Alex Shvetsov has had quite an unusual career trajectory. Originally from Russia, Alex spent his early working life as a successful business manager based in Moscow. It wasn’t until he was 30 that he learned English and moved away from Russia, gaining his MBA from the INSEAD Business School in France, and eventually settling in Lithuania where he managed a startup for five years. Then, in 2019, at the age of 38, Alex found himself at a crossroads when the startup failed. But rather than view the end of this business venture as defeat, he chose to see it as an opportunity to start something new.
For Alex that meant following a life-long interest in coding—something he’d learnt to do in elementary school but had only ever treated as a hobby. He joined Microverse in 2019 and since completing the program he’s been working in Berlin as full stack developer for Doctolib’s medical appointment booking application.
“I’m a firm believer in the quote, Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right,” (attributed to Henry Ford)
Alex added, “It’s down to choice: you can choose you can, or you can choose you can’t. You decide.”
Along with self-belief, Alex notes there’s a second ingredient that helps to accelerate a person’s success -when someone else believes in you too. For Alex, that outside belief came when he was accepted into the Microverse program. “I felt validated. My potential as a software engineer had been recognised by professionals in the industry, and that meant a lot. But, of course, it was just the beginning.”
Despite the positive boost from being accepted into the program, Alex ensured he kept his feet on the ground by not seeing Microverse as a magic wand that would make him into a software engineer. “That was my responsibility, and to be successful I knew I had to develop skills in three areas: planning, discipline, and productivity. Microverse actually provided the structure so I could grow in all three of these areas, which in turn prepared me for working in the software industry.”
Alex notes that when you’re hired to work for a company, they might choose you for your ‘hard skills’, for example how well you can code, but it’s your ‘soft skills’—how well you communicate—which allow you to grow as an engineer and progress up the career ladder.
“It’s about how you give and receive feedback, and how you communicate through crisis and conflict. Microverse is a great training ground to sharpen these skills, because it’s built on such a collaborative way of learning.”
Once Alex had completed the technical program, he approached the job hunting stage with determination and tenacity. “I applied for anything and everything. In fact, I had over 100 interviews before I took the job with Doctolib!”
He admits that most of the time he knew he’d fail those interviews, but it was all about learning through doing, and getting feedback from those failures so he knew what to work on next. “It was a tough process, and it’s one you have to prepare yourself emotionally for. But the truth is you can only learn through your own mistakes. In one case, I scored 6 out of 100 at an interview. Great, I thought—now I know I’m 6% ready to work as a software engineer!”
When we asked Alex how he secured those 100+ interviews, he told us he used job boards and websites like Indeed, Stack Overflow and AngelList. He also recommends identifying the major recruiting agencies in the country where you live (or wish to work) when you’re searching for your next job. In building a good relationship with them, they’re likely to invite you to apply for suitable jobs.
Before he started his job search, Alex hadn’t used LinkedIn for over five years, but he understood it was an essential ingredient in demonstrating his skill and experience to potential employers. He promptly updated it, and advises taking a look at the LinkedIn profiles of other developers for inspiration—especially if you know they’ve recently been successful in securing a job.
He also suggests that you show your human side in your online profile, and not just your professional credentials. “For me that meant highlighting I’m healthy because I do a lot of sport, and that I’m community and family oriented because I home-school my children. I also demonstrated my passion for software engineering by showcasing the side projects I’ve completed in my own time.”
Alex adds that allowing yourself to be human extends into the interview process, too. In particular, if you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay to say you don’t know.
“Be honest, don’t try to fake it. Employers appreciate honesty.”
After a very focused and intense month of interviews Alex’s resolve paid off when he received three invitations to visit companies onsite, one in Barcelona, one in Dusseldorf, and one in Berlin. Company visits are quite common in Europe when you’ve passed through all the previous interview stages. “It’s a chance for a company to see how you work—and it’s also a chance for you to see how they work. The aim is to discover if you’re a good fit for each other before any offers are made or accepted.”
Of the three companies Alex visited, two resulted in formal job offers: the one in Barcelona, and the one in Berlin, which was, of course, Doctolib. Despite the fact that Barcelona happened to be Alex’s and his family’s favourite location, he ultimately chose Doctolib, preferring the working environment and overall energy of the company. It wasn’t until he’d accepted the job that he learnt Doctolib is actually a Unicorn (a privately held startup valued at over $1 billion). “That was pretty crazy!” he says.
“It’s important to know if you’re ready to spend the next five or ten years in this profession. Are you really passionate about it?”
This is great advice, and it ties in with the three key skills Alex identified: planning, discipline and productivity. If you can use your passion to fuel your drive to develop these skills—that’s a great accelerator for success.
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** Please note, Alex's answers have been edited for clarity. To learn more about Alex and his experience with Microverse, view the full Webinar here.