It was a Thursday night, around 9 PM in 2018 when a very expected email (with the headline saying “Microsoft US Job Offer - Cloud Solution Architect”) finally arrived at my Mail inbox. I remember it as if it had happened yesterday. The mix of emotions. Excitement and fear combined. Only thinking about it now makes me emotional. It was the materialization of a dream. Three months later, we were moving to the US with our hearts thankful, happy, sad and full of hope with our new chapter.
A bit of context
We (my wife and I) dreamed about living and working in the US for years. Why? Well, we wanted to speak better English, we wanted to explore the US’ culture, we wanted to travel more internationally, we wanted to make more money, these are some of the many goals we had. However, life took us to a different spot to 2017 and at that, we were forced to think that this specific goal wasn’t achievable for us.
In 2012 I decided to start my own company with a product focused on Education. At that time we were talking about AI for Education already. Well, moving with the story, as I said, I had my own company open with a product that I used to be very proud about, and it was thriving. On top of that, we were living in the countryside of Brazil, close to our friends and family, so all seemed to be settled in our lives. We embraced that idea and moved on.
However, in 2015 everything changed again.
At the time, I was working over 16 hours a day, no kidding. Beyond the company I was running, I used to teach in two Universities around the city I was living, and so not only were my days fully booked but also, my nights. I was sleeping poorly, eating badly, and not exercising at all. Result? One day, out of the blue, I had a burnout that led to a nervous crisis. I ended up in a hospital room for a couple of days.
Long story short, I decided at that exact moment that I couldn’t continue living that way and added by other factors as well, decided that the company was no longer a possibility for me. Few months later, Microsoft Brazil invited me to come back to the company as Sr. Cloud Evangelist. I sold my part in the company and decided to embrace this new moment in life joining Microsoft once again.
Why am I telling all this? Because that change reopened the possibility of living outside of Brazil, as Microsoft used to encourage international movement practice among employees across the globe. That became my new focus: get ready for when the opportunity appears.
In my case, after talking to my career mentors and driving a deep and very honest self evaluation, I came to realize that various aspects of my profile would need to be worked out for me to be able to compete in the American market. So, before moving on with the story, let me share here six things I had my focus on during the three years I stayed with Microsoft in Brazil.
Assess your profile. Assess your profile. This is the very first step and I would say the most important one. You have to be honest with yourself if you want to postulate something serious in the US. The market here is super mature, and so competitive. Which means that companies have plenty of great resources to hire from, so you have to be ready. In that sense, one thing I did (beyond studying by myself and talking to people living here) and I strongly recommend you to do as well, is to talk to a career mentor. They can help you understand, accept your vulnerabilities and maximize your strengths (sometimes it isn’t easy to get there alone). From there, you will know what has to be worked on.
English. English. Don’t get me wrong. I used to speak some English already. But it wasn’t not even close to being enough for someone who intends to do business in English. I definitely wasn’t ready for driving a Design Session, being vocal in a meeting, nor able to understand and discuss daily tasks in English. So, I worked hard on this. Took classes every day. Stopped watching movies and series with subtitles in PT-BR and focused on reading through in English. Did shadow English meetings my colleagues were having. Had an immersion time (45 days) in the US. Highlighting just a few changes I made.
Understand what positions you’re a good fit for. Understand what positions you’re a good fit for. That’s very important as well because it is very common to get lost in the hunt process. You have to be aware of what you’re really good at. Then, go map out positions where your abilities and strengths will be appreciated during an eventual interview process. Think this way. Even if you do amazingly during your interviews, you’re still an immigrant which the company will have to put a lot of effort on to bring you in. So, make it easier for them to understand that you’re different on what matters most.
Be persistent.. Be persistent.. You’re very likely to receive very hard feedback and denials through your interviews. Be persistent. If that is what you decided is your next step, keep going. I know it is not easy, but use the refusals and hard feedback as fuel to keep trying. That’s the only way. You should have a daily task in your day that is “Looking for new openings in the company’s careers portal”.
Ask for informational conversations. Ask for informational conversations. I strongly recommend driving informational conversations with both Recruiters and Hire Managers (if available). It is a good opportunity for you to create rapport, get to know the people you’re likely to work with and get inserted into the interviews. That strategy worked out great for me.
Expand your netwook of relationships. Expand your network of relationships. Well, that’s everything. One of things I did in order to expand the impact of my actions and extend my reach was doing stretch jobs, collaborating with other areas projects, shadowing engineering meetings, among others. I got to know people, had the opportunity to showcase my abilities and when an opportunity appeared, one of these extended teams I was working with, recommended me for the interviews.
I’ve made a video in my YouTube channel talking a little bit about my preparation to be able to compete here in the US. You are more than welcome to come take a look.
