Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why BYU Students Should Start Their Careers in Silicon Valley

First off, this is not an anti-Utah post. I've got lots of friends and family in the Beehive State and nothing but love for BYU. I will always cheer on the great state of Utah and hope it continues to become an economic and technology powerhouse. Heck, my kid’s 529 accounts are in Utah because I’m bullish on the whole state. 

 
That being said, I felt compelled to write this post because BYU students are frequently reaching out to me to get my opinion. I’ve noticed lately that the exuberance for the technology scene in Utah (with good reason) is keeping them from seeing some of the reasons why they might want to start their careers in Silicon Valley.

Even, though the title says BYU, this could apply to any student in Utah or any other state for that matter that is considering launching their career in Silicon Valley.

Here are a bunch of reasons why you should start your career in Silicon Valley.

It's going to get harder later. It is so expensive to live here especially for single income families. The odds of you deciding 10 years into your career that you're ready to give Silicon Valley a shot are slim to none. If you're going to do it, the best chances are while you're young and have a low burn rate. You're not going to want to leave your 5 bedroom house in Lehi for a more expensive two-bedroom cottage in Palo Alto with 4 kids.

It will broaden your worldview. Silicon Valley is just a special place. It will broaden your worldview, it will change what you think is possible, you'll meet a much broader variety of people.  

More companies. When it comes to amazing fast-growing technology companies Utah has a good handful but Silicon Valley still rules the roost. There are a ton of options of places to work when it comes to world-class companies with worldwide brand recognition.

The network. I was lucky enough to start my career at Salesforce. 8 years after starting at Salesforce I can now look at my network and see that I know people at just about every major or fast-growing company in Silicon Valley from the people I met in my first job. That network has helped me in getting other jobs and helped me be better at what I do. I'll continue to benefit even more as my network as a whole progresses and people I know get bigger and more influential roles.

The halo effect. When a company does well, employees of that company often get more credit than they deserve. The same goes for when a company fails. There are immense benefits to starting your career at a company with a strong brand and a great reputation in Silicon Valley.

You’ll be better off if you go back to Utah. If you look at a lot of senior leadership of companies in Utah, you'll often see that they have spent time in Silicon Valley. The skills that you develop at companies in Silicon Valley are valued throughout the world. I've seen it play out time and time again where BYU grads come out to Silicon Valley to work for a few years, then go back to Utah getting paid much more and a much higher position because Utah companies value the Silicon Valley experience.

There are only really two major cons to living here. First is that housing is ridiculously expensive. If the primary way in which you are going to measure early career success is the size of your house, you should really not move here. Also, for a lot of people they have better access to friends and family in Utah, which is a very valid reason to stay in any place.

Utah is a fantastic place to work, but the reality is that Silicon Valley will continue to rule the tech world for the foreseeable future and there are immense career benefits to spending some of the early stages of your career in Silicon Valley.

67 comments:

  1. Solid assessment. I loved the 4+ years I spent in San Jose. Biggest challenge we met, largely tied directly to housing cost, is that one families hit a certain size, say 4 kids with the oldest turning ~12, they would won't up moving to Texas, Washington, Utah, etc. Created a lot of churn in my kids' (and wife's!) social circles. My oldest entering middle school, plus an opportunity too do some fun stuff at Microsoft, was a pretty strong forcing function. I've consistently given the advice to graduating students to do whatever they can to get to the Bay if they want a career in tech.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment, yeah I can imagine the social circle churn would not help being able to stay.

      Delete
  2. There are definitely a lot of benefits to being in a place highly concentrated with people in the industry you'd like to work.

    If I could do it over again, I would certainly give more thought about starting there. But then again, I didn't actually know I would be in the tech industry for my career when I left school.

    The good news for people who don't start in SF is that distance is collapsing because of new technologies that allow people to work remotely and transparently; Zoom even been one of those.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Spot on Derek. Couldn’t agree more. I have a lot of students asked me about staying in Utah, since I now work here, but unequivocally I say, go somewhere else! My time at LinkedIn is insanely valuable both for the experience, connections, and on the resume. Definitely get a ton of credit for the name recognition.

    That said, I now love my house in a Lehi. ;)

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