Silicon Valley’s New Hiring Problem

Over the years, I have had the privilege of being invited to speak to grad students at many of the leading universities in the US and UK. As a technology historian and industry analyst, who has written much about Silicon Valley and tracked its success and failures since 1981, I am asked to talk to students about the role Silicon Valley has played in the tech revolution and trends that may impact their job futures.

Last week, I was invited to speak to graduate students at a private symposium in one of our southern states. I shared some of the histories of Silicon Valley and discussed significant trends in AI, VR, AR, and automated vehicles. I enjoy talking to students who are close to going into the world and carving a career in many fields.

The last time I did this was with a grad program at a Southern California University and these students were very interested in Silicon Valley and the potential jobs they could get in the tech hub of the US. That was about 18 months ago.

This time, when I spoke to these students about Silicon Valley, their view of our region was very negative. While they had a high interest in AI, AR, VR, and automated vehicles, they were less interested in working in Silicon Valley. This view surprised me. In all of my meeting with students in the past, Silicon Valley was high on their list to come to and work with companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, HP, Intel, and many Valley companies that are driving technology forward.

Not this time. Some students were blunt with their views. A few students saw Silicon Valley as evil, citing Facebook, Twitter, and Google, explicitly saying they see them invading peoples privacy and making the world a less safe place. One person wondered how I could still support Silicon Valley, given its potential for upsetting democracy around the world. Their views were mostly generalizations from what they have read. No doubt, some of them have been impacted by fake news and Facebook and Twitters positive and negative impact on their social lives.

Many had been reading about Silicon Valley’s high housing prices, traffic congestion and, San Fransisco and the Bay Areas serious homeless problems. While they did ask me about starting salaries with these big tech companies and knew that some of them paid just-out-of-college graduates good money, they still felt it was too expensive even to consider a job in Silicon Valley. But quite a few said their negative view of Silicon Valley is what would drive them to other companies outside of our region.

After I left this symposium, I wondered if this was perhaps a midwest or southern US view. But I posted the comments from some of the students on my Facebook page and got a lot of feedback that said this slightly cynical view of Silicon Valley is very similar with students on the east coast and some west coast colleges too.

Given these grad students views of Silicon Valley, we might be seeing a real problem developing in attracting top talent to Silicon Valley now, and in the future. The local newspapers have been doing stories on the high cost of living in the Bay Area and how it has driven many people from our region to other areas of the country with lower housing prices and living costs are less. The median price of a house is about $1.3 million in San Jose alone.

At the moment, there seems to be no relief to this high cost of living in Silicon Valley. Many companies in the Valley are leading the charge in AI, AR, VR, automated vehicles, biotechnology, security, etc. and some can’t find enough workers to help them expand these programs.
Add to this the negative view some graduates have on Silicon Valley, and you can see that attracting new young talent to Bay Area companies may be a bigger problem than some have suggested.

I spoke with an HR professional in the Valley, and this person said they are not having any problem getting interns. However, they admitted that keeping them, given the cost of living here, is becoming a bigger problem. When I asked about students views of Silicon Valley, this HR pro confirmed that our image had taken a hit, and some students have become very picky about which company they intern at this year.

I do not know, without more research, how clear this negative view is throughout the college student population. However, the cost of living will be a real problem even if they do want to work at a Silicon Valley company. The combination of these two factors does not bode well for the Valley possibly landing top graduate talent either in the short or long term.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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