In this exclusive interview, Mykyta Machekhin, one of the top Ukrainian IT professionals provides valuable insights and practical advice for IT professionals aspiring to make a mark in the highly competitive tech sector in the United States. His journey from Ukraine to Silicon Valley serves as an inspiring example of determination, adaptability, and strategic career planning.
Mykyta, how challenging it was for you to make the decision to move to the USA?
Mykyta Machekhin: I expected it’s gonna be a challenge but then things turned out to be simpler. Moving to the USA was always my goal, so when the opportunity presented itself during the war, I seized it immediately. The reason I always wanted to move here is that it has the most robust and influential professional community in the world in my niche. Even during my university days, I realized that a strong professional community is the most powerful driver for improvement.
Could you walk us through your experience navigating the immigration process as an IT specialist and the challenges you faced during the move?
Mykyta Machekhin: The most challenging part was understanding the local corporate culture, which played a significant role in the job search process. The initial interviews didn’t go as well as I expected because I approached them as I would in Ukraine, without considering the local aspect. Of course, language was a hurdle, but not as much as I anticipated. I can confidently say that those moving to the USA shouldn’t fear communicating in English. Most locals understand and are accommodating. Moreover, a significant portion of the locals are immigrants themselves, so not understanding someone isn’t always an issue with your English.
How did your professional experience in Ukraine impact your career in the IT industry in the USA?
Mykyta Machekhin: Thanks to my diverse experience in Ukraine, I could explore job opportunities across a wide range of sectors, from small startups to large government companies. My background as a programmer in various industries made me open to new challenges. I’m incredibly grateful to my former company, Obrio, which provided me with invaluable experiences, including leadership skills. This not only made me more confident during the hiring process but also allowed me to excel in the first few months at my new job, contributing to the development of the company.
Were there specific strategies or resources that you found particularly useful in building your career in the tech sector in the USA?
Mykyta Machekhin: Absolutely, I employed various methods and approaches that significantly expedited my job search. One crucial aspect is setting a specific goal and being willing to invest all your time, contacts, and resources to achieve it. Here are a few key points.
LinkedIn is paramount for professional networking in the USA. It’s crucial to optimize your LinkedIn profile using AI utilities and expert advice. Tailoring your resume to each job application is essential. Understand that the standard for resumes in the USA differs from that in Ukraine. Set a daily goal for the number of job applications, e.g., 100. Speed matters.
Utilize automated tools and assistants to streamline routine processes. Follow-up culture is vital in the USA. Keep track of every application and follow up with recruiters 2-3 days after each stage. This demonstrates your ongoing interest.
What advice would you give to Ukrainian IT professionals aspiring to build a successful career in the United States?
Mykyta Machekhin: Every case is unique, but based on my experience, here are some key tips.
Don’t fear your English proficiency; many people in the USA aren’t fluent either. It rarely influences hiring decisions. Prioritize speed in job applications; new opportunities emerge constantly. Embrace the follow-up culture; regularly communicate with recruiters to demonstrate your continued interest. If you plan to open an IT business and hire locally, work for someone in the USA for at least six months to understand the corporate dynamics.
Networking is everything. Attend various meetups and professional events to expand your contact base. Approximately 1 in 10 random encounters might prove beneficial in your job search.
How did you manage to overcome any cultural or professional differences between Ukraine and the USA throughout your career?
Mykyta Machekhin: One of the most impactful strategies was my experience with interviews and participating in various events where I could interact with diverse individuals, grasping their behavioral nuances and communication styles. Additionally, isolating myself from my Ukrainian connections and media for a specific period, around a month in my case, proved remarkably effective. During this time, I completely refrained from communicating with old friends (after informing them in advance) and immersed myself in 100% English communication from morning till night through every possible means. After this period, I felt a significant improvement in both speaking English and understanding the cultural aspects of the locals, which greatly assisted me in the interview process.
What are your thoughts on networking and building professional connections in the IT industry?
Mykyta Machekhin: Networking in the IT sphere is an incredibly vital aspect that can aid in achieving ambitious goals. Given the abundance of thought leaders in various niches from around the world, expanding your contact base can introduce you to people you’ve only read about in books, people you never dreamed of meeting in person. They are just as ordinary as developers or analysts, attending the same meetups and enjoying drinks in the same bars. They are open to small talk, which can evolve into something more meaningful. For instance, on the day after I arrived in the USA, I coincidentally met a local resident who graciously offered me temporary accommodation. As it turned out, his close friend was the CHRO at Lyft and later at Cruise (self-driving cars). Needless to say, that connection proved invaluable.
Were there specific skills or certifications that you considered particularly valuable for employment and career progression in the USA?
Mykyta Machekhin: Regarding certifications, I can say right away that they are not as crucial here. There’s a common notion that graduating from an American university opens all doors in the USA. From my experience, I’ve observed a significant shift in this trend in recent years. Having a degree from MIT or certificates from top programming courses is no longer sufficient to secure a job. Conversely, the absence of such credentials won’t limit you practically in landing a job. Your skills, experience, and the ability to showcase them are what matter. Besides programming and building various software systems, which were undoubtedly necessary, quick-thinking played a crucial role. This skill can bridge gaps during interviews when you don’t know the answer but can logically arrive at it. Interviews are often designed on purpose to test this skill, as decision-making at work involves relying not solely on one’s knowledge but also on adapting to new information.
How do you balance work and personal life amidst cultural changes?
Mykyta Machekhin: Due to frequent relocations, I’ve learned to quickly make new friends in unfamiliar surroundings and live in the present. I have numerous hobbies and an eagerness to explore even more. Since I do what I genuinely love, I don’t need to force myself to finish work on time; it’s something I genuinely want to do. However, one must be prepared for the possibility of working late or even on weekends, especially in the initial months of a job. The key is to ensure it doesn’t become the norm, and you don’t get stuck in this routine for years. Regular reflection, every three weeks or monthly, can help. You assess where you were in the last sprint and compare it to the current state. If you see no change despite the need for change, set must-have goals for the next sprint to break free from the rat race, a common expression in the USA characterizing someone stuck in a routine and unable to move forward.
What recommendations do you have for IT immigrant colleagues aiming for success in both their professional and personal lives in the United States?
Mykyta Machekhin: Be prepared; it might not be easy. Immigration to the USA involves numerous stages, making it more challenging than, for example, in Europe. However, the end result for those who can navigate this path is worth it. Don’t walk this path alone; the USA is a country of immigrants, and you’ll find many people in similar situations. Find like-minded individuals; it alleviates a significant portion of psychological stress. Don’t focus solely on your fellow countrymen. While it may be more comfortable, it’s crucial not to abuse it, as it can hinder breaking out of your comfort zone, especially under the incredibly stressful conditions of being an immigrant in the USA. If you have friends from your country, try conversing with them exclusively in English. Don’t forget to do things beyond career and legalization—engage in sports, tourism, hobbies, and evening entertainment. These activities can help generate new ideas and optimize your time, as you’ll think more creatively. Remember why you’re doing this. According to various open sources, a significant portion of immigrants to the USA return to their countries within the first two years of immigration. I believe that only someone who knows why they are going through all these challenges can endure this challenging path. If there’s no specific goal more specific than just “building a good life,” which helps you get out of bed in the morning, perhaps consider countries with a simpler immigration process. If you decide that America is what you need, step out of your comfort zone at every opportunity. Interact with people who challenge you, who don’t allow you to sit idly and inspire you with their efforts in building the life they dream of. Fortunately, there are an incredible number of such people in the USA.