From time to time someone will email (or be introduced via email) who’s exploring career opportunities in San Francisco or Silicon Valley. Here’s a variation of an email I recently wrote to answer this question – hopefully by putting this somewhere Google can find it I can help more people who are wondering how to have a look at the epicenter of the tech boom for themselves.
To start with, pick a conference or event that is here in a field you’re into and come. Plan to spend 2 weeks or so – aim for an AirBNB or some other form of non-hotel short term rental.
Do a lot of networking upfront – LinkedIn is very well used here.
The main conferences will have plenty of opportunities for Meetups – using Meetup.com and Eventbrite is the best way to find them; they’re often free and sponsors often pay for the hospitality/drinks so they’re great on multiple levels.
Make sure you time your run between the start of September and the middle of November, or then between February and the middle of June. These are the main conference and business seasons – the “holidays” (which is the last 6 weeks of the year from before Thanksgiving until January) and the summer break up these two seasons, and everything you’re looking for – networking, connections, insights – slows down a lot.
The other comment to make is that the Bay area is absolutely inundated with folks – from great schools with great resumes and networks – who want to get into opportunities in the tech space coming out of business schools etc. For 20 years all these folks went to New York and tried their hand at consulting or investment banking or something else that pays smart people very well.
This decade so far, the Bay Area is the new “New York” where smart people come to make their mark, even if they aren’t naturally tech folks or with tech skills – lots of smart folks want in even if they don’t quite know what it is they want into (or have any specific skills or backgrounds to help them stand out other than being smart and going to good schools etc).
I’m just telling you this to set expectations that an email or intro from someone who is “exploring opportunities” isn’t going to get you far – this place is insanely competitive, but if you say “I’m an engineer who helped define the MPEG standard for variable bandwidth video streaming in 10 years ago with a focus on low-power decompression and I’m looking for a new project in the VR space” you’ll get much more of a hearing.
Americans (at least on the west coast) are also very polite, will rarely tell you no (partly because they want to have the option to re-engage if it turns out you do have something special to offer) and a lot of the non-operators in the industry (VCs, lawyers, advisers, marketing people etc) make their money harnessing smart ideas from smart people (operators) so they rarely turn down a chance to chat with someone just in case they’re the next big thing. So, keep that in mind as you evaluate the connections you form (and whether they’ll progress from a genuinely polite conversation and a promise to ‘keep in touch’) while you’re here.
Best of luck – this place isn’t easy, but then being the commercial center of the industry that’s reshaping the world probably shouldn’t be easy anyway 😉