The “Glamour” of Silicon Valley

July 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

I wrote this article for the Women 2.0 blog which originally appeared on July 12, 2012.

I’m often pinged by people outside of technology that are looking to transition into working in the tech field for advice. They either want to work at a startup or Google/Facebook.

When asked why, they cite their interest in working in an exciting field – and then they ask me if it’s as glamorous as they’ve heard it made out to be. My first reaction is, “lolwut?! Working in tech is…glamorous? Ya’ll need to stop watching so much The Social Network.”

I had this conversation with an engineer friend at a startup, and he pointed out that it really is glamorous. Or as he likes to put it, “uh, have you see other people’s jobs? The vast majority suck.”

If glamour is defined as Hollywood-like glitz, red carpets, living life in the fast lane and throwing dollars out of your car, then no, it is far from glamorous.

If glamour is defined as working on something you are passionate about, looking forward to Mondays, and truly enjoying your job, then yes, Silicon Valley is glamorous.

Part of the problem with this perception is that it appears that most of these views are shaped by what is in movies or the media. There’s a perception that if you start a company, it’s only a matter of time until you make it big, with “making it big,” defined as getting bought or going public.

But the truth is, it’s a LOT of hard work.

For every startup that does succeed, there are so many more that fail. There are ups and there are downs, there are highs and there are lows. It’s stressful and there are a lot of sacrifices you have to make working at a startup. There’s a ton of uncertainty and you don’t always know what the next day will bring.

Sometimes it’s exciting, and sometimes you want to curl up into a ball in the corner and be reclusive for 5 minutes. For every high point you experience, there will be many more low points, and many more failures.

Maybe it’s the stress that keeps us going, or the uncertainty, but in the end, whether or not you succeed or fail, you’ll enjoy it. You’ll learn to embrace the failures because it’s not true failure unless you learn nothing from it. However, startups aren’t for everyone – particularly small stage startups. There are those that can’t stomach the risk that comes with working at a startup.

Likewise there are those that wouldn’t be able to handle the processes set at a larger, more established company. Either way, working in technology is “glamorous” in that there are vast opportunities out there to do something you truly enjoy.

Whether you’re looking to join an early-stage startup, a startup that already has a product-market fit, or a more established company, if you go in with the expectations of the glamour portrayed by the media, you’ll likely be sorely disappointed.

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