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Is working at a FAANG company in Silicon Valley really worth it? Will the expenses incurred make the job seem much more unreasonable?

As a 10th grader, my dream is to eventually work at a FAANG company (maybe in silicon valley). Recently, however, I've been looking at articles and videos which claim that the expenses one incurs make living there very unreasonable. Some say that it is better to work at a company in a state with lower expenses and to learn a lower-income overall. What are your thoughts on it? #technology #career #job #job-search


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Katerina’s Answer

Mikayla's answer was pretty accurate. I will add my perspective as well.

I have lived and worked in the Bay Area for almost 20 years. There is definitely an attractive quality to these companies and to the Silicon Valley but it has some pretty big tradeoffs.

What you heard about high expenses is true. This is the most expensive area to live in the US outside of Manhattan. For perspective, starting salaries are usually around $80K. Living on your own only really becomes reasonable once you hit over 200K. Most people in an entry level position live at home with parents or with multiple roommates. Be prepared for high costs of living and making sacrifices. Even milk is more expensive here and taxes are incredibly high. Sales tax alone is usually 8-10%.

Also, these jobs have long hours and high stress. I regularly coach junior employees on how to deal with the pressure. All these companies offer amazing side benefits to offset these negatives. My friends and I joke that Google offers onsite laundry services so that you never have to leave (which is nice considering traffic is a nightmare). What Mikayla said about loneliness and isolation is also true. Long hours, rough commutes, and expense means that many people dont have it in them to enjoy life. While others thrive on that environment. You have to know yourself a bit to know if you would love that and be energized by it or if it will be a challenge.

I don't say this to discourage but to provide some realism. Starting your career here makes you a very valuable prospect. You will gain amazing experience in a fast paced environment and it can help you throughout your career. Plus, the area has a lot of activity: great restaurants, bars, sightseeing, and tons to do. If you do it, do it young when you have the ability to take a risk and chase a dream. You may discover that you love it and it is all worth it! Just do so mindfully, knowing that it wont be easy and you will pay a premium on everything.

If given the choice, I would recommend Seattle, WA or Portland, OR, or even Colorado for tech jobs. So many companies are moving there and cost of living is still reasonable.

Thank you for your answer once again! Haha, I heard a lot that google provides great benefits, almost shackled with golden handcuffs which make it hard to leave. Also on that note, I heard that there is a lot of stress involved with working at a FAANG company, as you have mentioned. Once again, I appreciate your insight, I will definitely consider working when I'm young to gain priceless experience in a short time! Aun M.

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Syed’s Answer

Hi Aun,

Think of a job at a FAANG company as a rite of passage. Yes, the Silicon Valley cost of living is very high and you’re basically living check to check at times if you have student loans. However, even just a year of experience at these companies makes you an alum of that company. People continue to market themselves as “ex-Google” for years beyond their time there. You get to work with some of the world’s smartest people who go on to do big things. If you make friends and perform well, people will tap you to join or start exciting, innovative new ventures that will propel your career and earnings forward.

Long story short, it’s worth the short term sacrifice in lifestyle for the long term gain of brand equity on your resume and the expansive network of alum from these companies.

Thank you for your answer! That's definitely an amazing point. I've seen many YouTubers who've worked at Google, and have propelled their career simply by working there. I will try my best to get the right experience so I'm considered by these companies, but I do realize it's gonna be tough and demotivating at times. Thanks again for your valuable insights, and all the best! Aun M.

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Dexter’s Answer

Hi Aun,

As others have stated, it is really expensive to live in the Bay Area. I live in San Jose and for a one bedroom apartment, you can expect to pay $2k+. For a two bedroom apartment, $2.5k+. If you're willing to get a room mate, anything under $1k is considered pretty decent. But, I must say, the pay in the Bay Area is a lot higher than other parts of the country too. For example, I have two interns in back to back years. We ended up hiring one of them back and we paid her six figures as a starting salary for working in the Bay Area. For the second, she ended up taking a job in Atlanta, and her starting salary was about 20% less. If we were to include stock/bonuses, I would estimate that the Atlanta person ended up being paid 30-40% less.

