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Relocating to Belarus for a Never-Ending Self-Development – the Story of a .NET Developer from Azerbaijan

July 5, 2020

ISsoft is happy to welcome new employees from around the world. The USA, Lithuania, Ukraine, Latvia, Poland, Moldova, Russia – citizens from these and other countries are already working in our company. In this interview Elvin Mammadov, a .NET developer from Azerbaijan, shares the reasons he moved to Belarus and the challenges that he faced.

Elvin, please, tell us, where are you from? Why did you decide to move to Belarus?

I was born in a village in the Azerbaijan mountains. Its climate is very similar to the one in Minsk, except there are snowy mountains all around. When I started going to school, we moved to Baku – a city where everything is high-speed and loud. In higher school, I started working part-time as a developer, and in university, I switched to full-time.

Developing software is complicated in our country because the government is trying to improve the economy via taxes. The salary that is higher than 2,000$ is taxed at 40%. Moreover, we don’t have private businesses, big companies and foreign clients, and our overtime hours are unpaid.
Full-stack developers are in high demand in Baku – hiring them cuts down costs on projects. Less developers and more work. Of course, it affects employees’ professional level, motivation and productivity. I am a full-stack developer. I am skilled in C# and .NET platform, and, also, know Java, JavaScript, React and Angular.

Several main reasons fueled my decision to move to Belarus. First, I wanted to grow professionally, have a decent salary, and make a good living for my family. Second, it happened that I received a job offer in Minsk, and I agreed to take the risk. After googling the pros and cons of living in Belarus, I concluded that it was in some ways similar to Azerbaijan.

What did you think about the country prior to relocation? What do you think about it now?

Before moving to Belarus, I thought it was a typical post-Soviet country: something between Europe and the USSR. Reality is not like that at all, however. I’m impressed how much work is done by the government for the IT sector and software development. In five-ten years, Belarus will most likely become one of the top IT-countries in the world. Many people from Azerbaijan move to Minsk to work not just for the money, but for a better life for their family. They say that if Azerbaijan had the same living conditions, they would all return to their homeland, yet I doubt it will ever happen.

What about the disadvantages of living in our country?

It’s a difficult question – I can list many advantages, while the disadvantages…Well, there is a lot of bureaucracy in public institutions. Also, the never-ending problems with the Citizenship and Migration Board (CMB). I think every migrant has a “funny story” to tell about the CMB – and so do I. When I was obtaining a residence permit, they simply didn’t want to give it to me because of my high salary.

Another funny story about money is related to driving in a taxi. I try to practice my Russian whenever possible, and often speak with taxi drivers, discussing IT professionals’ salaries. One time a driver told me to never tell anyone about my salary, what really surprised me.

It’s funny but true – we don’t talk about our salaries. Now, please, tell us about the positive sides of living in Belarus.

Then it again brings us back to taxi drivers. One time I arrived in Baku, ordered a taxi and was shocked by their manner of driving – I thought we would get into a hundred car accidents on the way to our destination. Then I remembered my first trip from the Minsk airport – I was fascinated with the driver and how carefully he drove.

Belarus is a very green country, and there are many friendly people around. Our climate is very similar to the one in the mountains, so it’s comfortable for me. Also, many Belarusians have a strong Belarusian accent. Sometimes I didn’t get a word they said – just like with team leads from India, speaking in English. All you could do in such situations is just say “Yes” and “Okay”.

Minsk is a quiet town – especially if you compare it to Baku. In Baku, if there is a traffic jam, everybody will just honk and beep for now reason. I never saw anything like that here. Your nation’s mentality is closer to mine.
Also, many Belarusians speak English, as compared to people in Baku. In Azerbaijan they don’t think much about self-development – why learn a new language when you don’t have foreign clients? A great advantage is that in Belarus companies are interested in improving their employees’ skills and devote much effort to achieve that: organize trainings, meet-ups, conferences, invite speakers and so on.

Did you face any challenges when moving?

I wouldn’t say they were challenges – just a few stories related to stereotypes about “illiterate” immigrants from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and others.

First was related to the flight to Minsk. We had a transfer in Moscow, where my wife was detained. She is Muslim and was wearing a hijab. They probably suspected that she is a terrorist – we received no explanation, unfortunately. As a result, we were late for our flight.

The second story was related to renting an apartment in Minsk. The landlord didn’t want to rent it due to our nationality. After she found out that I came here with my family, she, finally, trusted me.

What advice would you give to those who are moving to Belarus?

I’d say that there is a great IT-infrastructure here. If you want to improve your skills, then Minsk is the right place for you. In just two years of living here I’ve learned tons of new things. Whenever I visit Azerbaijan on my vacation, I notice that I’ve started to think differently and look at processes from a different point of view. In Belarus I’ve worked with interesting clients from the US, Germany and other countries. I understood how big business works, and significantly improved my skills and professionalism.