Recent publications suggest that working in “The Valley” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
To many people, landing a full time job in Silicon Valley is the holy grail of employment. High pay, outrageous benefits and a relaxed, youthful company culture makes a job at a startup sound much better than your average desk jockey position. In addition, with an emphasis on changing the world and inventing the next big thing, everyone from creatives to visionaries are keen to get involved. For all these reasons, being offered employment in The Valley is often viewed as being “offered a seat on a rocket ship”, as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg famously once said.
And indeed, compared to many other industries, the pay in Silicon Valley positions is certainly superior. The database of tech worker salaries known as Visa Explorer found last year that “some of the highest salaries were posted by some of the world’s largest and most profitable companies.” For example, vice president in engineering at Apple will earn you $406,000 per annum, while a European director of advertising would earn a base salary of $560,000.
However, despite high pay and high aspirations, the picture in 2016 isn’t necessarily all rosy. Recently, in the publishing and media world, there’s been a noted trend of former Silicon Valley employees publishing tell-all teardowns of the workplace cultures they were once part of. Some say that high pay and benefits aren’t worth the long hours, nauseatingly enthusiastic company culture, and the demands of being “on board” with everything the company represents.
It seems that each time one of these pieces goes public, a groundswell of interest rises up around it, suggesting that the too-good-to-be-true tales of The Valley are just that. But there is a bit of irony to the trend, too: once the most coveted industry to work in, these writers now say it’s all smoke and mirrors. Who’s to say these writers’ negative experiences aren’t just a result of their personal preferences, rather than a broadly characteristic representation of working in the tech world? Ultimately, readers of these works have to decide for themselves, but here is a look at the most prominent takedowns to be published recently:
Anna Weiner’s account of living and working in Silicon Valley in 2013 doesn’t name the company she actually worked for, but details gender-based issues, low company morale and mandatory company bonding activities that she’d rather not attend. Working as a customer support rep, she reveals that the engineers in the company held an air of superiority over non-tech positions like hers. In her piece, which quickly went viral, she says “I would say more, but I signed an NDA.”
Jarett Kobek’s novel is said to be flying off the shelves of the independent bookstores in San Francisco, a city that is reeling from the tech money that began invading it five years ago. The Guardian reports: “More funny than obnoxious, the novel has become a sleeper sensation – a more or less self-published book that landed a favorable review above the fold on the front page of the New York Times’ arts section It has dipped into the Amazon top 500, and appears set for a wider international release in six languages.” Based on the author’s experiences doing what he calls “every low-level, high-paying job the internet has to offer, from web design to systems admin,” he pinpoints the rise of social media as the time when his relationship to the internet began to fracture.
Dan Lyons was a laid-off tech journalist when he got a job at HubSpot, the marketing software company that helps companies convert their website visitors into customers. He explains that the company was a mismatch for his age, saying “It’s just hard to fit in sometimes when you have, you know – if you’re married, you have kids and you want to go home and you don’t want to build your life around a company. You don’t want to go to parties, you don’t want to go kayaking or do team-building exercises.”
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