Between luck and bad luck, the tribulations of a French engineer in the United States

For young French people who want to try their luck in the United States, there are three possibilities: obtain a trainee visa (J-1); enroll in a university and apply for an OPT visa (optional practical internships) which allows you to stay in the territory one year after the end of your studies; or be recruited by an American company which has offices in Europe, in the hope of being transferred to the headquarters. It is this third option that allowed Arthur Papailhau, 27, a computer enthusiast from the Var, to settle in the land of his dreams: California.

After his studies at the National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA) in Toulouse, the young engineer managed to be hired by Uber in Amsterdam in 2017. “I bombarded recruiters with hundreds of posts on LinkedIn. When I arrived, they all knew me ”, he laughs. Two years later, he landed in San Francisco. To be honest, he was initially a little disappointed with Silicon Valley. He believed the capital of tech “Full of passionate people who spend their time in hackathons [marathons de programmation] “. In fact, he found that in big companies not everyone is a hard worker.

Six months after his arrival, the pandemic caught him cold. In March 2020, California was the first state to impose general lockdown. In the following months, Uber laid off 6,700 employees. “For the first time in my life, I was really stressed, Arthur says. If I was fired, I would lose my visa, and California was gone. “ At the time, he only had the L-1 visa, the one that attaches to a company and does not allow you to change it.

Perilous return

Luckily, Arthur had chosen a position at Uber Eats when he arrived: the meal delivery branch exploded during the lockdown. But, even in his team, there were layoffs. The firm offered employees psychotherapy sessions: a common practice in technology companies where burnout is frequent, and cultural discrepancy, a potential source of conflicts between colleagues from all continents.

Arthur held out until the summer. He joined a fitness group on Zoom and set out to learn about trading. With success: his portfolio, made up of half of cryptocurrency, jumped 145% in one year. On July 4, he cycled 38 kilometers across the Golden Gate Bridge. In August – to hell with it travel ban – he flew to Paris and joined his family in Bandol (Var).

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