My Silicon Valley Job History

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-10-1828

When I first started this blog, I thought I would use it as a chance to talk about what it was like to live and work in a place like Silicon Valley. So to commemorate my first year blog anniversary (this week), I thought I’d do a post like this for the fun of it.

I’d like to start by saying that this is why I like being anonymous: so that I may be able to safely share some things about the places I’ve worked for in the past, as well as comment on whom I’ve worked for without having to fear undesirable “repercussions”.

One of the perks of living and working in the Bay Area is to have the opportunity to be a part of the booming trades of Silicon Valley. It’s true that our cost of living is one of the many challenges of living in this area. It is also true, from my observation that the middle class in this part of the nation is getting squeezed harder and harder. It’s almost as if our middle class is eroding since it’s beginning to look like this place is split between the haves and have nots and those in the middle are pulled in one direction or the other depending on how the cards have fallen for them in the last couple of decades.

At any rate, most of the professionals who work for the technical industry are the middle class, and they are the lifeblood of this place. Many can be found toiling for long hours at their decent, well-paying jobs that are required to keep themselves financially afloat in this grossly overvalued part of the world.

Oracle Corporation

Some of the most memorable highs and lows I’ve experienced at work have been as an ordinary — and by all accounts — average employee in the following companies which shall remain nameless outside of the clues below. [It’s easy enough to figure out actually.]

What’s My Job History Like?

The Bosses.

Here are the some photos of previous people I’ve worked for. I’m happy to report that none of these people chewed up and spit out my soul…. I actually enjoyed working at these companies which these big bosses have helped create.

John Chambers     Charles Schwab

Larry Ellison     David Packard, Bill Hewlett

You can read more about these men and the companies they’ve built, in these books:

  • The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: *God Doesn’t Think He’s Larry Ellison
  • You’re Fifty–Now What? Investing for the Second Half of Your Life
  • Guide to Financial Independence: Simple Solutions for Busy People
  • John Chambers and the Cisco Way: Navigating Through Volatility
  • Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company

Well, okay, I’ve given away some of the names here, but let’s just play along, shall we?

The Stock Price Meltdowns.

All these companies had their stock gravely affected by the dot com bust and subsequent bear market.

(a) Company A: Hit a high of over $45 per share in late 2000, currently the price is at a little over $21 per share.

(b) Company B: Hit a high of over $70 a share in late 1999, with current price at under $50 a share.

(c) Company C: Hit a high of $80 a share in late 1999, with current price at around $33 a share.

(d) Company D: Hit a high of over $50 per share in early 1999 and the current stock price is now at around $22 a share.

What’s amazing is how some of these stocks have hit the same exact high price point at exactly the same point in time while none have fully recovered their once lofty stock price levels. If you bought any of these stocks 7 or 8 years ago and held on, you’ve unfortunately been carrying dead wood.

The Fun Experiences.

It wasn’t always this way with the stock prices though. There was once a time when these companies had unbelievable high P.E. ratios and soaring stock price valuations. Today, with their stocks in the dust, you can at least count on these places for the great perks and benefits they still offer [free gym membership, telecommuting privileges, on site daycare!] along with a wealth of valuable learning experiences.

Some memorable experiences I’ve had in each company:

(a) Company A was the incubator that churned out a lot of former engineers who eventually became active participants in the internet age as founders for successful startups at a later time. Even several people I knew who stayed put in this company became very well rewarded and eventually climbed up the executive ladder to hold places of seniority (no, I did not share the same fate). Notable as well was that I started my job here before Netscape existed, which meant that this was a time when there were no internet GUIs, when all consoles were character based and we could only entertain ourselves with Usenet.

(b) Company B was a great place to work, with a lot of young managers foisting a very friendly workplace culture upon us workers. I recall one guy who didn’t do squat and somehow B.S’d his way into making people do his work while simultaneously taking credit for it. He was also just a regular engineer, but after a dozen years, I was more than surprised to find that he now heads the San Francisco chapter of a prominent angel funding firm. Well, with his excellent persuasive and negotiating skills, maybe I shouldn’t have been too surprised.

(c) Company C outsourced a lot of their work to foreign contractors, and turned out to be extremely successful. I remember the hard hours and many great friendships that I made. Despite the work load and pressure, hard-driving management, 24 hour support calls on top of the development time we put in during the day, I have a keen pride and fondness for this place. This place turned out to be a giant in its industry, as one responsible for the foundation of the internet as we know it today. It had clout as if it were the Google of its time, going on acquisition sprees and turning everything it touched into gold.

