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Life in The Valley – or is it The Bay?

It seems like it’s been eons, but a little less than a month ago I found out that I got a dream job at an “online start up”: in Silicon Valley. Since then, I really haven’t had the chance to stop and think about what that means. So, when Ken suggested I put together a short post on the difference between working in corporate Canada and being at ground zero of the online world, I finally stopped and reflected.

So, here I am. It’s 10:30 pm in California. I just finished a full day of working from about 9:00 am to 9:30 pm. I could, literally, work longer, but my brain stops functioning properly after the 12 hour mark. I’m not alone. The brilliant group of engineers and researchers I’m crammed into a small space with (I’m told these are fancy digs for a start up) keep the same hours, then pack up laptops and take more work home with them. Many of them have had to leave movies mid-plot to solve issues.
But there aren’t any complaints here. I went from beating my head against my desk for years, wondering if I’m alone in the world to doing what I love for hours on end. The energy in this room is enough to keep me going. It feels as if I’ve plugged myself into a high voltage power supply and I’m running at full power for the first time in my career. The only issue I had was adjusting to this environment. I told “my new boss”:, “Gee, I’ve spent the last five years ranting, ‘You just don’t get it!’ Now, I’m saying to you, ‘You just don’t get how many people out there don’t get it!'”
Although I haven’t had much time to adjust to living in the San Francisco area, I have noticed a couple of significant things. Regarding the living situation. You either live in San Francisco, in the East Bay (Berkley/Oakland) or in the Palo Alto area. Everywhere else is not quite sufficient. We chose San Francisco. We’ve always been urbanites. Although there are gorgeous homes in the Palo Alto, we kept being drawn to the city. Here is something to know: San Francisco is foggy and sometimes downright chilly. Not cold as in winter in Canada, but I get a shiver even in the middle of the day when the fog rolls in. The Peninsula and the Bays are beautiful and sunny every single day. When they say the weather is turning for the worst, I don’t see any difference.
“Finding a rental in San Francisco”: is “currently hellish”: We finally found the perfect place, but it wasn’t easy. We went to 40+ showings/open houses/etc. and encountered multiple competitors at each. We were told the second wave of the dot com boom is one of the factors behind the hot market. I’m not the only transplant here.
It’s really difficult to describe how different it is other than to say that if you were to take “The Cluetrain Manifesto”: and make it into a movie, I would be in a leading role right now. I feel totally and completely vindicated and a little like I’m dreaming (please don’t pinch me).
I know that I’ve come home when I can pay my rent through “PayPal”:; “Craigslist”: is *the* going resource for everything and is used by everyone; giving out one’s “Skype”: identity is as common as giving out one’s phone number; my first few contacts didn’t use business cards, they ‘beamed’ me their info; and I haven’t had to explain what a blog is to anyone here…even my esthetician had her own blog! I could cry.
Although life is drastically different here, I think I’ll adjust to it just fine. My next task is to figure out the lingo so I can fit in with the locals. I hear it interchanged so much that I can’t quite figure out whether I live in The Valley or The Bay Area.


  1. mike
    mike September 15, 2005

    Right now I live in Toronto. There is a good chance that in 6 months I will be moving to Santa Clara (silicon valley if I’m not mistaken). Reading your post just got me really excited to do so.

  2. Peter
    Peter September 15, 2005

    Tara how wonderful that you’ve found meaningful work. I’ve been reading your comments for a while and this one really made my morning up here in Oakville where I keep saying “there is stuff happening out there that’s changing everything we know.” Keep posting. Peter

  3. Joy
    Joy September 18, 2005

    That story put a smile on my face. Happy for you, Tara. Don’t know you, but happy for you.
    Being in Vancouver and working with ground zero of the digital world, I can certainly relate to that which you describe 🙂

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