straight forward, You don't even need to be graduated if you have significant specialised work experience. It took only 24 hours for my VISA to be approved. The most important thing is that you have to have a job offer from a company that is a VISA sponsor. It is possible to look for jobs, on StackOverflow, for example, filtering by companies that do offer VISA sponsorship.

How is the job market in the country you moved to? How hard is it to find a position similar to yours? Would you recommend people to move there?

I ended up answering that already. In Germany, it is pretty heated at the moment. I get around two company contacts on LinkedIn every day, offering jobs. I think the best countries to work with tech in Europe are the UK and Germany, but the job market is also good in a lot of places, like the Netherlands, Finland, Austria. I would say the scene is good in every major capital in Europe.

How was it to adapt to the new country and What did surprise you?

Wow, it is much harder than I though. Much harder. But I think that, in my case, what makes it more complicated is the fact that I don't speak German. Moving with wife and kids also makes everything easier, from what I hear. It was not my case.

What did surprise me the most was the structure of the society and how it differs from Brazil. For example, here, the wage gap is really low, making the society very equal. In Brazil it is different. In Brazil, it is common for the middle class to hire people to help them cleaning the house, cleaning the car, cooking, ironing... For these types of services, the segment of the society with higher income will never have to care about. Here it is completely different. It is a more equal society and this was a bit hard to adapt. For the society as a whole, though, there is absolutely no doubt that the German economical structure is better.

The thing I like the most is the public transport. It's not only good not to need a car, but less cars also contribute to less traffic and noise.

What I dislike the most, specially talking about Berlin, is that it is a particularly dirty city for the European standards. There is a lot of graffiti and tagging, which makes the city to look ugly, in my opinion. A lot of people like and say that it would be boring, otherwise.

What is a piece of advice you would give to people willing to relocate to the same country or get a similar job role?

If you plan to move to Germany, make sure to learn German as fast as you can. I would even go as far as to not recommend people from moving to a country that they are not comfortable speaking the language.

As for people willing to find a development job abroad, I think having a positive online footprint, be that through writing a blog, answering questions, contributing to open source or creating side-projects is extremely helpful. It is also helpful to always be on the edge of technology, learning, as much as you can. Always try to raise your own bar.

How do people connect to you?

Follow me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/andrerpena) or connect on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/andr%C3%A9-pena-1827b088/).