My Way Home
Levon Hayrapetyan. From Dublin to Armenia
A repat who moved back to his homeland in 2016, Levon Hayrapetyan is a software engineer with an impressive set of skills. Born and raised in Armenia, Levon immersed himself into the world of programming during his college years. Soon enough he was making a living out of it. An opportunity of a lifetime came upon him when his friend persuaded him to apply for a job at Microsoft, opening a whole new door of prospects.
“He kept insisting to apply for the vacancy, and for some reason, working in the United States didn’t appeal to me; it was too far away. He said if I didn’t want to move there, I can simply apply for the job in Ireland. And so I did. I was already married then, and my first daughter was born. After long months of interviews, I got the job and we moved to Ireland as a family in 2008.”
His first impression of Ireland wasn’t what he thought it would be; it wasn’t an upscale European country with skyscrapers. It was rustic and homey, but he loved it. He saw a contrast in Armenia’s and Ireland’s population behavior and mentality-wise. Levon also noticed many similarities: both were hospitable, inviting, and lively. Comparing the history as well, Levon saw that the pasts were very much alike.
“Armenia saw the Genocide, Ireland had the Great Famine, and both have large diasporas. Ireland welcomed us with open arms. Not once did we feel alienated there.”
Levon established an Armenian circle of friends during the 8 years he lived in Ireland. He claims that roughly 50 Armenian families also lived when he was there, and lucky enough, 5-6 of them were in his age group.
“In no time, an Armenian school was established in Dublin. The teachers worked there on a voluntary basis. Our children attended once a week to study the Armenian alphabet, literature, reading, and writing; essentially maintaining their identities in a foreign land. Some of the families were from Syria and Iraq, but they all learned Eastern Armenian.”
Managing to preserve the language, tradition, and culture, the small Armenian community in Ireland offered Levon and his family a haven where they kept their identities alive.
“The Armenian Sunday school was only a few hours long. So, whenever we dropped off our kids there, we gathered to play a traditional game of Armenian belote and have fun. We’d all get together and enjoy each others’ company. Although I’m back now, I still keep in touch with them, and they even have established a chess school now, where people of all ages and ethnicities are welcome.”
At first, Levon was the only Armenian at the Microsoft office, but he was soon joined by others. Little by little, Armenians from every corner of the world came to join the team. The office became even livelier with Western and Eastern Armenian anecdotes and amusing confusions. Spending 8 fruitful years in the country, Levon acquired new skills and further experience.
“We never cut off our ties with Armenia. We’d visit once or twice every year. We missed our friends and families. And since our parents live in Armenia we realized that at some point we would need to return to look after them. As our children got older, we decided that it would be best if they grew up in their homeland. After all, we have our own values, mentality, culture, and history, and we wanted them to be in the heart of all that. We thought it would be harder if we moved back when they were teenagers, and so, the time had come.”
Levon, along with his wife and three daughters, returned to Armenia during a difficult time. Moving after the events of the Four-Day War, they came in time to witness the Yerevan hostage crisis as well. However, Levon does not regret the decision of relocating; he thinks of it positively.
“Since we’d always visit Armenia, we didn’t notice an abrupt change in the country. Nonetheless, the country went through a great transformation during those years. Wine bars became popular, people had more opportunities, and the youth were more vocal in expressing their political opinions. We didn’t face difficulties while moving, because we were familiar with the environment. An issue I personally faced was finding a job. Most of the time, I’d apply, they’d schedule an interview, they’d ask me why I want to leave Ireland and come back, and that was the end of it. I’m not sure whether curiosity drove them to have an interview, but things wouldn’t get past that stage.”
After applying for multiple vacancies, Levon received an offer from a company, which became a bigger source of motivation to move back. However, he ended up accepting a deal with Microsoft, where he’d be able to work for them from Armenia. For a year and a half, he went on working from his homeland for the company. However, things changed when the team in the Irish office was shut down. This made Levon embark on a new journey regarding his career. From cryptocurrencies to image recognition, he explored his opportunities in various startup companies until he found himself back to his true passion: programming large scale distributed software systems. He is now an engineering manager at ServiceTitan Armenia.
“My dad has been a software engineer since the Soviet era. I was involved in this field starting ninth grade and I’ve been passionate about it since then. I had a Finnish coworker who once said: “I love software engineering so much that I would do it for free. Luckily, I am also getting paid for it.”
Incorporating his experience on a daily basis, Levon is always looking to share them to improve and enrich the software engineering work culture. He says the future of the field in Armenia is promising and encourages all Armenian programmers to repatriate.
“The best time to move to Armenia is when you are truly convinced you want to live here. It would be ideal if people came here because they want to and not because they feel obliged. As for software engineers, not only will you be working in a rewarding field, but you’ll also be living in your homeland surrounded by your friends and family. What more could anyone ask!”
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