The day I moved to the US for college, I knew what I wanted after graduating. I am like most aspiring entrepreneurs and programmers, and wanted to be right in the middle of all the action - Silicon Valley. But when that dream was about to materialize, I decided to let it go.
This is a short post about why. I realize that I’m privileged to have the choice of where I want to live and work that most others don’t, and I’m grateful for that. So please leave any such comments to yourself.
People who know me know that I’ll be joining Google full time soon. For the last two years I’ve been dreaming of working in Google’s mothership in Mountain View, CA. Indeed, my offer was for the same office. But recently, I’ve been having second thoughts about relocating. After putting in a lot of thought, and talking to some wonderful mentors of mine, I’ve decided against moving to Silicon Valley.
I am going to talk about 3 broad categories that I thought about.
- Work - The quality of work, office spaces, and the projects I can work on.
- After work - On a micro-scale, life after work.
- Living - Macro-level quality of life (yes, and housing).
I hope my experience can help others make their choice when they have to. If you would like to talk more, hit me up on Twitter.
In life, I want to work on new, innovating and challenging problems. And I think Google’s Cloud division has them all. It’s one of the most active areas in computing right now - and will be for many years to come. Because of Google’s infrastructure, and diversification plans, the company is investing heavily in cloud.
Seattle is pegged as the Cloud Capital of the world - Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Apple are all here. Much of Google’s own cloud operations happen here. So much work that they are expanding to a significantly large space soon.
So what does that mean for me? Firstly, because I want to join Cloud, it makes sense to be close to action. Being in Seattle exposes me to a whole new world of opportunities within the field that I’m interested in.
It’s very hard for me to imagine a life outside of work in Mountain View. San Francisco is fun, yes. But Mountain View is a suburbia. There isn’t much to do. Living in a city like Seattle brings me right in the center of all the fun and nightlife.
Mobility is much easier in Seattle too. Anecdotally, Bay Area public transit is horrendous. Meanwhile I’ve had no problems in Seattle for the last 4 years without owning a vehicle.
Moreover, most of my friends are staying back in Seattle. Not that I won’t make new friends at work, but it’s too much to start from scratch again (remember, I moved here four years ago)!
Lastly, and of course how could I miss this. Housing!
Let’s look at the constraints for my housing search:
- Studio or 1 bedroom
- Close to work
- Close to some good restaurants
- Close to public transit
Now, in Mountain View, there’s a few choices, but the ones that appeal to me are upwards of $2600 per month.
In Seattle, living in the nice part of the city, in a big apartment, would cost $1500. That’s over $13,000 in annual savings for (objectively) better living conditions. Also, Washington’s no income tax is amazing.
If you’ve been to Seattle, you can’t deny how beautiful this place is. We are surrounded by mountains and lakes and trees. Adventure is less than an hour drive away. Ironically, Seattle has actual views of mountains. :)
My point is, I can have a much better quality of life in Seattle, and spend much (MUCH) less than I would in the Bay Area.
When I moved to Seattle, I thought I’d get used to the rain in a year or so. Four years later, that hasn’t happened yet. For seven months of the year, the rain literally never stops. If it does, it’s still misting out. It’s all grey and gloomy. It’s annoying.
But here’s the thing - if I end up living here, I will eventually get used to it. I’m coming from a place where it rains for a couple of weeks, then it’s either super hot or super cold. It will take time to adjust, but it will happen.
The beautiful views, hiking spots, gorgeous spring and summer make up for the rain.
My biggest concern about staying in Seattle was the opportunity cost. When I think about my future goals - both professionally and personally - I can’t seem to come up good reasons for moving to Silicon Valley. Don’t get me wrong; Silicon Valley is special, most people there are amazing and different. We do have to look past the glamour and gloom, and align the reality with our own goals. They don’t align for me. At least not right now.