My First Year in Silicon Valley

After spending the previous six years of my life in a tiny town for college and a Midwestern city for work, I moved to take a Software Engineering job at a large Bay Area tech company. Here are my takeaways, one year in.

The temperature ranges maybe 20ºF year-round. While that wasn’t the highlight of the last year, it was up there.

How are your coworkers different at a major tech company?

Coworker A is still on the waiting list for his AirPods Pro

How does the culture differ?

I think one very interesting thing that stands out is how much more motivated everyone is by promotions/compensation. At my previous companies, bonuses/promotions were either not a thing or not a thing that people cared or spoke about. It’s much different here.

Does all that time spent on studying data structures and algorithms for interviews ever come in handy?

Even if moderately useful, I’m still too scarred from Leetcoding to do it as a hobby.

How does the engineering work itself differ from now?

While the work is going to be different no matter where you go (you’re going to be changing products, after all), I think the biggest difference is the focus on correctness.

Is it possible to have a life or do you just work all day now?

To some extent, work/life balance is what you make of it. I really love what I do so I work more than 40 hours a week, but I know plenty of people that do not. I also know people that work significantly more than me. It seems that my coworkers that are laser-focused on a looming promotion are the ones that are really working like crazy, and those that are later on into their careers seem to be taking it easy.

Is it as good as you expected?

tl;dr — yep
  • On-site gym means I don’t need to take an extra hour out of my precious free time to improve my physical and mental health 🧠
  • A significantly higher paycheck obviously reduces financial stress in my life, something I carried quite a bit of throughout my life 💵
  • Working on significantly more challenging problems, while a negative for some, means I derive a lot more fulfillment from the work I do each day 🧗‍♂️
  • A workplace full of passionate engineers means it’s a lot easier for me to talk to my coworkers about interesting technical problems. If I spend three hours hunting down a crazy bug there will always be multiple pairs of ears that want to hear about every twist and turn I encountered along the way. It makes for a really fun environment! 🤓
  • To be entirely honest, proving to myself that I could work for a major tech company, in itself, had a profound effect on my confidence. While working 2000 hours a year to help some company’s bottom line shouldn’t be something anyone is proud of, when you spend years dreaming of doing something and then you do it… well, you’re kind of proud of it. Just long enough before dreaming up whatever the next step is, at least 😋
  • The work itself is more difficult, too, and while rewarding, it brings with it more frustration than I’m used to. 😤
  • All of the mental overhead in evaluating projects is new to me and I can’t say I love it, though I’m noticeably better at prioritization now. I guess it’s a wash? 🤷‍♂️

twitter.com/bayareabell — DM me on Twitter if you have any questions on anything, iOS or otherwise. I’m no industry vet but I’ll help if I can :)

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