Mishika Soni’s story

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August, 2011- My husband was offered a long term project in Los Angeles and he shared the news with me. I was ecstatic and both of us looked at it as a brilliant opportunity to travel and experience a new place, a new country. Having known each other for 5 years through B-school and beyond, I knew he understood my career aspirations as I did his. I happily quit my job at a leading financial firm, taking it as more of a long and much required break from work. Both of us were sure that we would return back to India sooner than later if I do not get a good career opportunity myself.

So we embarked on this journey together, and I have to be honest- I enjoyed it immensely, missing work at times but completely loving doing things which I never had the time to do before. However, I also knew I had to work hard to get a job. It took me at-least 4-5 months to get a grasp on the exact visa cycle, the process, what kind of firms should I be applying to, etc.  I was told time and again by friends and well wishers that my MBA degree and my achievements at my previous work place is all secondary to my visa status here. God knows that if I had to embark on another such journey, I would definitely choose Australia or U.K. for their simpler visa rules! So I religiously applied to countless firms, spoke to many consultants, friends of friends but all went in vain as even as I was trying to understand the process and find the right people- the H1B cap for the year was full by June 2012. That was the first time since I had landed in U.S. that I realized that I have been forced to be out of work for at least 15 more months if I decide to stay in this country! So my first learning was- Pull up your socks if you have to beat the crazy visa cycle!

My next option was moving back to India, but both me and my husband decided to put that one on the back burner!  So the eternal optimist that I am, I started applying for universities and Non-profit organizations since I now knew these organizations did not fall under H1B cap. Yes! Too much research converted me into a pro at all visa matters. But there too I got one rejection after another.

Another hindrance for me was the fact that being from a completely non-IT background, it seemed as if I was totally non-H1B material. Every consultant I spoke to wanted to “enhance” my resume, “train” me and put me in an IT job which I had no intention of pursuing. I would much rather volunteer or work pro bono. But still against my better judgment, I did waste a lot of time in useless training sessions which did not add value to me in any way. My second learning- Do not compromise if you think you have the right skill-set. The right opportunity will come to you. I would have been better off reading more books, or pursuing a hobby at that time.

After around 8 more months of travelling, networking, job hunting, in February 2012 I actually got my first offer from 2 leading MNCs in non-IT roles. The timing was just right, the profile was to my interest and I knew both the firms were into visa sponsorships. After multiple rounds I got through one of them and they sponsored my H1B application. I have just got my visa approval and would be starting work very soon. I consider myself fortunate because I did have some personal contacts who apprised me of the opportunity at their firm at the right time. At the cost of repetition, I do feel that networking with the right people is key as is diligence. I did lose some time in understanding the process and settling in a new country, but in retrospect it all worked out for the best. While everyone on an H4 have their own priorities and considerations that affect the bigger picture, I think a few  things that most people would find helpful  are

1) Even on an H4, there is no dearth of volunteer work you could pursue.

2) Register for pro bono work based on your skill set at sites such as taproot.com.

3) Do not fall into the trap of consultants who offer you false hopes.

4) Stay optimistic and enjoy your long vacation while you can.

Mishika Soni (Alias)


Ramya Nagaraja’s story

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My name is Ramya and this is my story. I moved to the USA with my husband in 2012 when he started an MS program. Back in India, I had done Masters and had worked for over 6 years in software industry. I quit my job so as to keep family together. Our kid was 1 year old then. I hoped to find a job with H1B sponsorship once in the US. But that was not to come easily.

In 2012, I applied to a few companies through employee referrals. So I got phone screening calls from 2 big companies. But soon after, H1B cap for the year was reached and I could not be considered by any company that year. I was very disappointed because it meant I had to wait for another year to even apply for jobs; and another 6 months to start working if I found a job and H1B. Having never stayed back at home, having had an identity outside of home always, it was not easy to accept that situation. Worse still, there was no guarantee that I would get a job the next year; with a 2 year gap by then! So we as a family considered moving back to India if I didn’t find a job the following year.

