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Cracking the Code to Silicon Valley: My Job Search

May 2, 2015

It seems a lot of people are in transition right now–the entire world actually. Around the world, women are seeking independence and equal rights, and citizens demanding transparency from their government and leaders. Here at home many still don’t have jobs and more companies are downsizing, the price of oil is way down, impacting a lot of other industries and forcing many to make career transitions, or retire early.

Even I’m in transition. After working in the oil and gas industry for 12 years, I am planning to transition to Silicon Valley (SV). No small feat—as I’m learning from my job search. Fortunately, I’ve received some great advice and encouragement from people already working there—some of them total strangers. So for that I am extremely grateful. Thank you so much to everyone who’s agreed to talk to me and give me feedback. You’re golden.

Silicon ValleyMost people think I’m crazy to get out of an industry where I’ve not had to look for work in 10 years. When one job ends another one has always been there waiting for me—and where I get paid extremely well for what I do. For that I am grateful too. Then again, I have always followed or charted my own path.

I’ve wanted to get out of O&G and go into consumer technology for a couple of years, but my own fear that held me back. Like many, I was afraid my skills wouldn’t transfer. After all, to most of the world, Silicon Valley seems like a surreal concept, much like Oz. But come to think of it, the corporate world as a whole seemed that way to me 20 years ago too.

SV is something we hear about all the time but still struggle to grasp exactly what it is and how it works. Is it really a valley? A city? More than one city? Well, it’s all those things, and a concept as well. Hence, it’s shrouded in mysticism like a secret society that most of us could never crack or be invited into. At least that’s how I’ve seen it, until recently when I attended the start up LAUNCH Festival conference in San Francisco.

Innovation MattersAgain, I wasn’t expecting people to be so friendly and open, probably because I’d lived in L.A. and because SV is so ambiguous. I expected it to be more dog-eat-dog. And maybe I’ve been influenced by the series on cable by the same name. I do have to say that the conference was exciting—great to be surrounded by smart and innovative people trying to launch their ideas and tech dreams.  Corporate America, while they say they want to be innovative, struggle to embrace innovation because it means they have to depart from the familiar—from “the way things have always been done,” and when you do that you risk being frowned upon by your peers and colleagues. Few are truly willing to stick their necks out to do that. Very few!

While I believe our “old-school” corporate culture is finally dying out, thanks to millennials in the workplace. There is still a lot of that way of thinking prevalent across America—even among people I know. It’s scary to break habits and chart new trails while everyone else is against you or secretly exclaiming you’ll fail. That’s why Silicon Valley is so appealing to me. There, they are willing to risk it all and fail. And even when they fail, they just start over again with a new idea, until they succeed, which is the antithesis of what we’re used to doing in day-to-day life. Most of us are used to succeeding at all costs, even if we have to change everything and everyone around us to make our failures look like successes.

#Career JourneyI’m familiar with a culture that embraces failure. I had many in my lifetime—and expect to have more—and yet I still ended up a success. Someone aptly put is as, “You had the potential to be a tremendous failure, and yet you turned out ok!” And they were exactly right. Although after several failures everyone had pretty much decided that I would never amount to anything. So keeping myself motivated when the rest of the world had given up on me was not easy—but I did it. And I plan to do it again.

Next time I’ll post some of what I learning as I try to break into the great Silicon Valley. One thing I am doing right away is reading Laszlo Bock‘s book Work Rules. He basically tells you how to effectively apply for a job at Google. Worth its weight in gold!

Stay tuned for more…

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