(d) Company D was a highly politically charged place that had a lot of “strange” people in it. I ended up in a team whose team lead became entangled in a complex sexual harrassment case with one of our team members. I didn’t realize how disruptive such a situation can turn out for everyone else in a work group when this kind of thing happens. I was just glad I left the place right after that. Still, I have to credit this place for helping me learn Java in its earliest release.

The Commutes.

Two of my commutes ran between 20 to 30 minutes, one way, and they were relatively short. The others were a bear: over an hour for each one, door-to-door, and in the late 1990’s it was even more horrendous when traffic packed the interstate highways courtesy of the technical job boom. Today, my dream is to find a job that takes me under 15 minutes to get to, but that’s pretty much close to impossible just given where I’m located. Unless you live smack in a city that has these jobs, commuting will be a fixture in life.

The Salaries.

I received standard base salaries for engineers in the West Coast. There was this premium paid during the dot com era which is probably around 50% more of what we get today.


Now that I’ve spilled some beans, you may get a feel for the companies we have around here, which you’ll realize isn’t much different from many other large companies elsewhere :). I hope that these were remotely interesting anecdotes from our corner of the world. Many more titillating skeletons in the closet abound around here but I’ll leave it to Valleywag and TechCrunch to do this job. 🙂

Blog Anniversary Giveaway!

Which brings me to one other reason why I wrote this post: this week, I am celebrating my first year blog anniversary and this post figures in that celebration! I am holding a contest (e.g. “a giveaway” in blogosphere parlance) to mark this occasion, and if you’d like a headstart in joining, please comment on this post and share with us your own funny, interesting, sad, wacky work, job or business related experience that you’d like. In fact, you can tell us anything about your occupation, past or present. I’ll be covering the details of this giveaway tomorrow!

You can also read more about my salacious Silicon Valley job experiences right here.

Note: Contest is over. Thank you!
Image Credit: Wikipedia, Post Gazette, IT Jungle, PeopleSoft-Planet

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

ryan October 18, 2007 at 8:32 am

first job out of college after a year of applying (3.2 GPA Finance degree) paid a paltry 25K (cleveland)

national city then decided they would hire the lowest possible worker that could maybe fumble through part of the job, to cut costs. so they started bringing in a couple people who 1 had their GED, the other didnt. they paid them more b/c they had been tellers at a branch for a month.

this situation, plus the fact that you could not switch jobs intercompany for at least a year, prompted my departure.

26, and still looking for a good job, unfortunately.

financial hack October 18, 2007 at 8:40 am

I don’t miss the living prices, but I do miss the energy of Silicon Valley.

Jeff October 18, 2007 at 10:08 am

Well this is more in line with sad, but my first job interview after I graduated from college was on the morning of Sept. 11. I was living in Boston. The interview was early and I showed up to the office and saw the place in a frenzy. I had no idea what was going on. The receptionist had a radio on and filled me in on what had happened, and told me the office was closing for the day.

It had been a struggle just to get that interview, and by this point I figured I was never going to get a job. But on that day, after hearing what happened, that was the furthest thing from my mind.

Silicon Valley Blogger October 18, 2007 at 10:30 am

Ryan –
With a finance degree, you’ll no doubt land a good job. From what I hear there are quite a number of avenues to take with such a background. You’ll get there!

Financial Hack – yes, it’s always been pretty exciting here, but also stressful. I always figured this was a very “youth-friendly” place. But very tough to retire in because of the costs.

Jeff – 9/11 taught me to stop sweating the small stuff. It changed my life perspective so completely. It’s a shame that stuff like this doesn’t affect other people — like my current boss for instance, who really doesn’t care about anything at all except for getting his projects done on time.

Vixen October 18, 2007 at 11:06 am

My first job out of high school was in the deli section of a well-known grocery chain on the West Coast. It was horrible; I’d work with harsh chemicals that gave me burns and rashes, hot oil, malfunctioning machines and often had to cover for the bakery. To top it off, the store continually broke labor union laws and my labor was exploited by working off the clock (no pay) at least five to eight hours a week.

I hated the job, although my mother wanted me to stay there since I’d receive benefits in two months. I decided that my happiness was more important and I made a promise to myself that I would never again work a job I hated. It was pointless; why stay somewhere you hate when you could find a place you love? I took a risk and started working at a hole-in-the-wall cafe. The job only lasted two months before building was shut down due to not being structurally reinforced.

The moment I got word, I started job hunted. I applied at every restaurant in a ten mile radius for a waitressing position despite nearly zero experience. Day two, I came across the restaurant that I still work at to this day. It happened to be their weekly open slot for interviews and I sold myself to the first manager. I ended up landing a second interview and got a call within a week saying I was hired.

