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Nazneen Malik, Software Developer on her Studies, Career and Challenges.

Nazneen works as a Software Developer for a startup in Seattle, Washington. She loves her job and is very passionate about technology.  She graduated from the University of Mumbai with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and did her Master’s degree Program in Computer Science from the Utah State University.

When she is not at work, she likes to divide her time between volunteering and being part of the networking space (both professional and personal networking!)

She volunteers at a couple of non-profit organizations near to where she lives. And, she has always been an active member of Student associations and work/career related events.

The story of her journey from India to US, her passion, challenges and how she navigates her professional life is very inspiring!


Nazneen’s Intro in her own words:

I am a Software Engineer from India residing in the US since 2008. I came here for my Master’s degree program, started my career as a Software Test Engineer and made a switch to the Software Developer role in 2014.


When did you decide to come to the US? What inspired/motivated you?

I decided to move to the US in 2007. I completed my Bachelor’s degree program in 2006 and was working at a mid-sized local software company in India then. By 2007,  I was looking for a change as I wanted to explore and learn more. The US economy had gone into recession then. My neighbor suggested that I would get a good conversion rate for the dollar if I wanted to study in the US because of that. Also, the US would be more welcoming to foreign investment. This convinced me that it was a good time to pursue my Master’s degree program. In addition to that, after around 2 years of working as a developer, I felt more confident about what I wanted to pursue my masters in and about working independently on my college assignments.


How did you come here? As a student or a dependent? What were the challenges you faced during your transition from India to US and how did you overcome those?

I came riding on an elephant 🙂 Just kidding! I came as a student on an F1 Visa. F1 is a student VISA. The restrictions on that are:- (1) You need to be enrolled for minimum 9 university credits and optionally  maximum 10 hrs of campus job OR minimum 7 university credits and exactly 20 hours of campus job to stay legally in the US. (2) No out of campus job unless its the Summer, (curricular practical training) or you are on optional practical training (3) You may volunteer for any kind of job. You may just not get paid for it. It’s illegal for you to take that money. So, no waiting tables at restaurants or Uber driving. You can buy and sell second hand stuff for personal use. (4) You may not work jobs that need US clearance (5) You cannot vote (6) You don’t pay federal taxes (biggest win yay!)


What was your Master’s degree in? How has this education helped you? What do you attribute your success to?

I did my Master’s degree program in Computer Science. This education has helped me get a well-paying job very easily. Immigration is also easier for me to the US because there has been and continues to be a shortage of Software Engineers.

I attribute my success to my community and my family. A lot of the life I have made for myself has been because of what I had on the platter. I was born into an upper-class professional family, grew up in Mumbai. My dad sent me to Engineering school and then Master’s which is not so common in the setting that I come from. Throughout, I have had supportive teachers, classmates, friends, a strong developer community and other well-wishers to help me. From my side, I have been resilient, ambitious and focused. I have not let my personal life spill on my career decisions. I have been proud enough to not settle for less than what I deserve and humble enough to learn and adapt.


What were your initial days as a student like? 

My initial days as a student were wonderful!! I went from a full-time job to being a student again. My university, especially, was very good at integrating international students so they didn’t feel a loss of identity in a new country. We had an international student’s inauguration. We had a lot of facilities and resources we didn’t have in Indian universities. I met many new people and found new friends. I missed home sorely till I found good friends in the US.


How was your first job like?

My first job out of my Master’s program was overwhelming. I joined a corporate. It was hard to figure out the responsibilities and motivations of various people. I did not understand the politics. I was confused about the reason for frequent re-organizations and movement within the company. I did learn how to play the game eventually.


What motivated you to transition from Software Test to Software Development? How did you overcome the challenges to be where you are now?

I envisioned software Test to be a lot different from what it was when I joined. I did not have alumni or anyone I knew from my hometown for guidance there. I wanted to be a developer but I would take a test role too. I took the offer because it was the first one I got from a prestigious multi-national company.

