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Yuliya Sharshatkina Headshot

Yuliya Sharshatkina’s Journey From CPA to Instructional Designer

What were you doing before Instructional Design?

I used to be a CPA auditor working for Deloitte in Princeton. That didn’t last for long, probably three years. I was working 16 hour workdays, weekends, and the busy seasons are brutal, especially if you work for a public company. It’s a very stressful job. Then I met my husband and he’s from Argentina. We were going back and forth, deciding where we were going to live and we decided to go to Argentina. I was about to leave my career, but I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to live a little bit in Argentina and see how it goes. I’m not the type of person who can just sit and do nothing. So, I taught English in private academies here. Then I found online English teaching with VIP Kid. I did that too, but last year that job came to an end because of the laws in China. So I basically lost my main source of income and I didn’t know what to do. It was a hit for us, even living in South America. Having US income, even that little bit, is huge because the cost of living is a lot less.

What made you decide to join Applied Instructional Design Academy (AIDA)? Did you have any hesitation about joining?

One of the people I worked with in VIP Kid also travels a lot and she posted in the group that she made a transition, maybe a month before. She’s super happy and she makes triple what she was making with VIP kid. I thought, “This is interesting. I want to hear her story” So that’s how I joined AIDA. When I heard Jill talking, I realized, “Oh, this is what I want to do, I want this job.” Did I know anything about instructional design? No, zero, nothing. I’m not coming from formal teaching experience. I was just trying to find my path, and I could relate to Jill’s story.

I wanted to learn from her. This is not some sugar-coated program. This is a real deal. This is a career where you have to put in the work, and I was ready to do that. I thought about it for maybe three days. I just had this feeling I had to do this no matter what. This is what I want to do. I didn’t consult my husband because I knew he would be skeptical. I had to make this decision, but I knew if I made the decision and if I paid for the program, he’d be okay with that. He’s good with my decisions. So I did that and just said, “Okay, so this is it.”

What was your experience like in Applied Instructional Design Academy?

I started in November, and I thought that by April I would be done. It took me a little bit longer than April because I took a month break. We were traveling. Then in June, AIDA implemented the job readiness badge, so I took full advantage of that because one of my huge concerns was on the interview side. 

I know how it is in the corporate world. I went through those interviews back in the day, and I knew I needed a lot of practice. So that’s what I did. I practiced in front of the mirror. Then I recorded myself many times. That’s when I started applying for jobs. That’s what everyone was saying to do but I didn’t think I was ready. So, right when I finished my job readiness badge, one of the jobs I applied for asked me if I wanted to do an interview. They needed a developer ASAP for one of their big clients and they wanted to do an interview tomorrow. It was just a short contract for three months.

I said “No, I won’t be ready tomorrow, but next week definitely I’ll be prepared.” So I went through the interview. I had a panel interview. They asked me about my Storyline samples and how I created the storyboard. They said, “Okay, we’ll take two weeks to evaluate because we have other people applying we’ll let you know.” They called the next day an said, “Can you send us your information? We want to make an offer.” I couldn’t believe it. That was my first interview. I was just practicing. That was a beautiful practice. So I sent all my information and they came up with an offer. They said it would be a 12-month contract, so I flew to the US to pick up the computer.

What are you doing now?

Right now I work on a big team supporting Microsoft Worldwide Learning. It’s  a W2 job, but here’s the amazing part. As I said, I’m on the development team. I work a lot with Storyline and Rise. I have IDs with a lot of experience asking me questions. They think that I have a lot of experience, I’m like, “Well, you don’t want to know how much experience I have.” It’s amazing. All the stories that I heard about AIDA, I couldn’t believe it. I just loved the profession, what I heard, what I could do with it. But I had a huge imposter syndrome when I joined. I thought “How can I do that, it’s impossible.It’s just that I knew I had a huge gap to learn the tools. Up until the moment they said we want to make an offer, I had this feeling like, “I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough.”

One more thing I wanted to mention. It took me a little bit longer to find this first offer. You have to apply, apply, apply, apply and do whatever Jill says you have to do because that works. That’s what I learned. Now I have recruiters reaching out to me all the time. And now I say, “Okay, is this a hundred percent remote before we start? If not, I’m not interested. Is it contract?” There are plenty of jobs. Once you are in, I feel like it just comes to you. 

I see a lot of people who were concerned about getting a job and they all got a job. One thing I wanted to point out is that if you live abroad and you want to continue this digital nomad lifestyle, definitely look into global multinational tech companies. I work for one of those. We have teams in Mexico, London, and New Zealand. They don’t really care where you live. We had people living in Kenya for a year. Those companies would be more willing to hire someone abroad. It’s truly amazing what you can do if you have a good US income and you’re living in Asia or Latin America. Right now, for December, we rented a house in Brazil. So we are just going to be in Brazil, the whole family, and I’ll be working from there.

How has your life changed? 

After being a CPA, nothing scares me. Since becoming an ID, I’m not required to work late, but I was putting time in because I really enjoyed what I was doing. I was like, “I want to solve this, I want to do this.” It wasn’t expected that you have to work till one o’clock in the morning. That was expected on the audit side. So that’s why it was a completely different experience for me.

I’ve also had a few teachers who reached out to me about instructional design that said they had a portfolio and they showed it to me. When people haven’t gone through AIDA, you can see they have no idea what a portfolio has to have and what the corporate world looks for. It’s clear they have no idea. No wonder they don’t get jobs.

I think one of the concerns that I see people ask a lot is, “Would I be able to do that as a side job?” You absolutely can and I think that’s one of the beauties of this job. You can do whatever you want with this career. If you want to do contract, you can. If you want to do part-time, you can. If you want to do W2, there are plenty of those, especially if you’re in the US. Right now I’m full-time, but September was more of a planning month. A lot of people took off in September, so I literally didn’t have a lot of work during September. I was doing nothing, so I was asking around, “Please, do you need help with anything?” Just yesterday I got an email from my manager saying, “We just want to make it clear, you’re on this team and you’re getting paid whether you have work or not.” 

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