The job offer
In November of 2017 I was finally invited to join an interview process for Cloud Solution Architect for the Education Industry at Microsoft Corp. The position originally was set for the Seattle area, but after a while they decided that it would be better if set off in Florida, as Latam would be part of that professional’s coverage territory.
I went through several (heavy) interviews. From deep technical ones all the way up to comportamental and soft skill focused others. I was ready. I crushed it. I felt it in my bones because I knew the effort I had put in. I was prepared. Confirmation came several weeks after the last interview. The job offer I mentioned at the first paragraph of this text came in.
It took me approximately 30 seconds to accept it.
The move and first three months
Accepting the offer was only the beginning of a very long and complex process that took three months to be completed in Brazil. Getting the working Visa ready, ending the employment with your current process, getting your life organized. It is a lot, believe me. Three months later, after several farewell parties with friends and family, we were finally ready for our next chapter.
We arrived in Florida (Fort Lauderdale) on the evening of March 27th with a lot of bags and souls full of excitement. We had a Temp House and a Temp Car set up for us for 60-days as part of the job offer I’ve got. We decided to come one week before starting the actual job to familiarize ourselves with the city, with the possible places we would be moving in soon and so on. On top of that, we had a person allocated exclusively to help us out with the setup of our initial life here: SSN, drivers license, bank account, house rental, and so forth.
I need to report that the first 3 months were pure excitement. We went to new places, restaurants, to the beach every sunset, met new people (that happened to become our friends to this day), the new office, new customers, all great. Then the sun started to wind down and the distance of family and friends hit us hard and things that we didn’t usually pay attention to now started to bother us. We started a period of questioning ourselves “what have we done?”, “is this worthed?”. It used to happen a lot. We were firm about what we were doing and despite that hard time, we kept going.
Some of the things were very hard for us to adapt to when we arrived:
We didn’t have any credit and that is very critical in the US. Because of that, we couldn’t have credit cards nor finance anything. You have to be equipped with money at your arrival, otherwise it will be very difficult to set up here.
Understand how health insurance works and not get crazy with it.
Wait for our stuff to arrive (it was coming from Air and Sea and it took almost 4 months). We slept in air mattresses for two months or so.
Familiarize ourselves with Americans speaking English. It was too fast and full of expressions we didn’t understand at the time. It took us months to get the ear educated.
Americans don’t usually have lunch throughout the week and have dinner very early. In Brazil we had the opposite behavior.
But we got through this.
Next 9 months
I like to say that if you can surpass the first three months living far away from everything you always knew as being home, you’re probably staying. At least, that’s how it worked out for us. But we had an unexpected surprise right in the beginning of our journey in the US: a baby!
When we hit the 7 months mark living here, we were blessed with the totally unexpected news that a little boy was on the way. I got to say, it took us to the floor under our feet. But it ended up being such a great experience and today I’m so glad it happened here.
Among so many discoveries we made about how things work here due to pregnancy, the most important one was about how the healthcare system works in the US. Long history short: don’t you dare move out here without health insurance in place. We were very blessed for having a good one. Medical treatment is great here, but it costs (a lot). And the way the health care system works (especially how the charge for treatment, exams and so forth) isn’t always clear and understandable. So, you have to be aware of it.
At the time of the pregnancy we were living in a very cozy (but small) apartment. With a baby coming, we made the decision to go look for more space and ended up buying a house. That was another huge lesson. We figured that it can be very tough for somebody who has Social Security but with a low credit score to find anything decent in terms of credit. We ended up getting something reasonable due the offer letter I had, but it is not always the case, so that’s another important aspect to be aware of as well.
The same applies for cars. As mentioned earlier, for the past 60 days we had to return the temporary car we had and buy a definitive one. I thought I would be able to easily get a lease on a nice car. How naive. Due to the lack of credit on my profile, no one would want to lease a car. We ended up having to buy a car through a loan process with a pretty high interest.
Summary of the first year: we got very excited at the beginning, got tons of existential questions throughout, figured we soon would be giving birth to a little Brazilian-American and that the American dream takes a while to finally arrive . The path to it can be very hard. Also, working for a good company that gives you peace of mind in terms of infrastructure for the change, makes TOTAL DIFFERENCE.
The pandemic, another hard test
From 2019 through half of 2020 was all about readapting again mixed up with anxiety for our Green Card process evolution (which was progressing very well at the time). Benjamin was born, we had family coming over for a while from Brazil to give us some support, work progressing well too. Lots of new episodes, but all going great. Also, we were blessed for meeting great people here, people that ended up becoming family here. That’s another highlight of our time here too.
June of 2020 everything changed, again. The pandemic hit and suddenly, we were no longer able to visit our parents, family and friends, could barely go to the grocery, leaving the house only for very short sun exposure and very depressed about hearing about so many deaths, both close to us here as well in Brazil.