Another option looked good at the time – to pursue an MBA in the US. Since I already had MTech from India, I didn’t want to do that but it was a good time in my career to make that leap from technical to managerial role. Again, it is not a simple procedure to do an MBA in the US, for internationals. We have to give GMAT and apply to schools at least 9 months in advance. As a first step, I prepared for GMAT for 3 months and got a decent score. Mainly, it helped me keep sane during those otherwise no-goal days. I went to Information sessions of B schools. But finally when time came to apply, I didn’t apply to any B school because there were uncertainties on personal front.Where will my husband find a job? Where will I apply to? Will I be able to manage an MBA with a kid by myself if my husband worked somewhere else? With lots of unknown parameters in the equations, I could not take the plunge there.

And then came the season of applying to jobs again – hopeful of the H1B’s that were to be opened up. It was clear from a long time that in 2013, H1B’s would be picked by lottery as the number of applications would be so much more than could be handled in the first week. So much more pressure to find a sponsor before April! I applied through employee referrals, LinkedIn, Dice, Monster etc. I must have applied to about 30 companies during those 2 months. Each application involved creating a detailed profile in each company’s career site. I heard back from hardly anybody for a long time. Lot of consultants called up, having seen my resume on Dice, but most of them were not genuine. I could not risk my future by taking their service. A few of them told that the only way to find a job was through F1->OPT route because that is how companies get to try you as an intern before offering a job.

Towards end of February, I got 3 calls from relevant companies in the same industry that I worked for earlier. I had applied to all of them through employee referrals. Two of them showed interest but were not ready to wait till October. They asked me to apply in May but they knew as well as I that H1B would not last till May. One company was ready to wait till October and asked me to give on-site interview. And that is what gave me the job finally. Later, H1B’s were selected by lottery indeed and by luck, mine was selected.

In summary, these didn’t work for me:
1. Premium LinkedIn account and Job applications via LinkedIn
2. Online job portals like Dice and Monster
3. Blind job application on company’s website

The only thing that worked for me was:
Employee referral in a company that had a very similar job posted as I had worked on earlier. Networking was my savior.

If I were to go back in time and advise myself, I would say this, “Do everything you can early – prepare for school admission, prepare for job interviews and network hard to maintain old connections as well as to make new connections. Things will work out in the end. In the meanwhile, enjoy the break:-)”

Ramya Nagaraja

Richa Goel’s Story

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In December 2008 when my husband accepted an offer and decided to move to USA on H-1B visa, I was employed with Sun Microsystems India. My daughter was just one month old and I was on maternity leave. For the best benefit of my family, especially the little one, I decided to resign from my job to immediately join my husband in USA on H4 visa. I hold a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Engineering and was working for last five years and had also worked in USA for a short period of three months on L-1B visa previously.

While in USA, I was enjoying my full time role of mother and homemaker and I was sure not to get back to working till my daughter would be big enough to be sent to full time daycare or school. However I still updated and uploaded my resume on Job search sites like Dice, Monster, Indeed etc. Also I forwarded my resume to all my old colleagues in India who were working for MNCs so they could forward it to their companies for a suitable job opening in USA. Additionally I emailed my resume to a few consultants including the one through which my husband had got a job. I used to get plenty of emails and phone responses from consultants and companies but it never made to even first round of technical interview because of my visa status and job location.

I was never disappointed and continued to update my resume to keep it current . I also started enquiring with other working women in my neighborhood and friends circle to understand if I will have to undergo a degree or course to get onto OPT etc which could help me in getting a job. I was certain not to get back to working or studies till my daughter turns two but wanted to use this time to decide on how to get back to working afterwords. Year 2010, I started to get few calls and as usual I told them about my visa status but that year Visa quota for India was still not full and few companies and consultants were ready to sponsor me for H-1B so I was interviewed over phone. I didn’t make thru 2-3 phone interviews but every phone interview helped me to prepare better for next interview. In August 2010, I got call from a company HR which had a job opening where my previous job experience exactly matched to what they were looking for. I had a technical telephone interview and then face to face and yes I got the job.

October 2010 my daughter turned two and I settled her to a full time day care center and started working in December 2010. All in all I believe my continuous positive attitude and putting efforts in every direction possible helped me to get a job in USA.

Thanks and Best Regards,