I’ve been at this job over two years now, and I utterly adore it. Waitressing has its highs and lows, but where else could a college student earn 17-27 dollars an hour? Extremely flexible schedule and room for mobility. I now run every shift I work there and am the Certified Trainer for the store. I have even gotten offers to train at the new openings locations in other areas.

My point here is that I learned a valuable lesson at the mere age of 19. What takes some people a life time, I realized then. There is no point in working a dead-end job that you hate. It’s worth the risk to find a place you can look forward to going to five days a week.

thisisbeth October 18, 2007 at 12:40 pm

I’ve only had one job since graduating nine years ago. I’ve had the same boss for all nine years in the same department (a couple of different positions). In two weeks our company will have a new name–the fifth major name in my nine years (three or four minor tweaks have occurred within those major ones–like adding the corporate name to our division name and vice versa). After the third name, I suggested to my boss that we save money by writing our company name on a whiteboard, rather than having an official sign. I’m starting to think that would’ve been a stellar idea!

I tend to tell people what my company does, rather than give the name. It’s easier that way.

Patrick October 18, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Congrats on one year of blogging! 🙂

I’ve worked a few jobs, but the most memorable was my time in the USAF. I lived in England and west TX, traveled the world and had more life experiences in 6 years than many people have in 20. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, but it was time for me to move on professionally.

Now, I am a desk monkey in a cubicle farm. 🙁 I like the stability and hours of my current job, but I miss the comaraderie and challenges from my military days.

Chief Family Officer October 18, 2007 at 8:40 pm

Happy Blogoversary!

This was a fun post 😀 It reminded me of my job handling the administrative tasks for a charitable foundation set up by a very popular local company. We got a huge donation of books to give out at schools, and my boss swiped a couple for herself – which would have been fine if it had been a donation just for some event being held by the company. Not great, but not illegal. I could just picture the IRS knocking on our door wanting documentation of our activities. This and similar incidents made me so uncomfortable that I quit as soon as I got an offer for another job.

salve October 18, 2007 at 10:48 pm

ei, happy anniversary!

my first job was uber-boring (research assistant for a real estate association) but I spent only 3 months there. still, it was fun to witness how the association conspired to halt development of low-cost housing subdivisions through a moratorium. looking back now, i should have learned from the experience a thing or two about the hidden stories behind business news. later on, i became a journalist and no two days are ever the same!

Shadox October 19, 2007 at 12:48 am

I agree with some of your social commentary about the Valley, however, I love living here. There is always that dream of striking it rich with the next Google… 🙂

I hope you weren’t trying to hide the names of the companies you worked for. People who live around here recognize the faces in the pictures, not to mention that buildings.

Happy 1 year anniversary. You’ve done a great job.

PinoyTech October 19, 2007 at 2:23 am

It’s my turn now.

I am an IT Manager for an international company. This is the first company I have worked for. Back then it was just starting but it’s form of business is way different from what it is doing now. Back then we were engaged in email marketing and I was a web programmer / web designer.

The company went bankrupt. I stayed even with the delayed salary because I became friends with the owners. Or maybe I was too naive back then to know the importance of a salary (My parents still gave me allowances even when I was working). So back to my story. I resigned after 3 months of delayed salaries.

At these time. I had a work-at-home job as a web programmer / web designer. But I ‘resigned’ (I stopped working on the projects then they fired me) because I couldn’t handle working at home. I couldn’t balance my work and life.

I went on to work as a web designer and flash programmer / designer in an outsourcing company. We worked on websites outsourced by foreign clients. After 5 months of working in this company, I was downsized because of economical reasons.

A week after that, my old company started calling me to do a freelance job. After I did the job, they offered me the same position (web programmer / web designer)in their re-capitalized company (new capital came in.. if there’s such a word). I grew there. Learned network administration, system administration, learned more skills as I met new employees. Finally, promotion after promotion, the day came when they thought I could handle the job as an IT Manager.

Well, that’s it. My story. Phew…

Lynnae @ Being Frugal October 19, 2007 at 8:47 am

Happy Anniversary!

My job history? Well, I graduated with a degree in Sociology that I’ve never used. I was working at Target when I graduated, but quickly moved on to working at a job site for developmentally disabled adults. I was eventually promoted to floor manager.

My husband and I moved, and I got another job at a job site for developmentally disabled adults. Eventually that led to a job as a teaching assistant for the Early Childhood Special Education Preschool in my county. I worked there until I had my first child, and I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last 10 years.

