Natalia Lomakina is a product designer, Immigram’s client and, as of lately, a UK resident. She received the Global Talent Visa and moved to the UK in August –– we asked Natalia to walk us through her relocation journey.
My path towards the IT industry wasn’t linear –– first, I graduated from university with a degree in accounting then began working in my hometown. But, as time passed, I became convinced that it wasn’t the right fit for me: that job didn’t inspire me to wake up every day.
When I was still in school, I enjoyed experimenting with Photoshop which then segued into website drafts. I realised that web design was more than just “drawing something pretty”. You have to build logic circuits and guide users through them. It enthralled me: I started freelancing, gaining experience and developing my UX/UI skills.
In my home country, web design comes down to creating a pretty picture (this method may be changing now but it was all the rage a few years back). The site’s structure, user-friendliness and target audience analysis remain in the shadows. I didn’t appreciate this approach and it became my first push to consider relocation –– I wanted to work in an environment where UX/UI is given the attention it deserves and where even the smallest of startups hire product designers among the key employees.
At first my choice fell on Spain, but I didn’t find any interesting job offers there –– for me, a wide range of vacancies is really important and, unfortunately, there wasn’t one in Madrid. I also considered getting the U.S. O-1 visa but eventually decided to stay in Europe and started learning more about the UK visas –– that way I would be closer to my family. Besides, most American companies have British subsidiaries. I wanted to get a sponsorship visa, but things didn’t go as planned: the pandemic happened, the UK was busy with Brexit, and many companies temporarily stopped sponsoring the Skilled Worker visa.
I had a job at Arrival, but was planning to leave –– I wanted to gain experience working at an early stage startup. So I got a job at a startup that was planning to move to Spain. Unfortunately, the company didn’t last long. But still, something good came out of it: a friend of a colleague who I met there told me about the Global Talent Visa and a company in the UK that was looking for a UX/UI designer. I realised that this was my chance to move without getting attached to an employer and, in a while, launch my own startup in the UK. It’s quite difficult to develop a company in my home country –– there is a big risk that you’ll eventually have to sell it, or other startups will start copying your work.
I wasn’t sure I was eligible for the Talent visa as I’m not a Nobel laureate nor did I have a lot of experience working for international companies. Besides, UX/UI design isn’t necessarily an obvious specialisation for the Global Talent Visa.
My doubts were dispelled by a friend, also a designer, who was in the process of preparing his case with Immigram. He gave me Mikhail’s contacts (Immigram’s co-founder) who then told me about my chances during a call. Consequently, I received the Global Talent Visa as an Exceptional Promise and moved to the UK in August.
I moved to the UK with an offer from a British firm on hand, but now I work for a U.S. company. The UK offers a vast pool of vacancies, and the Global Talent Visa allows one to freelance and work for foreign firms, so there’re plenty of job opportunities. The flexibility of the Talent visa is definitely a major plus.
After moving, I had to get used to a slower, more measured pace. Life and work were always in full swing where I lived before London, whereas the work-life balance in the UK is cherished by everyone. A great example of this would be the incident that happened to me recently: one day, the lights in my apartment went out. Unfortunately, it was Saturday, so, obviously, the electrician refused to come and help me. But at least he instructed me how to deal with the electricity meter over the phone.
A simple yet important tip is to not be afraid. Many worry that moving is too difficult, that there’s no one waiting for them out there, that they won’t be able to settle in. However, to disprove or confirm these fears, you need to pack your bags and relocate.
Also, simultaneously looking for a job and an apartment after the move is very challenging. It’s better to solve at least one of these problems beforehand.
The craziest yet the most successful trip of my life.