This one was another very hard test that gutted us one more time. We spent two years in a row just the three of us, seeing people only over the phone. As the same time established a new level of relationship between us as a family, it stressed out us to a point of feeling emotionally sick. Not being able to get with people was hard.
During the pandemic, when we found ourselves close to the madness, we did road trips. Just the three of us. No contact with anyone. Just us in a car going somewhere. One of these, we got to Spruce Pine, North Carolina in an isolated Cabin in the mountains. Worked from there for a couple days and it was delightful.
The Green Card process that was once progressing so well and running ahead of schedule, now got totally stopped with no ETA at all. I have to admit, that took me to the highest levels of stress as if it didn’t work for some reason, we would need to come back to Brazil within 30-days, specially considering that our working Visa was about to expire (within months).
Eventually, things got better with the sanitary crisis. We got our shots as soon as they were available to us and started, slowly, to come back to “normal” life.
The Green Card
The Green Card process took almost three years to complete. That’s mainly because it completely stopped due to the pandemic, as mentioned earlier. With temperature and pressure, a sponsored Green Card for Brazilians should take between 18-24 months. We got unlucky there, but eventually it happened.
We received our GCs in November of 2021 and I have to say this: we were relieved. It was almost like our lifes in the US were about to begin, even though we had been living there for over three years already. That’s because a lot of things change when you become a permanent resident. The most important ones:
You’re no longer tied to a given company or job.
You’re no longer dependent on that company to stay in the country.
After a while (5 years), you can become eligible to become a US citizen.
You can freely leave the country and come back without the need to show visas or non-immigrant letters.
When you get back home, your immigration line changes to “US Citizens / Permanent Residents”.
You can apply for international travelers programs like Global Entry, Clear, etc.
Your rates get so much better when you need credit.
This is the post I made on Instagram when our GCs arrived. What a moment, friends!
Two big changes at once
In 2022 I decided that it was time for a new challenge and decided to join Google for the first time in my career. As you might imagine, I was very afraid of the change. Had spent almost ten years in Microsoft where I was totally adapted, with a good delivery story record. Then, making a very different movement, held me insecure for a while. But, I eventually made it and I’m happy with that decision. I’m learning a lot every day in a company that breathes innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.
With the company change we decided that it was time to move to another place in South Florida, more towards the North, in the pursuit of a more suburban and close to nature life. We then moved from Boca Raton to Wellington, FL. We now live in a community that preserves the Agrihood concept. Very interesting life-style and perfect for raising a kid.
The fact is, we’ve lived so many things here and this experience has been so intense that it looks like that not even a book would be enough for us to describe it fully. This post though is directed more towards highlighting some of the aspects you should be aware of if you’re looking into moving to the US. I wish I could’ve known some of this stuff in advance. Also, to state life here through our lenses.
Generally speaking, life here is very good. But don’t get into the pitfall of thinking that this is perfect because it is not. There is no perfect place. There is violence, there are serious issues with the healthcare system, life is expensive, you have to work a lot to be able to secure your spot (there is plenty of opportunity, that’s true) under the Sun, but still, we see much more positives being able to live here.
Especially for our little one, it has been amazing. He is 4-years old now. Speaks english and portuguese fluently. He has also been able to receive a very good education. He can safely run through our community, make friends and so on. We’re very excited for him.
My advices to you planning on this move are:
If you’re married or in a serious relationship to someone, talk to your partner. Make sure your goals are lined up. Once you’re here, you both will need to be as close as ever to overcome the hard times. Believe-me, they will come.
Don’t ever come if you don’t feel you’re comfortable with speaking English. Your life tends to be considerably harder if you’re not fluent when you arrive here. Get prepared on that front before making the actual move.
Save money, as much as possible. As I mentioned earlier, the initial setup here is going to require a considerable amount of money and credit won’t be abundant to you at that time. So, make sure you save enough money to get up in the first 6-12 months.
Double check if the company you are going to be working for is looking into your Green Card process. It is critical for your continuity here.
Health insurance is mandatory. There are plenty of options, but don’t fall into the mistake of thinking that you’re healthy and don’t need insurance.
When the shift towards cloud computing happened in the market years ago, I remember seeing myself in meetings full of people explaining about what this new consumption-based business was all about and how the way of thinking the whole process of innovation and IT would need to change for this to make sense to companies. Right, I mean, moving virtual machines from on-prem to the public just to say “hey, my company runs on the cloud” didn’t (and still doesn’t) add any value to the business itself.
Recently, I got in touch with a study that stated that, among those “content-based industries” in the market, Education is the one who invests less in technology, averaging 3% (against 35% for other industries) under the same segment, and considering my experience in the industry, I think it reflects the reality very well.