Sent out 500 resumes and moved to Uzbekistan
Data Analyst in fintech Elena Menshikova described the difficulties and joys she faced when she transitioned to IT from a leadership position in a completely different field. Elena wrote us her story via the feedback form: be like Elena, we’re waiting to hear from you!
In this article
— I have been working in IT for more than six months now, and I am very happy about it. But this was not always the case. Before IT, I was a chief accountant and financier in business for a long time. Then, I switched into the field of education, where I quickly grew from a specialist to a managerial position at a university. After that, I spent some time spent in the public service.
There came a moment, though, when I realized that I was tired of everything. I was no longer interested in my work and I didn’t want to do it anymore. In 2016, when the transition to IT was not yet mainstream, I began taking Data Analytics courses from Microsoft. At the time, there was very little information on this area in general, and in Russian it was basically non-existent. So my training ended before it could even begin. Fast-forward to 2020, and I clearly understood that I wanted to change my career track. Since I like to do everything thoroughly, I chose what is probably the most difficult option — I entered the Master of Data Science program at the Higher School of Economics. This is a completely online master's program, where students from different countries study. I wanted to get a good education.
Today, I am a Data Analyst in a very progressive fintech company with a data-driven approach in both marketing and in its products. My tasks include product analytics and building predictive models.
— In the spring of 2022, my family and I decided to leave Russia. We chose Uzbekistan, which was not the most obvious country for relocation at that time. We arrived in Bukhara. It feels very much like a city in the middle of nowhere, especially after Moscow, where we lived previously. But it has definitely been a win for us.
I really liked the way journalist Ilya Varlamov described Uzbekistan. He said it was Oz. This turned out to be true. We drove here expecting to see one thing, but everything turned out to be completely different. For example, you may not realize that Uzbekistan features:
- A dynamic economy that is developing at a crazy pace;
- A huge number of young people focused on education and career development;
- A well-developed IT infrastructure — it has an IT park, IT hubs, and various IT-related events are constantly held. Recently, for example, there was a UNESCO conference on data, and it was a hackathon for female developers from Central Asia in November — Tumaris.Hack. Our team took 4th place; and
- A surprising level of hospitality and support from the local population. Here, you will never dine alone, and you will always be involved in joint activities.
I was once asked: “How could you change from the center of Moscow to Tashkent?” And I answered that, when I moved, I won the quality-of-life lottery. My work-life balance has changed here. I walk to work, eat delicious food, and always feel like part of the community. The transition to a new career for me here was as smooth as possible. I was literally taken by the hand for my onboarding. And it melted my heart. I have never experienced such an attitude before in all my years of work.
Legalization of IT specialists
— There are several types of IT visas in Uzbekistan:
- For company founders
- For specialists who are recruited to work in the IT field; and
- For startups.
My husband is currently applying for an IT visa. To do so, you need to meet some requirements:
- Your profession must be in the IT field;
- The employer must be a resident of the IT park; and
- Your income for the previous 12 months must be at least $30,000. Now, many cannot reach this threshold. But there are rumors that it could be changed.
I just have a work permit, which is issued by the employer. It's quite an easy procedure: you need to show a negative HIV test result, and your employer sends a contract to the Ministry of Labor and pays a fee of about $1,000 per person. The work permit is issued for a year.
It is helpful here that by registering in the locality where you live, which is mandatory in Uzbekistan, you can have access to all social benefits — hospitals, schools, kindergartens, etc., on an equal basis with citizens of Uzbekistan.
There are some special conditions for IT residents — their own school, housing at a special price, which has become more relevant now.
Now, a good one-bedroom apartment costs about $1200 a month. Back in the spring, it was about $700. Housing costs have increased in the time we’ve been here, but products and the costs of everyday life are cheaper here than they would be in Europe. For example, our son goes to a good private school for just $400 a month, and he can be there all day.
Finding a job in a new country
I quickly found a job, but it was not easy in terms of effort and mental costs. As soon as I entered the graduate school, I began to pump LinkedIn. This is the first thing I advise everyone to do. LinkedIn was the source through which I found a job.
Another piece of advice that I share is not to despair. I sent out 500 resumes. I understood that I was a junior with no experience. I just downloaded my resume to my phone and every available minute that I had between my studies I used to respond to open positions. And I got lucky. I was invited for an interview. I had 5 rounds of interviews and ended up getting the position of Data Analyst. I immediately warned the employer that I had gaps in my hard skills. I had improved my soft skills very well over my previous years of work, but I honestly told my future boss what I was going to do to improve my hard skills so that he would notice my progress in a few months. And everything worked out.
There is no need to be afraid to send out resumes, even if you see that you cannot cover all of the requirements of the vacancy. With personal contact during the interview, you can always explain how you are going to fill in the gaps.
Why Data Analyst
— I didn't want to start from scratch. I didn't want to be just a Python developer. I knew that I would not win that IT competition and race. I'm not 18, or even 25. Instead, I wanted my previous experience to work for me. And, in analytics, it can. How? It's not enough just to see data and tables. They need to be properly interpreted and explained to management. Because of my prior experience, I can look at things from the other side — “How would I like to see this data as a leader in order to make the right decision?” That makes my new work simpler for me.
Ultimately, it was easy for me to leave a leadership position because I had already done so a couple of times. You shouldn't be afraid. You already know how transitions like this work. Your soft skills stay with you, you change your hard skills, but the logic of development stays with you. And, frankly, it's so cool when you don't have a headache around the clock. I used to be accessible 24/7, I never turned off my phone, all the horrors fell on me. Now, so much stress has left my life that I can direct my time and attention to my career and personal development.
Tips for beginner Data Analysts
There are many free resources for learning Data Analysis that are worth starting with. For training like mine, you need to understand that there is a very high entry threshold, and you will give up a normal life for a couple of years.
- I suggest starting with the Khan Academy Mathematics course. This is a great resource where everything is explained step by step and with gamification.
- I also use the Brilliant app. It also explains math very well.
- There are many courses available on Coursera.org.
- University College London courses are also very good. On them, everything is very gently explained, literally using bunnies and seals.
And, of course, you need to learn all of this in English.
Difficulties and joys of changing profession
— The difficulty of changing profession was not obvious to me. We can say that the transition to IT was even therapeutic for me on some level. I have always been an excellent student. In Data Analysis, however, you are constantly faced with an error. Error is the norm. For me, this was very hard. When I started learning Python, I remember slamming the lid of my laptop in frustration. You plan to do something, and achieve a particular result, but it doesn't work. Finally, I restructured my way of thinking from design-oriented and linear (I came, did it, and it worked) to iterative — I will do it again and again until it works. On the one hand, this is difficult, but on the other hand, it changes your approach in a very freeing way. You stop being afraid of mistakes. The transition to IT takes away the rigid, structured approach of an excellent student. And IT is a very creative thing: it needs constant curiosity, a child-like approach. As a data analyst, you must always question — why is it so, why is it here, is it exactly like this, or maybe it's not? And when you constantly immerse yourself in these issues and questions, you begin to perceive the world differently.
The undoubted bonus is the community. You are in a permanent information flow and communication with it. This is very cool. There is a constant sharing of knowledge, open resources, and a huge amount of educational resources — I really enjoy this.
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