Persisting through the failures

Vitor Capretz

Vitor Capretz / December 12, 2021

5 min read––– views

I landed my first job abroad back in 2018: I moved to Sweden to work for a great company and experience life in Europe! It took me approximately five years working at different companies, learning, and getting multiple "no"s to countless resumes I sent.

Here's the story of how I landed a life-changing job by not giving up and being optimistic.

I had my first internship in an agency in 2013, where I used HTML, CSS, and jQuery to translate .psd files into landing pages. I learned PHP and SQL, built more complex web applications until I landed with Node.js and React. I fell in love with the JavaScript stack, which became my career focus.

When I started following developers on Twitter I noticed them landing new jobs, moving countries, and working at cool startups. I wanted that too, so I wondered what I would need to move abroad?

As a Brazilian, you need a permit to live and work in almost any country. Because of this, it can be helpful to get help from larger companies that have done it before.

The bureaucracy of moving to a different country includes finding an actual place to live, sending documents to the government, opening a bank account, bringing family and pets, etc.

So in 2014, I started applying to companies in the US that fit these criteria: Google, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Stripe.

These were the silent "no"s, the ones you don't even hear back from the company with feedback.

Large companies receive thousands of applications each month, it's tough to get an interview by sending CVs on their website. It helps if you know people who work for them or are applying to more senior roles.

I took a break from applying and kept watching conference talks, reading articles, building side projects, and attending local meetups. I needed to expand my technical skills.

By the end of 2015, I was also looking outside the American continent (going as far as subscribing to job boards in Australia) and applying to small to medium-sized companies, so I would not be competing with thousands of other applicants in the bigger ones.

It took me some time to ultimately land a phone interview, but I learned that you need a well-crafted resume and a concise cover letter.

Although I was comfortable reading and writing in English, I got feedback from one of the companies I applied to that my conversational level didn't meet their criteria. Consuming content in a foreign language is not the same as having to "sell" your skills, debate, and convince people about your technical solution.

I took another break. Now I knew the focus was on my English skills, so I joined international developer communities and paid for particular English classes.

During the second quarter of 2016, I noticed I was more confident with my English and started applying again.

As I applied to companies in different countries, I learned more about visa sponsorship: some have more straightforward processes than others.

The first offer I almost got was from a company in Germany: they were ready to send me the job offer when they asked if I had a college degree. No, I did not (and still don't) have a college degree. Ops.

The process for getting a work visa in Germany without a degree is way more laborious than with one, so they wouldn't help me with that, and my search continued.

In every interview, I kept learning by talking to people who moved abroad. I had learned the types of questions they ask, how to communicate better, what questions to ask back the interviewers, and about life in each country.

At the end of 2017, I discovered Klarna and what it was like living in Sweden. They even had incredible videos on YouTube "selling" you the good life in that cold Nordic country.

I fell for the bait and applied right away.

Because of all the learnings, all the time I took and persisted through the "no"s, I was ready for every single step.

When they flew me to Stockholm for the final step of the interview process, I asked the hiring manager if I could still get a no, to which they said that I had a 90% chance of getting hired. I couldn't get more excited!

That final step consisted of a full day of interviews, pair programming, and a lunch with the team. I flew back to Brazil the next day, and when I landed, I had an email with the offer from the recruiter!

I was energized, happy, and proud of myself. All the effort paid off.

After getting all the bureaucracy fixed, I would be moving abroad and accomplishing a dream I have had for many years during my professional career.

So in July 2018, I was flying again to Sweden, now without a return ticket.

That was my experience landing my first job abroad, which led me to be friends with an amazing group of people, helping scale Klarna's app from 1M monthly active users from when I joined to 10M by the time I left, experiencing snow for the first time in my life, and so much more. Stories that could each have their posts.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey and that you don't give up when it all seems too hard.

Let me know your thoughts by talking to me on Twitter (DMs are open!).