All that glitters is not Silicon Valley

All that glitters is not Silicon Valley

By Richard K. Wallace

Looking to jump start your career in high technology?

You are probably thinking: check the online job site listings, jump on a plane, and head straight to Silicon Valley, the epicenter of all that is hip in tech.

At the time this article was posted,, the industry’s leading job site for engineers, listed more than 3,250 full-time openings for electrical engineers, with salaries ranging from $70,000 to $110,000 in Silicon Valley. Demand is even greater for software engineers, with over 14,100 full-time positions listed, with salaries ranging from $80,000 to $125,000.

But when it comes to landing your dream job in technology’s land of chips and software, job hunters beware: all that glitters is not Silicon Valley.

Over 40? Fuggetabout your dreams of tooling down Highway 101 to your new job at Apple in your brand new Tesla Model 3.

The fact is, age is the silent career killer in Silicon Valley’s high-technology industry, and while companies openly wrestle with the lack of racial and gender diversity they clam up when it comes to disclosing the average age of employees. The ultra-hip culture of the Valley also offers zip in the way of internal support for older workers. High flying tech companies have always focused on younger job applicants, with Millennials the age-demographic of choice for openings up and down California’s storied high-tech corridors.

A better bet? Look into other geographical areas in the U.S. where you will find fast-growing technology industries – and smart ‘new tech’ innovation zones – sprouting up everywhere. Here you will find thriving business incubators, a lively, diverse community of techies, multi-sector tech companies, career mentors, eager investors, and well equipped technology accelerators geared to promising startups – in other words: what Silicon Valley used to be.

According to new research released by jobs and recruiting website Glassdoor, tech job growth is booming outside of Silicon Valley in cities and industry sectors never associated with innovation or technology until now. They list two good reasons why Silicon Valley is no longer the place to launch your career in tech:

  • Other industries are hiring more than traditional tech companies
  • Tech jobs are opening up around smaller metro areas across the country

Glassdoor lists Seattle, Washington, DC, and Detroit as metropolitan areas with the biggest gains in tech job growth, but that’s not half the story.

Austin, Texas and Raleigh, North Carolina, and other cities close to universities are also fueling jobs growth in the tech sector. More and more companies are eschewing Silicon Valley and relocating to destinations where they can take advantage of the eduction-connection – a critical element in any ‘next Silicon Valley,’ and a vital component of every growth-oriented ‘innovation ecosystem.’

According to a new Brookings study, older – and younger – techies would also do well to prospect for jobs at some of the smaller, cooler destination – ‘next Silicon Valley’s popping up all over the country.

The fact is, age discrimination and the Valley’s obsessive focus on millennials, youth, and workers under 40 isn’t just a job killer – it’s also an innovation killer. Genuine, sustainable technology innovation doesn’t choke off the flow of smarts solely based on age.

It takes an ecosystem. And while ‘RocketChip Semi’ may make gazillionaires out of a select few Valley wiz kids, long-term, Silicon Valley’s rarefied, ageist monoculture is doomed to failure.

Emerging innovation districts and a fresh crop of smart ‘new tech’ hubs, many of them located in smaller cities and hip urban areas around the U.S. offer a much more robust, sustainable alternative to future technology job growth than the stifling, millennial-obsessed monoculture of Silicon Valley, critics observe.

Instead of hours spent in traffic on Highway 101 and housing and living costs in the stratosphere, emerging, off-the-beaten path innovation hubs offer young – and old – an attractive work/lifestyle. The package includes highly walkable and small, transit-oriented urban centers, many with well-established, historical, artistic and cultural assets; affordable housing; desirable living conditions; and lively, hopping after-hours downtown’s about which Mountainview Millennials can only dream. [See the case study:  Beyond Millennials: Valuing Older Adults’ Participation in Innovation Districts.]

Technology companies are also growing weary of sticker shock in the Valley and striking out for less expensive digs in places like Sacramento, CA and Albany, NY. Area Development calls these the “hidden gems” of tomorrow: good places to start new enterprises thanks to the democratic spread of innovation, and “affordable, talent-rich ecosystems.”

These hidden gem destinations are also attracting Silicon Valley’s “ageism” rejects. It’s a trend that further strengthens the sustainability and competitiveness of emerging innovation hubs by bringing skilled, experienced 40 and 50-somethings into the workforce where they are filling skills and talent gaps, and providing valuable contributions to local innovation ecosystem.
They offer age diversity, professional expertise and investment capital.

Silicon Valley is also getting a run for its money in regional startup/tech-job competition from an unlikely source. Silicon Valley’s latest destination challenges? Tourist and vacation hot-spots like Niagra Falls, NY, Tampa, FLA, and Hudson, NY, a small city in New York’s Hudson River Valley, just two hours by train from New York City.

“To spark new business creation and growth, many of these cities are launching formal economic development programs, partnering with universities and leveraging existing resources to attract and recruit tech startups and technology job seekers to newly minted, regional innovation hubs.” [ See: Why popular tourist towns are becoming Silicon Valley copycats.]

The anywhere-but Silicon Valley jobs trend is propelling some communities to get creative when it comes to riding the ‘new tech’ wave of next-generation innovation centers. The goal is to keep the best and brightest technology minds from leaving the state to look for jobs and employment out west or on the east coast.

One of these is the state of Arkansas which just launched a website designed to connect people looking for high-tech jobs with employers in Arkansas.

According to Governor Asa Hutchinson, quoted on the website “Now it is time to focus on connecting tech-savvy young people to the growing number of available tech jobs in our state. By connecting those searching for jobs with local employers, will simplify the job-search process and keep more of our tech talent right here in Arkansas.”

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