I did not like that role. It felt like being a secretary to the Developer even if I was more qualified 🙂 Our job was to make sure spec that the programs managers write match implementation by the Developers so they are not blocked on us. Our work depended on their’s. So it was me trying to chase them down all the time than the other way round. We also get least credit for our efforts and more of the blame. Other disciplines and seniors talked down to us as if we did not understand code very well. Coding opportunities were rare and hard to snag.

Overall, I didn’t want to go back to it. I still wanted to have a career in Software. I learned data structures and algorithms all over again and practiced for months after work and on weekends with pen and paper to get back on my feet. I interviewed on and off for 2 months to find a job I really liked.

The interviews are very competitive. I talk to my peers in good companies for help. I network a lot. Many of them have forwarded my resume along. The people I’ve least expected to help me with finding a job have been of significant help.

As far as challenges go, sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s your situation and sometimes it’s the people around you. The bigger challenge is to identify the difference. If it’s you, learn and fill the knowledge gap. If it’s your situation, patiently solve it. If it’s the people around you, get out of there immediately. I have learned most of navigating challenges by social networking and putting myself in various situations with various people. Just ask or google what does it mean when they say <blank>.



What is your advice for all those young folks who are graduating from their Undergraduate Engineering courses this year?

Even though you are desperate to find a job and pay off those pesky student loans, choose a job carefully. Find a role and a team you really like. You will spend more time with them than your family. You’ll pay off your loans in a year or two. Don’t sweat it so much. Get furniture and a car if you have to.

Hard work and interest is just the beginning but not enough. I know you just like to code and hate politics. We all do 🙂 But take interest in what is going on around you. Network within and outside your company. It’ll help you learn what the modern way of development is, which projects are better funded, who is good to work with and who isn’t.

You care about this because modern development boosts productivity and helps faster deployment. So less to explain, maintain, processes and middlemen for you. You care about which projects are better funded so you know where to be to dodge a lay off or a re-org. You care about what the biggest fires are because you know your little irrelevant problems will fall on deaf ears and you need to look for a workaround or contribute to fixing it in whichever way you can. You want to learn who is good to work with and who isn’t. If they are good, you can learn from them, your project will look stellar and you all look stellar. If you work with someone not so good, the chances are that when they mismanage/mishandle a work situation they look for people to share the blame with. If you are new, you know how tempting you look already 🙂

A good attitude that helped me lead better was that the buck stops at me. I assumed the role of my team’s help-desk. If no one responded to a question from a team member, I investigated and responded, either with the answer or resource options. Learning the workflow of other disciplines and their review and reward systems also helps a lot. If you know how to make their lives easier and happy, you can and they will return the favor.

Your communication at all times needs to be top notch. Email as if everyone has been on vacation for 3 months. Give context, structure, bullet points and linked references as much as you can. Stay in sync with the team. Even if you think there is scope for improvement, pitch your ideas at the right time. The right time could be at a retrospective meeting or after a release.

Don’t whine! If something is bothering you, ask someone who is doing the same job as you about how to work around a pain point. “Help me understand why we…” or “Why don’t we just <blank> instead of <blank>?”, “I am blocked on <blank> and I see no way around it” are good ways to put it. There are doers and there are whiners. They are rarely the same people. Understand that whoever you are whining to have their own pain points that they have to deal with and they have take time off work to do the unproductive task of listening to you whine as well! I have whined to my bosses in the past. The good ones will fix your workflow before you even ask. The not so good ones will do nothing. So keeping at it is a lost cause.

Good luck and welcome!


Author: Nazneen Malik

Nazneen Malik is a Software Engineer based in the Greater Seattle area since 2010. She is originally from Mumbai. She did her B.E. in Computer Engineering and then worked as a Software Developer in Mumbai for 2 years.  After that she moved to Utah to do her Masters in Computer Science in 2008. She is  passionate about her career and serving the community. For fun she likes to read, hike, salsa dance and travel!

*Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. These are the views and experiences of the author. Please read the Terms and Conditions.

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