So you’re thinking about a move to Silicon Valley? Whether you’re a recent college graduate or just looking to advance your career, there are a lot of reasons to consider this move. But, before you take the plunge and start packing your suitcase, it’s important to know just what you’re getting into.
Silicon Valley is the name given to the geographical stretch of land beginning along the shores of the San Francisco Bay and running south in an oval-like pattern, including areas like Palo Alto (home to Stanford University), Cupertino, Fremont and even as far inland as San Jose. Its boundaries are roughly considered to be the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and Diablo Range to the east. This means there are a lot of places to live and a lot of places to consider working.
Over the last 60 years, Silicon Valley has become the country’s leader in technology and innovation, in large part thanks to its proximity to Stanford University and the pool of talent connected with it. In fact, former Stanford Dean of Engineering Frederick E. Terman is largely credited with launching the technology and research boom that is the trademark of the region today.
As technology has continued to evolve, the area has become a coveted area for computer and technology professionals looking to excel in their career. It’s no secret that major companies like Google, Apple, Tesla, Facebook, Pixar and Netflix — to name a few — are headquartered in Silicon Valley, as are hundreds of other startups and Fortune 1000 companies.
For many professionals, the chance to join a company headquartered here is the ultimate professional achievement. However, if you aren’t prepared for life in the Valley, you might be surprised by some of the ways people do things around here. There are some great benefits to living and working here, but there are also some difficulties you’ll want to be aware of. So, before you hire movers and start packing boxes, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of working in Silicon Valley.
Pros of Working in Silicon Valley
If you’re considering a move to Silicon Valley, you already know that the area is ripe with possibility for anyone in a tech-related field. They always need people, and millennials are in especially high demand.
That does mean competition for jobs and promotions is fierce, but if you’re willing to put in the work to be the best, then there is probably a spot for you. That being said, there are a few things you’ll want to know about the job market:
1. You’re Going to Work With Some VERY Smart People
Be prepared to hit the ground running on your first day, and make sure you know your stuff. There’s no faking it when you’re working with a pool of Ivy League graduates and the world’s top technology talent. Silicon Valley consistently attracts the best and the brightest to jobs in big companies, R&D organizations and Series-A startups. If they hired you, you’re among those best and brightest. Congratulations! But don’t get too comfortable! Get working.
Besides working with talented software engineers on a daily basis, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to network with amazing talent from other companies through meetups, events and conferences. If you’re lucky enough to get a job in Silicon Valley, make sure you bring your A-Game and plan to keep it up!
2. Work at the Best Companies
Silicon Valley companies attract the best and brightest talent because they are some of the best companies in the world. While its reputation stems from a huge saturation of tech-related companies, Silicon Valley is also headquarters to multi-national companies like Wells Fargo, Visa and Chevron.
3. Make Good Money
The average starting salary for a software engineer in Silicon Valley is $111,000, and it only goes up from there. For example, Google employees receive an average annual market salary of $202,000, which includes a signing bonus, annual bonus and annual equity. Airbnb employees receive an average annual market salary of $248,000, which includes a signing bonus and annual equity.
While each company varies, depending on its size and funding sources, the potential to get paid well is significant.
4. Company Perks
Depending on the company you sign on with, you could have access to an amazing benefits package that extends far beyond the standard healthcare and retirement. For example, Google employees have access to 30 cafes across the main campus where they eat for free — every day. With everything from sushi to smoothies and even free beer, the employees never have to go far to get lunch.
If you’re working for Facebook, you’ll receive onsite healthcare, subsidized daycare and unlimited sick days, just to name a few. And the list just goes on.
5. Great Weather and Plenty to Do
Yes, you’re moving here to work, but you will occasionally have some time to explore. The Bay Area is consistently known for having great weather — not much rain and daytime highs that rarely get below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The area is home to some great attractions, too, including Stanford University, the Computer History Museum, the Winchester Mystery House, the NASA Ames Research Center and numerous outstanding restaurants.
If you want to stay outside and enjoy the area’s gorgeous weather, you’ll want to check out the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, the Filoli Center or take a long drive up Mt. Umunhum.
Cons of Working in Silicon Valley
If you’re a smart, hardworking techie with great potential, then you’d fit well in Silicon Valley. The financial and professional benefits are incredible, and the Bay Area is a beautiful place to call home. However, it’s not always that simple. When you’re considering a move west, you’ll need to factor in the cost — and we don’t just mean the financial costs.
There are some steep personal costs that can come with landing a job out here. While they may be worth it to land your dream job, it’s important that you go into it with your eyes open:
1. Cost of Living
The San Fransisco area is one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. If you’re planning to buy a house, the average home price is over $700,000!
