Master’s Degree
10 min

Master’s Degree in the US, Green Card Lottery, and a Job at Google

StudyFree mentor Elizaveta Shafir has done a lot in her thirty two: winning a green card and moving to the US, living in Chicago, Cambridge, and completing a Master of Applied Science in Supply Chain Management at MIT.

Elizaveta is now living in California and raising two children. She works at Google as Program Manager, Demand & Supply Planning, and is involved in data center capacity planning. StudyFree asked her to talk about how she moved to the US and how she got a job at Google.


Study Abroad Dream

I was born and grew up in Chelyabinsk, one of Russia's largest cities. In my last year of high school, I won the All-Russian Contest in Economics among school students and was enrolled in MGIMO, one of the top universities in the country.

I started working part-time in the last year of my bachelor's degree. Immediately after graduation, I switched to full-time and had to work along with my studies for a master's degree already.

Things at work were going well, and I would gradually move up the career ladder. However, I couldn’t let my study abroad dream go. Many of my classmates got into foreign master's programs right after completing their bachelor's degrees, but I couldn't afford it and didn’t have the knowledge at the time.

So I started to look for MBA programs. Among other things, I would analyze global university rankings. Since I was going to stay in the country, I finally narrowed it down to English-speaking countries. The USA was a priority on the list. Along with MBAs, I considered master’s programs in Supply Chain Management. In the end, I found the perfect program at MIT and stopped looking for anything else. I just knew that it was the right place for me.

I started to follow the program's website so as not to miss any announcements. One day MIT announced the launch of the MicroMasters Program in Supply Chain Management, an online program consisting of five courses. It was the equivalent of half the master's program. I couldn’t miss such an opportunity.

I started to discover the MIT world while living in Moscow with a baby. I didn’t need to submit any documents to apply and study online. The course was free. To earn a certificate though, you had to pay $150 for each of the five courses. Later, they raised it to $200.

Apart from studying, I actively communicated with other students using the forum and chat rooms. Later, I became a Community Teaching Assistant and helped new students to get through the material of the courses that I had successfully completed myself.

Moving to the US and Getting Into the MIT

The next step was winning a green card. So, a year after I started the online program, I moved to the US. My husband and I had applied several times. After three years of trying, we finally got lucky.

I used to work as a Sales Planning Manager for PepsiCo before I started my maternity leave. We both quit our jobs, sold everything we had, and moved to Chicago. Shortly after we moved, I finished the online program, successfully passing the final exam. About the same time, I had my second child. A few weeks after that, I started to work at Aryzta, a small grocery company in Chicago, as a Demand Planner.

I quickly found a job within my field, where I did the same things I had done at home, except here I didn’t have a team to supervise. So I started working but got bored pretty quickly. I tried to consider other jobs, but they wouldn’t make any major changes to the level of my position or the company I worked for. That is when I realized that the time for MIT had come.

It took me three months to prepare all the admission documents. I had to take the TOEFL, which I passed with 111, fill out a really long form, and make a three-minute video where I answered the following questions:

  1. Why do you want to obtain a master's degree in supply chain management?
  2. How do you see your perfect job after you finish your master's program?
  3. What global supply chain problem do you find most interesting and why?

I also had to submit a two-page research proposal for a future master's thesis and recommendation letters. The results of the online program were used as the GMAT scores. Given that I had already gone through half of the material online, I only had to study for one semester here.

I was admitted and moved from Chicago to Cambridge for six months with my husband and two kids. I realized that I would have to study all the time, so I asked my mom to come from Chelyabinsk to help us with the kids. She stayed with us for five months and left the day after I graduated from MIT. I have a separate article about how I managed to combine being a mother, studying, and working at that time.

Getting an Offer From Google

I started looking for a job as soon as the program began. I failed the first few interviews because I lacked experience and confidence. However, the more I did it, the better my interviews went. Among other things, I practiced writing stories (answers to possible questions) which helped me structure my thoughts.

One day I got a call from Google. They had a resume book (resumes of all the students in the group) offered by the university career office. This call was a big surprise for me because I had a stereotype back then that only programmers worked at Google. 

Now I know it’s ridiculous. Like any company, Google has typical departments, including Marketing, Sales, Design, Analytics, Finance, and others. And there is one related to my field too.

When preparing for my interview at Google, I got help from those who had already completed the program and worked at the company. They shared some useful tips with me and encouraged me a lot. They also helped with the mock interview which is an imitation of a real interview that I had to go through before heading to Silicon Valley for the final round.

Recruiters share plenty of materials to help applicants succeed in an interview. Most of them are available online for free. Google is interested in making sure candidates prepare well and show their best in an interview.

By the end of the program, I already had three job offers and several final interviews to go through. Eventually, I picked Google. We moved to Northern California after the program, where we’ve lived for almost two and a half years now.

My position is Program Manager, Demand & Supply Planning. I do capacity planning for data centers. My team is the bridge between product teams (Cloud, YouTube, Search) that need resources (compute and storage capacity) and the supply chain that keeps data centers running. My job involves working with a lot of numbers and analytics, as well as cross-functional communication.

What Do You Need To Get Hired at Google

English skills. You need to speak English fluently. Don’t let your accent or slightly flawed grammar bother you too much. What’s important is that you understand others and are understood.

Working experience at world-famous companies or any international experience. This will make your CV stand out and help get to know international standards, including processes and terminology. In fact, any international experience would be a big plus for you, whether it's study programs, internships, or volunteer projects. If you have no or little working experience in the field, then education is going to play an essential role. The admissions committee would want to learn more about your university, major, courses, etc. However, if you have extensive working experience in the field, education is a secondary factor, especially when it comes to STEM jobs.

Soft skills. Soft skills are important but only as a supplement to expert knowledge. They can only work together. When companies hire people, it’s vital for them that the person fits in with the team and the company culture, so that people enjoy and feel comfortable working with each other. That is why qualities like the desire to help others, making the right choice in an ethically challenging situation, the ability to take responsibility for mistakes, commitment to teamwork, the willingness to always learn and grow, and being open to feedback are so demanded today. After all, you can be an awesome expert but if no one wants to work with you, you are of no value to the company.

Customized CV. Large companies receive hundreds of thousands of CVs every year. Most of them don’t even reach the HRs as they are screened out by the system. If you want your CV to reach a person so that you would get a chance for an interview, try to customize it based on the keywords mentioned in the position. It would be even better if you could find someone who can recommend you to the company. If you are a student, you can also contact a career office at your university. Remember, though, that even with a great CV, only a few of those who applied for a job get an offer.

The ability to not take rejections personally. Rejection doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. It just means you're not the best candidate for that company at that very moment. Some people apply for the same job repeatedly over several years. Others go to numerous job interviews for months until they find a position or team that feels right for them.

Asking yourself if the company’s corporate culture is right for you. It's not just the company that makes a choice. You choose the company too. You need to ask yourself if the company culture suits you. This culture may include a lot of things like decision-making, the promotion mechanism, workload, attitude towards work-life balance, whether the processes are well structured or chaotic, etc.

All these things may seem unimportant when you are job-hunting, especially when you find your perfect job. However, the culture of the company may turn out to be much more important than the specific position or team. You can always change positions and teams, but if the culture does not feel right, you will never enjoy your job in a big company and it's going to be extremely hard to move up the career ladder.

By Elizaveta Shafir