My Story - How I Built Up

Last updated: March 5, 2018

My childhood home in Azerbaijan.
My childhood home in Azerbaijan.

I was born in a middle-class family in Azerbaijan, which had then just separated from USSR and became its own country. I could write a book about how different it is to be a middle class in Azerbaijan and a developed country. But to keep it short, I think the biggest thing I didn’t have back then was the belief that I could do better. It was hard to dream that I could achieve things and have a better life when everything around me was so corrupt.

I was lucky to pass the required exam and attend a private school in my hometown. The best thing about that school that it was one of the few schools in the country where it was impossible to get a better grade by paying a bribe. It was one of the best schools in the country, if not the greatest, and I learned a lot there. The biggest thing I learned was persistence and work ethic. But there were some significant things I didn’t learn there, such as writing, presentation, and speaking skills, which are so valuable.

College was a roller-coaster for me. I was admitted to Jacobs University Bremen in Germany and got a full-ride scholarship. On the one hand, I was happy I finally moved to a developed country and had great opportunities that come with it. On the other hand, I was only 16 back then and had no idea about life, and I had neither family nor close friends nearby to support me. I made many wrong choices in college, and throughout this blog, I’ll talk about things I wish I did right. I will also write about skills I believe everyone needs to learn in college, and classes everyone should take.

After college, I got a job in a small software development company. I was living in a basement in a small village near Frankfurt, my social life was sub-par, and I was just not happy with where I was. I thought I worked hard in college, so where was my reward? That was when it hit me that I needed things to change. I started to work out. I went out of my way to acquire extra skills for my career. I started reading to learn soft skills. I began to build up.

After working at two more places and doing a masters degree in business and computer science, I started to think about moving to the US, since that’s where I could have a much better tech career. But at that time I found out that I could stay a few more years in Germany and get a German passport. It was a big deal for me since I had a passport from a third world country, and needed visas to go pretty much anywhere. The process was long and tedious, but I didn’t give up. As a result, I learned a good lesson in perseverance and patience and had a passport which allowed me to live and work in any EU country. Knowing that I can live anywhere in Europe gave me a lot of security — it was a good foundation upon which I could further build up. By the end of my naturalization process, I had an admissions letter from Georgetown University, and I finally moved to the US.

I learned a lot in grad school. I was lucky to have great professors in my program, to who I looked up. I also met some incredible people in Georgetown boxing team, where I was one of the few grad students. After my second year, I got an internship at Google and ended up getting a full-time offer. I was excited to move to silicon valley, but I found out that there was an issue with my visa, so I had to live a year in Switzerland. I was unhappy about it, but that year was great, and I’m grateful I’ve lived in Switzerland. Now I’m back in Silicon Valley, and have a career as a software engineer at Google, and hoping to launch some side businesses soon. My life is much better than it used to be, and I’m a lot happier, healthier, energetic, and content. But that doesn’t mean I stopped building up. On the contrary, I’m motivated to build up even more, since I already created myself a good foundation.

It took me almost ten years to go from being a third world country citizen living in a basement in a small German town to being an EU citizen living in silicon valley. I wish I wish I could say that it was easy, that I discovered some magic source of energy which led me through all of this. The truth is that it was not. There was a lot of hard work, discipline, frustration, failure, and learning involved. In this blog, I’m going to write about what I learned in this journey, and things I wish I knew before I started it. It’s fascinating how much power knowledge has, and I hope that the experience I share here will benefit you. At the same time, it’s also a manual for me not to forget things, because I’m still building up!