Silicon Valley, an El Dorado for developers

It stirs up the dreams of ambitious entrepreneurs, fascinates students from all over the world and attracts the top talents of the high tech industry like a magnet. Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is the beating heart of technological innovation. There is no doubt that you know its name: Silicon Valley.

Epicenter of tech giants, it is home to Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix and Yahoo!, among others. For over a century, it has seen the legends of the IT industry. Among them, Steve Jobs, Marc Zuckerberg, Scott Cook and Larry Page. Each year, 60,000 start-ups are created there with the hope of a success story like Facebook. Today, developers see it as an El Dorado… but this has not always been the case!

Photo credit: Giuseppe Milo (www.pixael.com) via Foter.com /CC BY-NC

2000–2016: from hardware to software

At the end of the 90s, the popularization of the Internet with the creation of the World Wide Web led to a genuine economic boom. ICT startups multiplied at lightning speed, thus opening the way to what history now remembers as the dot-com era. Driven by the digital revolution, jobs linked to hardware experienced strong demand at the time. But ever since the disastrous dot-com bubble burst in 2000, the employment landscape in Silicon Valley has undergone a profound transformation.

Mercurynews reveals that over the last 15 years, the demand in the Bay Area job market has shifted from hardware to software. As a result, 38,8% of manufacturing jobs have disappeared, that is 93,000 jobs cut. At the same time, jobs in software have grown significantly with the creation of 93,500 positions, an increase of 19%. A godsend for developers, for whom Silicon Valley has become a golden goose.

The highest wages in the market

With a higher demand for skilled workforce than supply, wages in the IT sector have reached peak levels. To attract top talents, Silicon Valley companies do not skimp on money and offer high salaries. According to a study conducted by Dice, in 2015, the average salary for tech professionals in Silicon Valley was 118,243$, that is two times the average US income (53,657$ in 2014). That’s right! Not to mention the many other advantages offered: free food, unlimited vacation, dry-cleaning service, massages, pet-friendly offices…

For their part, interns are not outdone: they earn between 6,000 and 10,000$ per month, a sum often supplemented by a little bonus to help pay for housing — when the company does not simply completely cover its cost. In three months, they hoard the equivalent of a service sector worker’s yearly salary. With their monthly salary of 554,40€, French interns have a good reason to be jealous…

The price to pay

Six-figure salaries, benefits like nowhere else: it is no surprise that this oasis of opulence attracts techies from the four corners of the world. Nevertheless, the price to pay to work in Silicon Valley measures up to its largesse: it is exorbitant. For even though it can boast of offering the country’s highest wages, Silicon Valley also has the most expensive housing market. To such an extent that more and more workers turn to cheaper housing alternatives, like living in their car. Such is the case of product designer Kurt Varner who slept in his Honda Civic for 4 months, or Katharine Patterson, software engineer at Google, who lives in a 1969 VW Camper.

Beyond the financial cost it represents, getting a job in Silicon Valley — and keeping it — entails great personal sacrifices. In an environment where productivity is king, employers expect steadfast dedication from their employees. Work weeks last between 60 and 80 hours, leaving very little time for personal life, let alone sleep. To save valuable minutes, some go as far as eating only liquid food, thus avoiding meals. The use of stimulants like Adderall as well as drugs — LSD, cocaine, heroin — has become common practice. This workaholism is not without consequence on techies’ health: there is a disturbingly large number of mental problems (chronic stress, anxiety, depression), intestinal and muscular disorders…

But nothing sufficient to tarnish its drawing power. For even though life is not all rosy in Silicon Valley, one thing is certain: it will continue to stir up dreams.