Personally, if you can get a job with any of the FAANG companies, I would recommend it in a heartbeat. In my opinion, having worked people from across different geographies, you won't be able to replicate the experience you'll gain here. Yes, it's much more expensive here (and more stressful due to traffic), but I think it's worth it. After a few years, after you have built-up a reputation as a reliable worker, this is when you should work with your management to go work remote and move to a cheaper part of the country. This is not well known, but many companies will not change your salary. Instead they will keep you salary the same, and let you know that you will not be getting salary increases or promotions for the next few years (this part is something that mangers are told to do, but if you move to a different manager during this time, sometimes this doesn't get communicated). I've personally seen two people in my friend circle do this, and basically, they get a Bay Area salary while they're living in a part of the country where living expenses are 40-50% cheaper.

Anyways, I wish you the best of luck!

--
Dexter

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Mikayla’s Answer

My friend is the CMO of a small-ish company in Silicon Valley. He is probably making near $130k a year, but he can barely afford his rent for a one-bedroom apartment. Another friend moved up there to work with him, but she quit because she couldn't afford to live anywhere near the company's office. She now lives like an hour or more east of the East Bay (much of Silicon Valley) and is still barely making ends meet. Another friend left the Bay Area because the cost of living had pushed her from living in the heart of the City to living an hour+ east of the City. And most of the East Bay region, except Oakland and Berkeley, is gross and there's nothing to do. Go a couple of miles further east... there's really nothing to do. And it's hot out there. But, there are a lot of programs aimed to provide affordable housing. If you work on the Presidio, you can live on the Presidio for like $500 a month. Google provides housing, transportation, and basically a small city for its employees. There's 'affordable housing for teachers' movement. Etc. I would look into those types of programs that are more specific to what you want to do. What does FAANG provide for its employees? Most companies in the Bay Area have significantly unique employee benefits compared to companies anywhere else because of the outrageous cost of living. Weird to me--it's cold up there, and if you're in the City you'll never see a sunset but will probably have like 3-4 roommates. And no car.

Wow, that was a great answer. I've seen this trend with a lot of youtubers leaving silicon valley and selling you a course to get in there. I've also seen much of the same individuals being called out for leaving due to the same reasons of expenses, as well as the overall atmosphere the company provides. I'm very confused about whether I should take the risk or not, I guess time will tell. Aun M.

Yes, Silicon Valley work culture can be really great or really disorganized, depending on whom you're working for. You will definitely be working more than 40 hours. Also, the Bay's culture has been slowly disappearing in the last 10 years. It seems like everyone I know who still lives up there feels really isolated & lonely. BUT, I suggest you take that risk! Take all the risks! The Bay Area and the City are still beautiful. It would absolutely be worth it for you to seek temporary opportunities to live and/or work in the Bay so you can gain your own perspective. If you don't try it for yourself, you'll always wonder what if? Mikayla Hall

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Fabiola’s Answer

Aun,

I work for a Silicon Valley company bur I live in Indiana. My neighbor works for Microsoft working from home. More and more companies like Google are posting remote positions. That will hard for an entry level position but you you can start at a tech company in your geographic area and then try to find a remote position with one of your dream companies.

I hope this helps!

Fab

Thank you for your answer! Yes, I wasn't planning on working at a FAANG company in 10th grade at all, I'm lucky if I get an internship from any company! I just started this question to see if this dream was a wasteful one or one that is misunderstood (as it has been asked frequently). Thanks again for your answer, and all the best! Aun M.

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Sabuj’s Answer

I'm not sure what field you're interested in, but here are some median total compensation packages for 2020 for software engineers (SWEs) in the bay area:

starting level (let's call this L1): total comp: $200k, salary: $134k
L2: $266K, salary: $157k <- you can get promoted to this in 1 - 1.5 years
L3: $344K, salary: $189k <- you are expected to attain this level (i.e. senior SWE) <- promoted to this in 3-5 years

being promoted to these levels is easier as a manager, but you're still expected to be very technically competent and even a leader in your field, i.e. there's no straightforward plan to get to these levels :

L4: $469K Staff SWE
L5: $654K Senior Staff SWE
L6: $878K Director

You need to be at least at L2 to be able to save a good bit of money. You need L3 money invested well for several years to be able to make a down payment on a $1million+ house (it's closer to 1.5 million for more sought after school districts/neighborhoods) and then make monthly payments at a low interest rate without being house poor. Also note that most FAANG companies have very generous 401k matching plans, e.g. up to 50% ($8750/year) of maximum pre-tax federal limit, "free" breakfast lunch dinner, private bus service (or nowadays they also pay for your public transport as well), well stocked microkitchens, gyms, "low cost" health plans, tuition reimbursement, no cap sick time/work from home options, etc so you get lots of help.

