Rakhat Shakimbekov graduated from KTL in Semey and now works as a tech consultant at IBM in Hong Kong. He told WeProject how he acquired this position and shared tips for novice programmers.
I moved to Hong Kong six years ago. I entered The Hong Kong Polytechnic University as an undergraduate student, specialising in electronic and information engineering. At the time of admission, I didn't know which field would be more interesting for me: software or hardware. But thanks to the program, I had a chance to try both.
About adaptation and difficulties
The move went smoothly. Our university already had a small community of students from Kazakhstan. The university staff, in particular the Student Affairs Office and the International Student Association, helped us to adapt more quickly to the Hong Kong lifestyle.
The fact that the university had a Host Family program also played an important role. Through this program, international students could join a local family for cultural exchange.
The only difficulty I encountered at first was the food: it was hard to get used to the local cuisine.
The first impression I got of Hong Kong was the population density is high. What stood out to me the most were the tight spaces and mile-long queues. I felt like I was inside an anthill. I was astonished to learn that the average life expectancy in Hong Kong is about 85 years. In Kazakhstan, the figure is 73. On the city streets, the elderly people exercise and do sports.
I had the opportunity to explore different work fields while I studied. Through that, I made the decision to become a programmer. In the beginning, I had internships at startups. Hong Kong has its own Silicon Valley: Science Park and Cyberport. During my internship, I helped create and maintain a product, which, to this day, is used in various countries, including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea.
Having worked in startups and SMEs, I wanted to work somewhere more international. Unfortunately, FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) companies in Hong Kong do not hire software engineers, so I had to look somewhere else. For tech consulting, the best companies to work for are IBM and Accenture. My choice was IBM because of its long history. Now, at IBM, I support and develop systems for large clients in different fields, from aviation to insurance companies.
I can confidently compare startup, SME and enterprise companies in Hong Kong. As cliche as it sounds, I can't help but miss the startup environment. In an enterprise, any change requires a lot of signatures and approvals, whereas, in a young company, any idea gets the green light. If you're willing to keep your skills up to date, learn new things and get creative, you are welcome in IT.
About personal growth
Living in another country, without family and friends, has taught me to be independent and self-reliant - to face challenges directly and find the right decision. I am grateful to my school, teachers from Semey KTL, friends and parents. Without their constant support, I would not be the person I am today.