While its housing costs are on par or slightly lower than places like NYC, its high costs for healthcare and transportation mean you’ll be shelling out a fair amount of money to live and work here. There is the option to live a little bit outside of the city, but you’ll have to factor in commute time and transportation costs as you look at your options.
It’s also important to realize that many people say it’s difficult to start a family here, at least when you’re lower down on the company ladder. Even though a starting salary of approximately $100,000 seems like a lot, it often doesn’t go very far in the Valley.
2. Expect to Work Long Hours
Starting a family may also get put on the back burner because you’ll be working a lot. There isn’t a traditional work-life balance. When you’re working with really smart people on the verge of the next big technology breakthrough, you can expect to work long hours. That’s why companies, such as Google, offer such great employee perks on campus. They expect their employees to spend a lot of their time at work, which means keeping them happy enough that they don’t mind staying.
If your work is the most important thing in your life, you’ll most likely thrive here.
3. Demanding Jobs
Around here, most workdays begin at 9:30 a.m. and don’t end until 6:30 p.m. While the culture at tech companies and startups tends to be fairly casual — t-shirts are the preferred uniform of the day — they expect their employees to work long and hard to get the job done.
One of the difficulties of working in Silicon Valley, however, is that the job is rarely done. There’s always something else on the horizon, and the long hours have been documented as a huge cause of burnout in the tech industry. Unemployment is low, but demand for newer and better technology is at an all-time high — and the burden this is placing on tech employees is becoming a problem. When employers don’t recognize that this is happening, resentfulness can set in, and productivity can plummet.
4. Lack of Job Security
Joining a startup can be a tricky business. It can thrive or quickly crash and burn. It’s crucial to remember this if you decide to move to Silicon Valley to take a job with a startup.
While this can be discouraging in the short term, the abundance of networking opportunities and the plethora of other local companies mean you’ll generally have other options to pursue if you’re let go.
What It’s Really Like to Work and Live in Silicon Valley
It takes a strong person to make it in the Valley. Plan to work long hours and work hard to stand out above the thousands of other software engineers and tech gurus who call Silicon Valley home. Don’t expect to ride the promotion train on the rails of your degree or college successes. Once you’re in the door, it’s all about what you do when you’re on the clock that counts.
You’ll also pay a lot for a place to call home — and you may even have to share it. For example, in 1988, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented a garage from YouTube-head Susan Wojcicki. She needed money to pay her mortgage, and they needed a cheap place to work. Thus, Google was born in a rented garage.
While you may not be planning to invent the next Google or YouTube, you may end up needing to track down a couple of roommates to help pay your rent. Or, if you find a place you can afford, you may end up with a long commute to start and end your day.
Obviously, we can’t tell you what decision to make. But we can tell you this — the Silicon Valley area is one of the most exciting, fast-paced places to live and work in the entire country. You’ll be part of a community you won’t find anywhere else. Even with all of the competition between tech companies, you’ll be blown away by the camaraderie and network of people you’ll establish here.
Depending on where you work in Silicon Valley, you’ll find yourself the recipient of great benefits and even some unusual job perks — such as the annual $2,000 travel credit local success story Airbnb offers its employees to take trips and stay at Airbnb listings or the free drycleaning Facebook employees can take advantage of. Each year, our companies are working to develop better and more extensive perks to keep you happy and working hard.
Even if you aren’t planning on traveling far, the Bay Area offers a great setting. There are beautiful gardens and parks to explore, landmarks to visit and restaurants to sample — and they are all within driving distance of anywhere in the Valley.
Moving to Silicon Valley
While the Bay Area can be expensive, there are affordable pockets just outside of the city if you know where to look. If you’re looking for a way to land your dream job without breaking the bank, we think you’ll love Hayward, CA.
Located along the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay, its proximity to San Fransisco as well as other parts of Silicon Valley is unmatched. Not only that, but it’s well-connected to the city’s public transportation system (BART) and, perhaps most importantly, its median cost of housing is significantly lower. It’s a diverse community with plenty to offer its residents, and it just might be the perfect option for someone who wants to work in the Valley without paying the high costs of living.
If you’ve decided to make the leap and move out to our area, welcome! We’re excited for you to join our little corner of California and enjoy all it has to offer — both professionally and personally. If you’re interested in exploring Hayward and its potential to provide affordable housing in proximity to San Francisco and the rest of Silicon Valley, we’d love to help you get started.
With a variety of properties in the Hayward and East Bay areas, Marcotte Properties is here to make it easier and more affordable to find an apartment in Silicon Valley. Call us today at 800-538-1724 to schedule an appointment and find out how we can help you come home to Silicon Valley.