Svetlana (Lana) Nechaeva

AGE: 42
INTERESTS: I like swimming, traveling, and painting

Tell us more about where you are from and what you were doing before 42:

I am from Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia. In 2005 I started my own small architecture firm, doing some projects for buildings such as interiors and exteriors. For more than 10 years I ran the architecture firm. We moved to the U.S. because my husband is an IT engineer and he had a new opportunity. I started to study English when we got to the U.S. because my level was zero when I arrived. In school, I studied German. It was difficult for me to learn English.

When we came to the U.S., I tried to find a job in architecture and it was difficult. I worked in a small firm for one year but after that, my contract was over. In Russia, I used a different type of architecture software, and here in the U.S. most of the companies don’t use that software. I have a lot of experience in Russia, and a little experience in the U.S. If I applied for an internship position, I was overqualified. If I applied to something higher, I didn’t have enough experience.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

No. Before 42 sometimes when my laptop started from the terminal, I was like, “omg, I broke my computer” because it looks like this. When I started in the January piscine, I thought I was too old for programming. But people were really nice and helpful. Because my English is not so good, sometimes it is difficult for me to grasp a problem. But I’m still working on it. 

How did you hear about 42?

Through a friend, Inessa Prokofyeva, who is a 42 Alum. She told me to just try it. 

What did your friends and family think about your decision to attend 42?

My husband was very excited about this because he is an IT engineer. For him, he understands what is going on with this career path better than my previous career in architecture. His opinion is that in the United States, it is better to be tech-savvy.

What was the piscine like?

On the first day of the piscine, I didn’t understand what was going on. I think it was a shock and there was some panic. Honestly, right now, I don’t remember the worst moments. I never had an experience like this, it was something entirely new. 

In my previous career, if I didn’t understand a problem, I was used to asking my colleagues, and I think it is the same process here where you ask your peers.  You take a task, you separate it into smaller tasks, and if you don’t understand it you just ask for help or find some resources. It is the same in a work setting. 

What was it like when you received your post-piscine decision email?

I was really surprised and excited to get the acceptance email. 

How does the cadet program differ from the piscine?

I think I have more time. During the piscine, I observed how something works and did it, but I didn’t understand it clearly. Right now, I can figure out a problem. I did the FDF project over two months, it is very interesting to me. In my old career, I used 3D modeling software, but I didn’t understand how it works. I learned some linear algebra for this project because I needed to use some math.

How do you find help with your projects?

I find help through Google, my husband, and my friends. So I use all of those resources. And I try to spend time explaining things to others because it is helpful to me too.

What do you like best about 42?

I like how at 42 you can find new friends and get to know people. Sometimes it is helpful in just my usual life, to ask them something. I like people, and just talking about everything with other cadets helps improve my English. Sometimes coding seems complicated and I don’t think it is for me, but it is getting easier with time.

What is the most challenging aspect?

So far the most challenging aspect has been the piscine. Now I pick a project and I just do it. Sometimes I don’t know which project will be next, and I need to choose something. But my friends have different opinions about liking security or shell. Right now, at this moment, I am interested in FDF and 3D graphics. 

What do you like to do in the Bay Area?

I have lived in the Bay Area for three years with my family.  My favorite place is Capitola, just south of Santa Cruz. It is a small town on the beach, it is like a small Italy.

What is your dream job?

Right now I have a plan to take the interview piscine in September or October, but first I need to reach level 7. I am still exploring and have to get more experience in this area. Right now I want to try some security projects. In the future, I may do something that combines architecture and tech, or maybe some web design and programming. 

Is there someone who has inspired you?

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift.”

-Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda

I understand that we live in this moment, and we need to savor this moment. So I try to take everything in my life and reflect on it. 

I think that there is only one difference between the lucky ones and the losers – the lucky people always use the opportunities that life gives them. And I’m trying to be lucky.

Connect with Lana on LinkedIn

Photos by 42’s in-house photographer, Priscilla Vongdara

Interview by: Stacey Faucett