The Experience of Moving From Australia to Work in Silicon Valley
Apr 11, 2018
5 minute read

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I moved here November last year from Australia. There are many questions from friends in Aussie, but the most frequent are:

“How’s life in Silicon Valley?”

Now that I have lived here for four months, I would try to paint the picture for you.

The Work

I was expecting a lot, but workplace has exceeded my expectation.

The calibre of the people here is incredible. My big boss is a professor at a world-class university. My manager was one of the original authors of a world-famous javascript web framework that I used to use back in Aussie. There are many PhDs in my team with papers which have been cited thousands of times. We have a weekly meeting discussing the latest scientific journals in Machine Learning and AI that mostly just went over my head.

It is glorious.

I have learned so much in just four months. We have people who wrote entirely new data structure just because there aren’t any which could solve our unique problem. Some people have 3-D printed custom enclosure, designed and printed PCBs, then coded the micro-controller and putting it all together, just for fun.

You hear about people like this on the internet. Being on the same team and working together with them is something else. The situation forces you to bring the best out of yourself and to step up to their level. It is challenging and fun.

The feeling that your everyday work helping to hundreds of millions of people navigate their modern life is very fulfilling. Because of the scale, the bugs that only happen to 0.1 percent of customers would mean millions of people having a bad experience. The highs are higher, but the pressure is much higher too.

I am fortunate to be working with a team that deal with many parts of the ecosystem from the desktop, the phone to the watch. I have reached out to many people whom with questions about their domain and everyone has been responding with pure kindness. One guy even travelled from another office to my office just to help me solve a problem because we could not do it online.

Now the office. It is not without its flaws, but it is the single most impressive office building that I have ever seen. Full of greenery and flowers everywhere. Everything is designed to work and look good together. You have to visit it to feel its grandiose. I might be able to give you a tour.

With that said, our team still needs more software engineers. If those above descriptions look great to you, please get in touch :)

The Valley

Let’s get the most significant negative out of the way: the price of housing. It is currently taking a large chunk of my after-tax income. Renting a small two bedroom apartment costs double the amount I paid for my large four bedroom house mortgage in Aussie. Silicon Valley is indeed one of the most expensive places to live in the world.

Aside from the housing price, life is pretty good here. You will get access to Amazon Prime, which doesn’t sound like much, but the two-day free shipping is light years ahead of Aussie. I got a gigabit internet just because I can, with the same price I paid for 100/40 in Aussie. The food is generally around the same price as Aussie, but with more substantial portions. Moreover, there are always unlimited drinks at any fast food restaurants.

Car price is low here compared to Aussie. People drive pretty badly. They rarely use the turn signal correctly. They ignore the speed limit and driving 15mph above the legal limit is a daily occurrence.

Driving on the wrong side of the road was disorienting at first, but you get used to it in a week or so. The unit conversion will take longer. Converting km to miles are approximately one and half times. Celsius to Fahrenheit does not make sense because they are not linear. Your best bet is to use certain milestones e.g. 70f == 21c, 60f == 16c, 50f == 10c and estimate from there.

My wife and baby seem to like this place a lot too. All the libraries here have baby classes where parents can take their babies in for story time, music class and art classes for free. My wife has been making friends with other moms this way.

One of the most problematic things is the concept of Credit Score. Since we just moved here, we do not have any credit history. Because of that, getting a credit card or car loan is tough. The only way I could get those now is because I could show them the offer letter from my company, which apparently helps a lot. It will be a couple of years before I could get good enough history to get a mortgage.

The future

Personally, I would love to stay here if things keep going well like this. There are still many things to try and places to explore.

The first four months here just makes me realise that the Aussie tech scene could improve substantially.

I think this is a perfect place to raise kids because they would grow up in a great environment, surrounded by kids from smart families.

Join me!