Posted September 7, 2020 by Mark Perna
One young woman taps into the power of uncertainty to succeed. Mark’s article, “From An F1 Student Visa To A High-Tech Career At Apple,” published at Forbes.com on September 3, 2020.
Meet Melody Yang—a young woman with a passion for tech. So dedicated, that she completed her sophomore year of college concurrently with a highly selective, accelerated software engineering program. So eager to succeed, that she built an impressive network of career mentors, advisors and role models via LinkedIn. And so driven, that she shipped six apps by the time she graduated.
For a motivated Gen-Zer like Melody, the sky was the limit—or should have been. Because Melody was also an F1 visa holder. Whatever she could accomplish in her education was contingent on her ability to remain in the U.S. as a student. As for her dream of remaining permanently to pursue her tech career…well, that was even more uncertain.
No one enjoys uncertainty, but there’s little doubt it can be a powerful motivator. In Melody’s case, it drove her to achieve beyond all expectations. Here’s how she did it.No one enjoys uncertainty, but there’s little doubt it can be a powerful motivator. Click To Tweet
After finishing sixth grade in her native Taipei, Taiwan, Melody participated in a summer exchange program at Meredith College and was immediately attracted to the American collegiate learning model.
From that time on, she knew that she wanted to complete her postsecondary journey in the states. During high school, Melody’s passion for entrepreneurship and innovation became increasingly clear. It was an exciting career path—but reaching the destination was another story.
In 2016, Melody entered Santa Clara University at the heart of Silicon Valley. Her goal was simple: to be career driven. “I’d take on opportunities to obtain as much professional experience as possible,” she reminisces. “I envisioned I’d have an internship every summer, and I’d find a full-time job before graduation.”
But she soon learned that, while challenging, her business coursework at Santa Clara wasn’t enough. “While I thought mastering the business side of product development in college would give me satisfaction, I was wrong. I am a maker at heart—building stuff excites me.”
This growing awareness of her own strengths led her down an unconventional path. While still enrolled full-time as a sophomore at Santa Clara, Melody enrolled in Make School, a newly established, two-year computer science program.
It was a tough gig. “Make School only offered in-person courses in San Francisco, and there was no guarantee I could find a software engineering job after I completed it,” she says. “Make School was known for its low acceptance rates and intense course schedule; I would be asked to leave if I couldn’t keep up with the work.”
As an F1 visa holder during an uncertain time in U.S. immigration policies, Melody had an extra worry besides her studies. “Being an F1 visa holder created a big challenge for me in finding internship and full-time jobs within my visa’s time constraints,” she says.
When her first full-time job offer was rescinded, Melody plunged into uncertainty again. The new grad recruiting season was over, and she had nothing to show for it. “That was the darkest time of my life,” she recalls. Her non-traditional background in Computer Science (CS) made her internship and full-time search even more difficult. “I had recruiters explicitly tell me a coding school didn’t equal a traditional CS education; they didn’t believe I could do well,” she says.
As if that wasn’t enough, then the coronavirus threw everyone for a loop. “When COVID hit, I experienced anxiety over my application for postgraduation work authorization (Optional Practical Training, or OPT).” If the application was denied, everything Melody had worked toward would be stalled.
In the midst of these obstacles, her highly uncertain future lent a fresh vigor to Melody’s job-hunt. “These challenges spurred me on a lot,” she says. “They fired me up to sharpen my interview skills and ace each interview I got.”
The stress was real, but Melody found another way of coping: the backup plan. “If I lost my offers or eligibility to work in the states, I would go back to Taipei and find another job. Therefore, I was looking at jobs at American tech companies in Taipei.
“Creating a viable backup plan, or option b, was my way of navigating the challenges in the midst of uncertainty.”
As it turns out, Melody didn’t have to use her backup plan. Today she works as a software engineer at Apple, where she continues to grow as a professional. She loves what she does, the people she works with, and the impact she makes. “I definitely came to a right place to build my career,” she says.
Uncertainty marked her path from day one, but she’s used it to drive her success.
“I made mistakes, hit bumps, faced rejection, got down—so be sure to allow yourself setbacks and be kind to yourself,” Melody says. “Retooling your skills and making a directional change in your career takes time and is cognitively and emotionally challenging. Having a plan and setting your goals can enable you to stay focused on what’s really important in your life and reach your career aspirations.”
If one thing is certain, it’s that we live in a time of heightened uncertainty. With everything in flux, Melody and her fellow Gen-Zers are discovering that there’s no better time to harness the power of uncertainty—and succeed.There’s no better time to harness the power of uncertainty—and succeed. Click To Tweet