Software developer rejects a 140,000 euro job at Amazon

Nastya Kholodova.

Nastya Kholodova.

Nastya Kholodova.

For Nastya Kholodova, a software developer from Ukraine who lived in Washington D.C. worked, the chance of being hired by a big US tech company like Facebook, Uber or Amazon seemed like the best way to prove that she had actually “made it” as a developer. But: She wasn’t sure whether she could keep up with the competition. So she started applying on a holiday afternoon when she and her husband were stuck at home.

“It was Independence Day [2016], a very rainy day in D.C. and we did nothing. In the evening I was bored at home and a little disappointed. And I thought, as long as I’m just sitting here, maybe I should take a look at Amazon. “

She applied for all available jobs at Amazon Web Services

Kholodova said she looked at career opportunities at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and eventually submitted her resume on all available jobs. She chose her salary expectations simply by looking up what people wrote about their salaries on Glassdoor, where companies are rated by former or current employees. So she finally chose the mean salary.

To her surprise, Kholodowa heard from Amazon immediately and began what she calls what she calls a “super-stressful” application process that eventually led to an attractive offer – and then to an even bigger decision.

Here you can find out what Kholodowa’s application process looked like at Amazon and why she ultimately declined the offer. She always made sure to stay in contact with Amazon so that she might still get the chance to work with the company at some point in the future.

Kholodova had big plans from the start

Born, raised, and educated in Ukraine, Kholodova studied mathematics, but after graduating she became a software developer, worked for an e-commerce startup, where she earned around $ 36,000 (this corresponds to about 30,300 euros).

One of her goals was to find a way to get to the United States so that she and her husband, who is also a software engineer, landed jobs at the World Bank together. That meant the two could qualify for lesser-known G4 visas, which are valid for foreign employees of nonprofit international organizations in the United States.

The World Bank job had also meant a big raise for Kholodova: about $ 90,000 (about 76,000 euros) per year, depending on taxes, and she liked the work. But she had something bigger in her sights.

Shortly after her application, she received feedback from Amazon

“I’ve interacted a lot with the World Bank’s statistics departments – with customers all over the world,” she says. “It was one of the best experiences working on the entire infrastructure for the websites and the mobile app for data collection.”

Her experience working on high-traffic sites was appealing to Amazon, she argued, and she had a few friends and colleagues who worked at the company’s facility in Herndon, Virginia, where Kholodova commutes about 40 minutes from where she lived would have to.

Shortly after she applied, the company contacted her to conduct a telephone screening with a human resources representative.

Longest and most stressful application phase of your life

This marked the beginning of the longest application phase that Kholodova claims to have ever gone through. First came the HR screening, followed within a few days by another hour-long virtual conversation in which she was interviewed by a senior engineer via video chat. “It’s technical, they’re just checking your problem-solving skills, knowledge of algorithms, programming skills without all of the developer tools,” she said. “It’s super stressful.”

The next phase of the process was delayed by about two weeks. Kholodova attributed this to the fact that August was approaching and many people were on vacation. In the meantime, she also interviewed a start-up in Washington. Eventually she heard from Amazon again.

On-site application process: very intensive

“They said the technical screening went well and asked me to write some short essays of about 300 words each about my leadership and problem-solving skills. It was the only time I was asked to do something like this in an interview: Tell us about a complicated, big decision you made, and why you made it, and what were your thoughts on it? Things like that, ”she reports.

Next up was an invitation to interview at Amazon in Herndon – a six-hour, all-day process of interviewing for a software position for Amazon Inspector. That was “intense”, says Kholodova. She conducted six different interviews with a total of about nine or ten Amazon employees, including both her potential future manager and other engineers from the team she would be working with.

“It was very similar to the video screening, but it’s longer and of course the person is right with you. You have to write code on a white board. It’s super stressful. Many people think that these interviews are more about the ability to deal with fears than the ability to program.

However, Kholodova must have mastered her task with flying colors, because within a few days she received a call from the HR department, who informed her that Amazon wanted to make an offer. On August 25, she received the details via email, including an offered salary of $ 132,050 (about 111,000 euros), Bonuses of just under $ 30,000 (around 25,000 euros) in the first and second years and a limited share award.

The compensation was a significant increase over what she had made at the World Bank, and she was thrilled to find that one of the largest and most successful tech companies in the world wanted her. “I was really excited,” she said. “I didn’t think I would make it to the end.”

But then Kholodova realized that she had a problem: her visa status. Kholodova could work for any company in the United States, but only as long as her husband continued to work at the World Bank. Because she was the wife or dependent of someone who was legally in the country with a G4 visa.

She didn’t want her husband to stay at the World Bank forever, and she also hoped for a more permanent residency status herself so that she could stay in the US indefinitely.

A startup offered help

The startup she was applying to at the same time offered to have the company’s law firm follow up on her case and help her attempt to obtain permanent residency.

The Amazon offering had embodied much of what, in her opinion, Kholodova had always wanted. But the promise to help her get permanent residency was tempting. And she wasn’t enthusiastic about the 40-minute commute anyway. She also began to think: do I want to leave a large organization like the World Bank for another large organization? Or would it be more interesting to completely change my environment by going to a small startup?

It took Kholodova a long time to make up her mind

Kholodova phoned Amazon back and forth a few times and went on vacation. When she formally replied eleven days after receiving the offer, she just wanted to ask for more time to make her decision. Amazon gave her the extra time and Kholodowa kept talking to the startup. On September 15, three weeks after the offer, she finally replied.

“I want to thank Amazon for this opportunity,” she wrote. “It’s a great honor for me to see what Amazon has to offer and something like that [einem] amazing team like the Amazon Inspector. “

The startup’s offer is too good to refuse

But she will refuse the offer because the promise of help to obtain permanent residence from the other company is too good to not take up. “Thank you again. It was an amazing experience doing an interview at Amazon, ”she wrote. “I hope there will be opportunities for us to work together in the future. (After I received my green card 🙂 “

Amazon responded that once she started work, it was possible that the company could assist her in obtaining permanent residency. However, Kholodowa was of the opinion that this question was deliberately avoided during the application process.

Khlodova is still in contact with Amazon to this day

In addition, she had already accepted the other offer at the smaller startup called Bizy, where she was the only foreigner in the company. “Your legal department was all mine,” she says. “They didn’t have a queue of people to process for immigration” – as she had expected at Amazon.

From Kholodova’s point of view, everything worked out. Bizy helped her get her green card and then she helped her husband get one too. She stayed with Bizy all of last year before leaving to build a fitness tracker called WOD Insight for CrossFit.

She would still consider working for Amazon one day – and actually stayed in touch with the company. “I actually spoke to them yesterday,” she says. “They have their database of people they’ve made offers to, and every now and then they just go through the database and get back in touch. When they email me about vacancies, I usually speak to them. I’m curious. And if I’m not the right one, I might suggest someone else. “

This text has been translated from English. You can find the original here.


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