Advice, Women in Tech

My Observations of San Francisco as a Tech Worker Pre-Covid

I went to San Francisco for a week for work and this was my observation

We’ve all heard of the delicious clam chowder, the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Bridge, the famous cable cars in San Francisco. The city that’s also known as the city of Bay or Bay Area. I went there late 2019 to speak at a tech conference, decided to do more than just touristy activities and saw the city from a different light.

Second Or Third Generation Asian Americans Tech Celebrities

Whether you’re in a subway or a shopping mall, you’d hear people talking in American accent about pop culture or the latest technology only to turn around and see Asian faces. These folks are the second or third-generation Asian Americans and they are all around the city in San Francisco. They are also like mini-celebrities with a sizeable audience, but instead of being on screens of movie theaters, they are on screens of your mobile devices, via YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Medium, Facebook or iTunes Podcast. Disclaimer: The sizeable audience part is measured by the number of followers they have on social media who may or may not be real humans.

Large Billboards Promoting Software

There’s nothing surprising about large billboards; you see them in almost every city in every country. But what I find amazing is that ten out of ten large billboards that I saw in the Bay Area are promoting software. That human resource software, that chat app, that customer relationship management system, that email newsletter software, that incident management app; it was as if the skyscraper and medium rectangle banner ads that you often see as you browse through the web came to life in San Francisco.

Everyone (That I Spoke To) Works At A Tech Company

That woman who graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing; she works in people operations in a tech company. That man who dropped out of uni halfway through his Bachelor of science; he works as a community manager at another tech company. That person I met as I was waiting for my morning coffee; they work as a UX designer at yet another tech company. Even that Uber driver who lives near Palo Alto and drives to and fro San Francisco multiple times a day used to work at a tech company in San Francisco. One thing I have to admit though is that some of the tech companies mentioned by people I’ve met don’t ring a bell.

Jeans And Tech No Brand T-shirt Are Acceptable Fashion Choices

You see people wearing jeans. You see people wearing no brand t-shirts that they’ve probably received for free with a logo of a tech company. Everywhere. Before you think they can’t afford to buy clothes, let me share with you a fact; most of them are software engineers and tech workers and they make six figures annually.

Startup, Ship, Runway, Bootstrap, Scale, Incubator And Hustlers Are The Most Commonly Used Words

And they don’t usually mean the same thing as described in the dictionary. For example, they are hustlers and initially thought about bootstrapping their startup before they got into that incubator program. Hopefully, they ship something big and scale before exhausting the runway. Cringe-worthy much?

Homeless Folks

You might say what does homeless folks got to do with tech-related observations about San Francisco but please hear me out. In San Francisco, you will see at least one homeless person at every block. For a city that is well-known for innovation, it’s heartbreaking to see that the city cannot innovate well enough to solve its number one problem effectively — the homeless population. I was told that unless you work in tech, rent has become unaffordable in recent years, hence, the growing population of homeless.

My Main Takeaways As A Tech Worker

Although I’ve been working in tech for almost two decades, before visiting the Bay Area, I always had this feeling of missing out as I was not located there. I always had this image that the Bay Area has the best, smartest and most capable tech people in the world. I always felt that I would be this small clueless fish in the big pond when I hang out with the tech workers in San Francisco.

I have to say that visiting the place has opened my eyes. Yes, there are lots of smart people in San Francisco and Bay Area but they are no different from all the smart and capable people everywhere else in the world. Yes, San Francisco is a great place to be for tech lovers and tech companies but it also comes with a high cost, literally. It’s so true that technology shapes culture and I witnessed that in the Bay Area. The fast, the always-on, the instant gratification culture. Would I move to San Francisco in a heartbeat? No. Would I visit again? Yes.