I’ve recently been reflecting on why I decided to start my career in technology in the bay area. This might sound like a weird and perhaps pointless thought experiment because I already made my decision. However, the purpose of reflecting on this is to understand why I feel so drawn to the “silicon valley mentality” for lack of a better (and real) term.
Some people will argue that it’s all about the perks. The free food, the ping pong tables, the relaxed environment, etc. Others will argue that they are better than that and that what makes tech great is the great pay and the potential upside from stock (event at mature post-IPO companies)! I think these are all valid reasons to join the “technology” industry but there has to be more to it than just that.
When I talk with my friends about this topic they tend to compare tech with the two other usual suspects: investment banking (IB) + [insert other finance jobs] and management consulting. It’s no secret that these tend to be the top three choices for high-performing students across the top schools in the US. I will say that I seriously consider all three options (maybe for too long) at some point in my undergraduate career. I think that IB and consulting are great career paths for certain people and the industries certainly add value. However, I just couldn’t get excited about them the way I was easily excited about internet technology companies. So why did I decided to take this path?
The Path: Big Tech vs Startups
Before I finally jump into why I started my career in tech in the bay area (sorry for the detour!) I wanted to clarify something. From the outside it can be easy to confuse working in technology vs working for a technology startup. Working at a FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) is very different than working for a seed-stage startup that’s working out of a We-Work. It is the latter (minus the WeWork) that I am attracted to the most.
Although I interned for two summers at one of the big tech companies, I felt how I naturally gravitated towards building something new and perhaps some day start my own company. I am not saying that’s the way to go. I am just trying to share my own experience. This desire to build something from scratch was confirmed when I helped a very small startup launch and scale at my school. I was hooked because even though it was way harder than anything I had done at my internships I felt a lot more ownership and pride in my work. Since then, I’ve been intentionally trying to build new stuff 🙂 Now that that’s out of the way let’s focus on why I did it.
Why I Joined
Part of me acknowledges that the right opportunities presented themselves at the right time and that’s how I ended up here. I’ve been extremely lucky to study at a great school and work at great companies.
Another part of me recognizes that I would’ve probably ended up in this space somehow because I would have naturally gravitated towards it and fight my way in (the way I am still doing to this day!). Regardless of how I will there, I am attracted to the silicon valley because it’s a place for:
- Builders: Silicon Valley is not a real meritocracy by any chance but your best currency is still to build something that people fucking love. If you do that, nothing else really matters.
- Optimists: You have to believe that today is better than yesterday and that tomorrow will be better than today in order to keep pushing and keep changing the world.
- Extreme Outliers: There is something about extremely unlikely outcomes that just gets me. I don’t know if it’s being an underdog, being naive enough to believe I can have a huge positive impact in the world or simply the huge challenge that makes me want to build a great product that people love.