If you are about to apply for Jóvenes con Futuro, you may ask “What can happen after the internships? Will I need to go back to Spain?”. Today we want to share with you the story of one of our jóvenes that made his lifetime dream come true and can answer this topic from his own experience after spending more than four years in San Francisco.
Today we are talking with Miguel Carranza – software engineer graduated from University of Seville, 29 years old, Director of Engineering at Elevate – who came to San Francisco almost five years ago along with a bunch of other young engineers that were part of the second class of Jóvenes con Futuro.
His first job ever was an internship at MindSnacks, today called Elevate, a startup located in the area of SoMa in San Francisco. He was actually the second intern from Jóvenes con Futuro that this company had hosted, and now, after five years, Miguel is the Director of Engineering at Elevate. In this period of time, he’s been able to witness and learn first hand how the process of running a tech company looks like: watch it grow, fire people, get funding, fight for talent, deal with immigration attorneys, and a big etc that he will be telling us in this post.
Miguel, let’s make a review of your career during this five years since you moved to the States. Where are you now?
It’s been a pretty crazy ride for sure! I came to the US thanks to Jovenes con Futuro in September of 2012, right after finishing my Master’s Degree in England. I had several side projects, but I had never worked in a company environment before. I started out as an intern, building internal tools for the company, but I got to learn so much incredibly quickly just by being surrounded by extremely talented and passionate co-workers. Without having time to realize, I moved from internal tools to develop critical components of the product, such as client side code or our purchasing infrastructure, and today I work as a Director of Engineering. My main responsibilities nowadays consist of taking care of the technical and professional growth of our engineering team, as well as architecting new systems.
You once said you always dreamed of coming to San Francisco since you were a child. Why? What did JCF mean to you in order to make your dream come true?
I knew I wanted to become a software engineer since I was 9 and got my first computer. Computers were my first real passion. I knew if I wanted to really pursue an ambitious career in this field, the US, and Silicon Valley in particular, was the best place in the world for it. As time passed, I became more and more interested in the Californian culture, from the music I would listen to starting surfing. But then, real world came, and after I finished my undergraduate at University of Seville, I discovered that actually getting to Silicon Valley was going to be extremely difficult, without contacts, visa or outstanding experience.
That’s when I decided to take a Master’s degree in England. The experience was really satisfying, and I was set to start working over there, but not without some sacrifice. Don’t take me wrong, the UK has an incredible ecosystem (and it’s way closer to home!), but I didn’t love the weather and the distance to the ocean. One day, while applying for jobs, I saw StepOne had just opened the new edition of Jovenes Con Futuro, and I didn’t think twice. I knew it was going to be a very challenging process, but it was my dream after all. Months later, I ended up with an internship offer in San Francisco, and the program took care of all the visa paperwork. I cannot thank this program enough, and as I’ve said multiple times, applying to this program was definitely the best career decision I could have ever made!
Jóvenes con Futuro just opened the doors for you to cross the pond. Looking back now, what has this experience given to you? What have you learnt all this time as engineer and as an essential part of the company?
I cannot answer to this question properly without being boring, but to simplify, I can say that I’ve learned way more than what I expected both on the technical and business sides. On the technical side of things, I’ve been involved in almost every project of the company. It’s a small startup, so you have to get your hands dirty and get things done. I’ve worked on many components of our stack, from the iOS client, backend code and our data warehouse. Also, it’s been amazing to deal with such a huge scale. When you’re building things you are affecting millions of people, so that is definitely extremely rewarding. On the business side, I’ve learned many aspects of building a startup, its ups and downs, and how to attract and retain talent.
Tell us about Elevate, the company that you’ve been working at all this time. A startup can change a lot in five years, it can grow, it can disappear, it can be acquired… What critic challenges have you had to face within your team during this time?
Elevate started of as a side project inside of MindSnacks, which used to build games for learning new languages. We wanted to build a new, cross platform app, that could teach people different skills and not only languages. Unfortunately, some members of the team did not share that vision and left, and the team became way smaller. I also had my concerns, but ended up trusting the project 100%. I knew that, even if we had failed, the experience would have been priceless. However, we were super productive and ended up building this amazing beautiful app, and the effort was finally rewarded when Apple named us “App of the Year” in 2014.
What would you tell other engineers that would like to stay in the U.S. longer? How is the visa processing for foreign software engineers?
Work hard! We all know the immigration system in the US is broken. At the end of the day, you might not be lucky and might not get an H-1B visa, due to the lottery process. However, in my humble opinion, there is always two components for success: hard work and luck. Unfortunately, you cannot control bad luck, so I’d rather try to minimize it by working hard. Try to show the value you can add to your company, and they will definitely try very hard to find a way for you to keep working with them.
About 80% of our jóvenes from the program has been able to stay in the U.S. after their initial internships. Would you like to be the next one? Apply until April 30th.