Michael Camilleri is a 22 year old Maltese student from Sliema currently working in the Core Customer Experience at Dropbox. After studying business and finance at the University of London Goldsmith’s through MCAST, he is currently majoring in computer science with a minor in artificial intelligence at Harvard University on a part time basis.
Can you tell us about how you landed your first job in Dublin at Squarespace and what that was like?
I worked at the first APR (Apple Store) in Malta for 3 years as a certified professional before Squarespace. I travelled on a whim to the Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland. A major networking event with plenty of TED style talks. A friend, Bruno, who worked over at Facebook in Dublin at the time asked me to hang out and pushed me to get into the tech scene there. I discovered Squarespace had an office there with a position I could fill and applied upon returning to Malta.
Lo and behold, I got hired as the youngest and only Maltese employee at 19-20. It was overwhelming at first, but the company culture there is awesome and the people are wonderful. It’s your classic tech setup with great equipment, culture being key and free food/snacks along with fantastic benefits such as full healthcare. Although, being the youngest employee was not always my strongest suit having been more immature than the majority of the team who went up to their 40’s.
What sort of difference in attitude or culture did you experience when moving to Dublin or SF?
The difference between Europeans and Americans will always be that Europeans are quieter and more reserved. Americans are generally more open and louder, their professional and academic ethics are a lot stronger than Europeans who are more relaxed.
What was the interview like at Dropbox? We hear they aren’t like the standard “tell us about yourself” routine.
Dropbox has five core values which they follow very strictly:
- Be worthy of trust
- Sweat the details
- Aim higher
- We not I
You are tested for each of these within your interviews, whilst they are lax in practice, you are being tested so as to meet these 5 core company values. The cupcake approach represents going the extra mile rather than just clocking in for your 9-5.
How did you manage to connect yourself to such big companies? Can you explain how you got started and some career advice for people in Malta?
It’s all about who you know. This is true even outside of Malta. Whilst a lot of my network happened through dumb luck, the majority was through hard work and perseverance.
Working as an Apple Product Professional was a great start for my resume. Many people are intimidated by tech roles, although it has become such an established industry that it is like any other office job. If you see a role you can tackle, you should most definitely apply for it. It is not impossible. I never thought I’d land the Squarespace gig, but at the core, tech is all about culture. Your experience and age are not as important as they used to once be if you are a rockstar.
Once you’ve dipped into the first gig, it’s easy to get the ball rolling into other tech roles. Whether through having a network (Dublin is a small city with a lot of major tech HQ’s) or just outright applying. It becomes normal and natural. Confidence is key.
What was your most important step towards reaching this point of your career?
Getting out of your comfort zone and taking risks. Believing that everything happens for a reason. Worst comes to worst, you get more experience to move on to bigger and better things. You’ll always have your family back home in Malta to land back on when things hit ‘rock bottom’.
Never get too comfortable and always keep on mixing and mingling with new people and events. Keep your resume updated and never hesitate to ask your team lead for advice on how to move forward. If you’re not happy, move on.
What piece of advice would you give to Maltese people in the tech and computer science space?
The future is now.
We have never had more opportunity than we have today and never settle for less than you deserve. If you don’t feel academically apt that is okay, you can still do great things through self perseverance. You are worth more than you know. I will always recommend going into a general role within tech to get you started and figure out your key strengths over time. Whether it’s network security or Human Resources, tech companies need all kinds of people. Heck, even accountants!
Be diligent and once hired, keep in the know regarding your progress with your team lead. You are independent but you are also a part of an organization. Do not lose who you are as a person to fit in with others, you are your own person. Be proud to be Maltese wherever you’re at, you’ve earned the privilege.
Find an event that speaks to you, fly out, meet people. You’re going to embarrass yourself at times, but that’s okay. Apply to jobs that make you feel dumb. You will learn and you will grow, you will achieve the ‘impossible’ when you least expect it. Never get your hopes up.
After having just travelled through California, Washington, Colorado and Pennsylvania. You can currently find me in Austin, Texas. Yee’haw.
Working in tech full-time and finishing up my degree part-time. My next goal is Disney Pixar, I like to make smiles happen. Watch this space, and never hesitate to reach out.
Do you know any local tech-gurus excelling overseas? Send an email to [email protected]