Being a stay-at-home mom has definitely been my most difficult, yet most rewarding, job to date. 🙂

Lazy Man October 19, 2007 at 9:36 am

Nothing like the mystery giveaway. Entertaining yourself on Usenet was fun!

ispf October 19, 2007 at 10:20 am

SVB, Happy bloggiversary!

You have an impressive job history. Mine seems pale compared to that, but since you invited to share, here we go 🙂 I started working last year at a company which sounds exactly like your Company D with tons of politics and a lot of “strange” people. That said I have made a few friends and found my groove work-wise. I have decided to stick around for some more time to gain some “experience” before deciding to move on.

The Baglady October 19, 2007 at 4:46 pm

LOL, I immediately recognized the Oracle buildings on this post since my hubby is an ex-Oracler and I used to work a few blocks away on Twin Dolphins Dr. He totally hated that place and took a paycut and went to a game company. Now after more than a year at the game company he is still getting paid less than Oracle, but he likes his job a lot better. I am focusing on working for smaller companies here for now. The big companies definitely have better benefits but I’m working on collecting a good selection of stock options.

Silicon Valley Blogger October 19, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Thanks to all who have relayed their stories so far and who have wished me a “Happy Blog Birthday!” It’s been a fulfilling and fun year doing this stuff and I hope I can keep churning out the posts to your liking. 🙂 And nothing beats the connections I’ve made through this forum as well!

Shadox — Just want to say I didn’t mean to hide the identity of the companies I work for. I just didn’t want to mention them blatantly. It’s better when Google can’t trace things back to me. 😉

BagLady — hehe. Great you recognized those buildings. They’re right on top of where the former Marine World that used to be there when I first moved into the area. The place makes me nervous with its glass buildings sitting above land fill on an earthquake zone! Notice how they honor the former Marine World residents with street names (e.g. twin dolphins. lol)! Very interesting about your husband. We have a lot more in common since we’ve got a long “video gaming history” in our background as well. It is also true that these gaming companies typically pay less than other software companies. I guess they can afford to pay less when everyone wants to get a chance to join them and make/play games all day long… Don’t forget the free perks ;)!

Thrifty Penny October 20, 2007 at 8:31 pm

Congrats on your blog anniversary! I enjoy reading your posts…very clever indeed. My job history…let’s see…I started working when I was 14 years old…it’s pretty long and varied. I’ve been around. 😉

In high school: I worked at a local university in the accounting department and soil & crop sciences department. I also had the “privilege” working at Marble Slab Creamery, Taco Bell, and Schloztsky’s Deli.

In college:
I had federal work study jobs in the business school, law school, and civil engineering research dept. I also had a part-time job working for a temp agency. From that, I worked at an insurance company and a homebuilder. I was one of the people on the side of road in the heat holding a sign directing traffic. I also interned at 3 civil engineering companies.

After college: Currently, I work for an architecture/civil engineering company as a transportation engineer. It’s weird having one job and so much free time. So I started this blog to occupy my time.

My embarrassing job moment: I arrived on my first day at the insurance company feeling queasy. The office was located in a nice rich area. I was determined to make a good impression and wanted to stay the 8 hours. My boss took me out to lunch to show me around. I only had 3 bites of my burger; I’m still not feeling good. We left the restaraunt, and I threw up in the parking lot in front of him. He made some remark that he was glad I vommitted in the parking lot instead of his luxurious car. I wanted to die!

Kim October 21, 2007 at 7:48 am

Happy Blogerversary! Thanks for the insight – having visited SF several times – it is where I would love to live. But alas, way too expensive.

Michael October 21, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Congratulations on your anniversary. And of course the success you’ve had up to this point. It’s an inspiration to all.

Damien October 22, 2007 at 1:33 pm

Your bosses look so old! I hope I am a boss by that age! Well, as a teacher, that would mean a Principal and no thank you on that one . . . not my calling! Interesting post.

Hilda October 23, 2007 at 12:42 am

Here’s a funny story about my job: We use the overhead paging system a lot to communicate quickly at work. From time to time, we have to page a department vs a specific person’s name.

One of the departments is called Facilities Operations or FacOps, for short. Now, some of my co-workers have really thick accent. When they say ‘FacOps’ it sometimes comes out like they’re cussing. Care to guess what it sounds like?

Anyway, it cracks me up everytime I hear that on the overhead page. My co-workers with accent are pretty funny bunch of people and will sometimes deliberately say the cuss-like words, especially if that department is slow to respond. They take advantage knowing that nobody is going to get them in trouble!

Andy September 22, 2008 at 3:39 am

Great! Enjoyed reading entire post.

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