So should you accept the challenge? Absolutely! If you love to learn and continuously improve yourself then there's tremendous growth potential. I think there's more earning (and saving) potential in SV or other "premium" markets like NYC than in other markets in the US.

All that being said, I don't think your goal (initially) should be to work at a FAANG company. Please see my reply here if you are interested in becoming a SWE: https://www.careervillage.org/questions/225211/whats-the-best-bootcamp-to-become-a-software-engineer (sorry I couldn't find a way to get a permalink to my post).

Thank you for your answer! Those insights into salary based on experience and competence were very helpful, as well as the benefits. I definitely think I should've rephrased my question as I think I gave many others the impression that I wanted to work at a FAANG company immediately. I don't plan to do this immediately as I feel that's delusional and way too tough to handle, especially at someone my age. I plan to take my time, get a few internships and hopefully build experience so I can show I'm qualified. With that being said, if I do get the opportunity one day to work there while I'm young (the 20s), I definitely won't hesitate to give up an invaluable learning experience. Thank you again, and all the best! Aun M.

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Rich’s Answer

Other responses here went into details about the expenses. It is expensive to live in SV, but the compensation will generally be adjusted to account for that. There are many other great tech hubs in the US, such as Boston and Austin which offer lower cost of living and good salaries.

My advice is to find companies where you can grow. Especially early in your career, you want to invest in your personal growth and learning as much as possible. When in college, I recommend trying to get an internship from a small startup, a midsize company, and a large established software shop (such as a FAANG, but does not have to be). Monetary compensation is one factor among many that contribute to overall job satisfaction and long term happiness. Look for companies that have good internship programs, where you will be treated as a member of the team, working on relevant software projects that challenge you technically and interpersonally. Also, try getting internships in different parts of the country so you can learn first-hand what the lifestyle is like.

By growing through internships, it will also improve your chances of getting accepted into a FAANG after graduation, if this still something you're seeking. FAANG jobs are lucrative, but they are also incredibly competitive.

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John A.’s Answer

Since you're in Indiana, I would look into River North (Chicago, IL). Look up https://www.builtinchicago.org/ There are tons of resources there and they have occasional networking events. River North appears to be booming with startups.
The downside is that they're startups in a bear market, which means they could go under. On the other hand, these companies could "break out" and you could be making FAANG money in a less expensive (albeit expensive) area. Still, before you make the jump, ensure that the company you jump into is stable.

Good luck!

Thank you for your answer! I actually live in Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada located in Ontario. Also, I don't think I wanna start making FAANG money yet, I'm only 15! I hope for this to happen eventually of course, but I want to be able to work at a FAANG company in my lifetime so I gain the experience and knowledge to develop my career. I hope anyone else could benefit from this answer from Indiana though! Thank you again, and all the best! Aun M.

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Fabio’s Answer

Hi Aun,

Working for one of the companies you mentioned will open endless doors for you. As you are currently in the 10th grade, I think it is best to first focus on acquiring the skills needed to have an opportunity for an internship while you are in undergrad. The organizations you are striving to work for have a wide variety of roles so you should ask yourself what type of job you are envisioning. Are you looking to become an engineer? Are you interested in a career in corporate finance within a tech conglomerate? Are you interested in a career in tech sales? These are all good brainstorming questions. While you will change your mind many times it is helpful to have a clear sense of what you want to accomplish within these companies. I wouldn't worry about the cost of living until much later. If given the chance to work at a FAANG, you can learn to figure out your living expenses later. Hope this helps!

Cheers,

Fabio

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