Being in the Right Place

I didn’t particularly want to move to Silicon Valley. In August of 2016 I had recently passed Google’s hiring committee, and was going through the team matching process trying to find a home. I talked to 3 teams in the Bay Area and one in Colorado, but I kept pestering my recruiter to send me more – specifically, to send me some matches in my hometown of Seattle.

Eventually, the long-suffering recruiter told me that my options were Boulder, the Bay Area or nothing. Since I really wanted the job, I joined a team in San Bruno and moved to the San Francisco peninsula. Looking back a year later, moving to the area was obviously the right move for both my personal development and my impact on the world. But I had to come here before I could realize how true that was.

To get the inevitable criticism out of the way: yes, the cost of living in the Bay Area is frustratingly high. It’s crowded (compared to some places) and tech has an unhealthily large impact on the local ecosystem. Local politics are also laughably broken, directly contributing to that high cost of living. For someone with different priorities than my own, it could be a terrible choice.

Despite all of that, there are two reasons why I wouldn’t trade the year I’ve spent on the peninsula for a year anywhere else in the world.

First, the opportunities I’ve been presented with since coming here outshine anything I’d seen before. Google might be willing to reach into the far corners of the globe to seek out talent, but small and mid-sized companies tend to show a preference for what’s at hand out of pragmatic necessity. I likely wouldn’t have even applied, let alone been brought in for an interview, for my current position at Y Combinator except for the fact that I happened to be a few minutes away. And while my current position was in large part a result of luck (the way most things in life are, to a greater degree than we like to admit) other similar ones are available here in greater quantities and concentration than anywhere else in the world1.

The second advantage is emotional and unquantifiable, but very real. It’s a feeling that I’ve seen best captured in New York, New York popularized by Frank Sinatra. You know, the line that goes:

If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere

There’s something deeply attractive about measuring yourself against the best in the world. And if you work in technology, the best in the world are in San Francisco2.

  1. I can say this with a modest amount of confidence after having lived and worked in both Seattle and London, two other cities known for their tech industry.

  2. Obviously, San Francisco doesn’t literally contain a majority of the best people in tech. But it has a higher concentration of them.

Published on 03 Oct 2017