So You Want To Move To SF/Silicon Valley?
It must be the time of the year with soon to be college grads figuring out their next move, but I’ve been answering a number of emails surrounding similar topics. Topics ranging from my time at Google, the advantages of doing your own startup, joining a startup, or working for a larger company. Instead of rewriting my opinion via email repeatedly, this seems like the perfect medium to share my thoughts.
(If you’re reading this off of one of my emails, I’m happy to respond to any of the areas below or add additional topics as needed.)
Startup vs. BIG Company
I joined a very big team at Google in the summer of 2013 working with advertisers in order to improve their AdWords strategy. In the summer of 2014 I moved to a very small team focusing on consulting Mobile App Developer companies on their paid ads. I’ve been pursuing learning how to program for the last year+ taking a Java course, and partaking in Udacity’s Android Nanodegree. The benefit of working at Google is I have leveraged their resources and opportunities to find a project I can work on to get real world experience building an Android app as a side project while in my current role.
The myth that every team at Google is like working for a massive machine designing one button across dozens of devices is not true. The last 3 months I’ve been on unpaid leave to work on Android development and have gotten to work and speak with many Android teams at Google. Through all these conversations I’ve realized there are many different types of teams within a huge company like Google. Some teams are almost completely autonomous startups within GoogleX like the Project Wing or Self-Driving Car teams while others are more of the traditional eng teams you’d expect to find at Google.
When I moved out here I had an iPhone5 exercise holster that I had built in college. Through that process I knew I wanted to learn how to build things so I knew moving to Google would allow me to develop my technical skills, which at the time I did not know what skills that would entail.
The moral of the story here is that working for a larger company one has the advantage of utilizing their resources whether it be learning from different teams or working on projects that you create from scratch. If you’re not sure the exact direction you want to pursue than bigger companies may provide some of these benefits to assist in that search. On the other hand, if you already have an idea of exactly what you want to do, I’d say it doesn’t matter the size.
I would focus less on the size of the company and more on what skills you are looking to build and if that is feasible in the role you are pursuing.
One of the best pieces of advice that I received from a mentor who’s the VP at a well known startup is:
Invest in learning and make a career decision which opens more doors rather than closes.
Living in SF vs. The Valley
This is another question for recent grads moving out here. I’ve lived in what’s called “The South Bay”, everywhere south of SF down to San Jose since 2013. It is now March of 2016 and I’ve started looking for places in SF.
Two good reasons to live in the South Bay is if it’s closer to work and if you can save a significant amount of money.
Since 2013, the latter of the two is becoming less of a reality, so if you’re not working down here it does not make sense. I have no major complaints living in Sunnyvale. My bike ride to work is 15–25 minutes and the weather tends to be sunnier and less windy more days than it is in SF.
It really depends on how you are looking to spend your time. I knew for the first few years out here I’d be working really hard during the day and studying at night to learn how to code so enduring the 1.5–2 hour commute each way didn’t make sense.
However, now that I have those skills more developed I’m looking forward to moving to SF and taking advantage of the small things like making last minute plans, hosting friends and family when they visit SF, or being able to walk to my favorite spots in the neighborhood.