It's not all nap pods and or­ganic lunches

Sil­i­con Val­ley i s wor­shipped by many for be­ing home to some of the l argest tech­nol­ogy be­he­moths i n the world. But the ul­tra- com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment and rapid pace of i nnovation comes at a cost to work­ers. An anony­mous New Zealan­der shares what i t’s

Idealog - - CONTENT -

Sil­i­con Val­ley. Two words that con­jure up a mix of en­thu­si­asm and envy among New Zealan­ders when I tell them that’s where I have been work­ing and liv­ing for the past few years.

For the most part, New Zealan­ders – par­tic­u­larly those in the busi­ness or tech world – seem to have de­vel­oped an ob­ses­sion with the place and have a ro­man­tic no­tion about what life is like in San Fran­cisco and the Bay Area. As ev­i­dence of this, we need only look at the plethora of tech­nol­ogy-fo­cused startup hubs sprout­ing all over New Zealand, with al­most ev­ery town and city pro­claim­ing to be – or aim­ing to be – the next Sil­i­con Val­ley of some­thing. “Could Christchurch be­come New Zealand's Sil­i­con Val­ley?” “Busi­ness group sees Nel­son's po­ten­tial to be­come New Zealand's Sil­i­con Val­ley” and “Techa­puna: New Zealand’s Sil­i­con Val­ley?” are just some of the sto­ries mak­ing head­lines here in the last sev­eral years.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to see why. The Bay Area at­tracts some of world’s most tal­ented peo­ple and bright­est thinkers. Sil­i­con Val­ley garage star­tups have mor­phed into bil­lion-dol­lar global com­pa­nies, such as Face­book, Google, Ap­ple, Uber, Net­flix and Tesla. Many of these have changed our lives ir­re­vo­ca­bly. Then there are the end­less perks those work­ing in the Val­ley get to en­joy on a daily ba­sis: trendy head­quar­ters that make the av­er­age out­door kid’s play­ground look lame, free gourmet cafe­te­rias (or­ganic, grass­fed only), mas­sage rooms, nap pods, hair­cuts and on­site doc­tors, fam­ily wide med­i­cal in­sur­ance, ‘un­lim­ited’ an­nual leave. The list goes on.

I know all too well what it’s like to get caught up in the hype around Sil­i­con Val­ley and the life it prom­ises. For years, I dreamed of liv­ing it and work­ing for the next big tech startup that could change the world. No mat­ter how great my life was back home in New Zealand and the work-life bal­ance I en­joyed, some­thing was miss­ing. I re­ally thought that for me to re­ally thrive and be happy and ful­filled in my ca­reer and life, Sil­i­con Val­ley was where I needed to be.

Af­ter sev­eral years this al­lur­ing vi­sion got too much for me to re­sist, so off I went. With no job lined up, I packed up my be­long­ings, booked an open-ended flight, took the plunge and moved to San Fran­cisco. I soon found out it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Af­ter much net­work­ing, end­less cover let­ters and self doubt, I was of­fered a great role within a trans­for­ma­tive startup com­pany, which I still be­lieve will go on to trans­form the lives of many while sav­ing the planet (cliché, but true).

I met some of the most amaz­ing and in­spir­ing peo­ple I have ever en­coun­tered, some whom have gone on to be­come life­long friends. I was liv­ing in some of the hippest parts of the Bay Area and San

There were times where I was ut­terly mis­er­able, l onely and un­healthy, yearn­ing for home, crav­ing bal­ance, and won­der­ing why the hell I be­lieved i n such a fal­lacy.

Fran­cisco and drink­ing Napa Val­ley wine in the week­ends with a hand­some Amer­i­can man who stole my heart. I was liv­ing the dream, on pa­per at least.

But here’s the bit peo­ple in New Zealand don’t hear when we’re busy ro­man­ti­cis­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley: it’s a hard slog. There were times when I was ut­terly mis­er­able, lonely and un­healthy, yearn­ing for home, crav­ing bal­ance, and won­der­ing why the hell I be­lieved in such a fal­lacy.

To start with, the job mar­ket in Sil­i­con Val­ley is both in­sanely com­pet­i­tive and re­lent­less – and rightly so. Those putting in a mere few hours work here and there don’t usu­ally go on to start bil­lion dol­lar com­pa­nies that trans­form the world. Find­ing the right job if you’re not al­ready in the Sil­i­con Val­ley in­ner circle can be as hard as find­ing a house in Auck­land for less than $1 mil­lion and equally as soul de­stroy­ing. Then, when you are hired, you’re ex­pected to work – and not the cushy 40-hour work­ing week New Zealand and most of the West has be­come ac­cus­tomed to, but morn­ing, day, night, week­ends and hol­i­days.

My work day rou­tinely in­volved wak­ing at the break of dawn to take con­fer­ence calls in mul­ti­ple time zones then crack­ing into the ac­tual work­ing day, only to do it all again in the even­ing. Mak­ing time for work­outs, yoga, din­ner with friends or even med­i­ta­tion – all es­sen­tial el­e­ments of my men­tal and phys­i­cal san­ity – was a near im­pos­si­bil­ity at times.

Sil­i­con Val­ley doesn’t stop when you’re sleep­ing, or for the week­ends, ei­ther. Be­fore you’ve even had a chance to open your eyes in the morn­ing, a bar­rage of emails and work re­quests will be in your in­box, which you’re some­how sup­posed to have re­sponded to in your sleep. I wish I could count the num­ber of times that I didn’t have to work some or all of the week­end, an­swer­ing emails from clients or the big boss, but I can’t, be­cause there weren’t any.

While in­tense work­loads may seem like a rea­son­able trade-off if you’re work­ing for a com­pany that has of­fered you some skin in the game (like shares or eq­uity), or if you’re pulling in a hand­some in­come, it’s not. The re­al­ity is a lot peo­ple in the Val­ley (in­clud­ing me) aren’t. We were do­ing it purely for the sake of liv­ing in the Val­ley.

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