You can call me a software engineer or a software developer. You can call me a computer scientist. You can even call me a Technical Yahoo! Software System Development Engineer. Whatever. I call myself a programmer, maybe a hacker on self-congratulatory days.

My first programming-related job was working as a systems administrator during my senior year of undergrad studies. I did a lot of network and computer maintenance that year, but I also had a chance to put together some custom software. After that, I had a grant as a Master’s student to develop science and math projects for elementary school students. As part of this job, I built a new website and database for the grant and all its associated projects. Most recently, I was developing radar software for a small defense contractor. This was my first full-time job, and also my first software-only job. However, it was not a job in a software-only company, and I’ve decided that’s where I want to be.

I don’t want to work for the software division of some company. I don’t want to work in network administration. I definitely don’t want to be anyone’s “computer guy”. I want to be a part of a dedicated software firm.

No one can truly thrive without continual learning. You learn or you fall behind, regardless of what field you are in. No matter how much you know, no matter how skilled you are, others will eventually surpass you if you don’t strive to stay ahead. I know that there are many things I need to learn about building quality software, and I feel that I am likely to learn some of these things best in a dedicated software company.

In a software company, the focus is on the software (or it should be). That means that there is more attention directed toward software quality, toward software development productivity. It means that a lot of the management grew out of the developer pool, and should know what it takes to build quality software. Most importantly, it means that there’s a wealth of talented and experienced developers to learn from. I want to know how to built large systems. I want to learn how hundreds of programmers can work together. I want to discover how world-class software is grown. Maybe I could learn these things at a non-software company, but it would certainly be harder.

There are a lot of software firms in the world, but I can tell you one place where most of them are not: Mississippi. You can probably guess where I used to live.

Since Mississippi has few software firms, it would be rather difficult for me to find my ideal job there. Besides, neither I nor my fiancée ever planned to live in Mississippi forever. Neither of us were born or raised in Mississippi, and neither of us have any wish to grow old there. We were destined to move eventually.

When my fiancée and I started investigating where we should live, we wanted to restrict our search to places that would have abundant jobs for both of us. She’s a psychologist. Most software companies are headquartered in or near large cities. A luck would have it, most people are also in or near large cities. Since more people imply more opportunities for psychologists, our fields’ job opportunities overlap best in major cities. (Funny how most opportunities seem to be where most people are . . . .)

We ranked some of the best cities for both of us, and three options came out on top: Boston, San Diego, and Silicon Valley. She applied for jobs in those three areas, and we decided we’d go wherever she got an offer. In the end, she received offers in both San Diego and Silicon Valley (specifically Palo Alto). Of those two, Palo Alto appeared to have more of a future for her, as well as more opportunities for me. That pretty much ended the discussion of where we should live. She accepted a position in Palo Alto and I began the process of applying for jobs myself.

So, where does a programmer apply for jobs in Silicon Valley? Lots and lots of places. I’ll talk more about that soon.

6 Comments on “New Job Part 1: Why Silicon Valley?”

  1. William Furr Says:

    “I want to be a part of a dedicated software firm.”

    I came to the exact same conclusion about six months into my current job.

    Also, that’s totally sweet that ya’ll were able to move forward together in your respective careers. That tension is one of the more difficult parts of a relationship. I’m excited about going to Boston soon for much the same reasons.

  2. Andy Says:

    “You can call me a software engineer or a software developer. You can call me a computer scientist. You can even call me a Technical Yahoo! Software System Development Engineer. Whatever. I call myself a programmer, maybe a hacker on self-congratulatory days.”

    I believe you should add after this, “just don’t call me late for dinner”

    Hope the job is going well man. Still needing ideas for solitary space!

  3. Derek Park Says:

    Billy:
    I really think that most good software developers will eventually want to be part of a software firm. The desire to really shape and build a quality product is just easier to satisfy there than just about anywhere else. For the same reason, I think most good developers will also tend to gravitate towards smaller companies at some point in their careers. It allows more control over the product.

    I’m glad we were able to move together, too. I’m totally never doing the long-distance thing again. I’d rather one of us be unemployed for a while than for us to be separated. I hope you enjoy Boston, and I really hope that works well for you.

    Andy:
    Is that a comment about how I’m always late, or about how I really like to eat? :)

    The job is going well. Interesting work so far, playing with Hadoop. I think the big problem with solitary space is probably a lack of time rather than a lack of ideas. Speaking of time, the next part in this series probably won’t be out until next week. A little too busy this weekend.

    I hope you both are doing well, and have a great holiday.

  4. Andrew Says:

    Good to see you posting again. I look forward to reading the rest, even though I already know the ending.

  5. David McGraw Says:

    Very interesting post… I’m in nearly the exact situation. I’m in my final semester here at the university in Kansas, looking to find a job out in Cali (where I’ll be taking the fiancee). ;)

    I’m interesting to hear how this turns out for you.

  6. Peter Burns Says:

    I’m about a year into a similar situation. I moved out to SF a year ago for the software industry. There’s no comparison with the programming job markets in rural Kentucky or Alabama, but I think I’ll stay in SF at least as much for the people here.

    SF is a weird, beautiful place.