5 reasons engineers should leave the Bay Area (and 5 reasons to stay)

With Twitter declaring that employees can work from home for the rest of their lives, where does this leave Silicon Valley and the Bay Area? Do engineers need northern California anymore?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Home is lovely. But what about the life?

Image via Yucel Moran

Tech companies are suddenly giving their employees something they never expected: (some kind of) liberty.

The coronavirus has led to the vast majority of tech employees working from home. This, in turn, has led tech CEOs to think: "Hey, this kinda works. It's a lot cheaper, too."

SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same--here's what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

Some, therefore, have declared some employees can now work from anywhere -- Twitter being at the forefront, with Facebook, as usual, desperate to copy.

This leaves many tech employees wondering whether to leave the Bay Area and live somewhere that isn't quite so expensive. And passive-aggressive. And (allegedly) progressive.

I'm here to help them make that decision. Specifically, to help engineers -- far more vital than the gabfesting types such as project managers -- plan their future.

Here, then, are five reasons for leaving the Bay Area.

  1. Space. Just imagine living in, who knows, Idaho and having 4,000 square feet all for you, your cat and someone who (maybe) loves you. You can have an office that's bigger than any office you've ever had. You can sound proof that office and decorate it with dubious imagery. You'll never, ever have anyone come up behind you, emitting sweaty breath down your neck and demanding your work.
  2. Money. Think of how much further it'll go. You can get a 2,700 square foot house in Boise for $438,000. You can pay cash for that. Yes, by simply putting down a couple of years' bonus. The rest of your money you can use on things you never imagined. Like four Teslas, including a truck. And your own personal drone collection.
  3. Time. Your breathing won't feel the same. Once you have space and money, everything moves that little bit more slowly. If everyone around you isn't in a mad rush, you'll feel the wave of that influence. Work will seem like a peculiar pleasure, as opposed to a peculiar pressure.
  4. Love. Everyone knows that being munificent makes you appear slightly more magnificent. Should your current lover -- or cat -- not wish to move to Boise, just the mere flash of your black American Express card will make members of your target sex look at you with expanded eyes. You surely never dreamed of that.
  5. Side Projects. You have space, money, time and love. These are the very essences of creative freedom. Now, you'll feel motivated and able to build, build, build. Whether it be for your employer or for the sheer satisfaction of your own genius. Finally, you'll be the engineer you've always wanted to be.

This all sounds quite splendid, doesn't it? Yet, before you call your friendly local realtor and have them come by in their leased Mercedes and mask, please consider these five reasons for maybe, perhaps staying where you are.

  1. Boise Doesn't Want You. Over the years, Silicon Valley types haven't enjoyed a pristine image. I blame Mark Zuckerberg, naturally. So when some advanced-thinking California types have decamped to the likes of Boise, they've not always been met with dance troupes sporting necklaces of the finest potatoes. Instead, there's been some local resentment of rapid growth. When tech types arrive, three things happen: more traffic, higher house prices and a desperate cultural homegeneity.
  2. Zoom. Do you really want to communicate via the likes of Zoom for the rest of your career? Do you really want to become so isolated that you can never sit in a meeting and sneer so openly at a project manager that they bow their heads in shame? It's not quite so effective on Zoom, is it?
  3. Kids. Yes, you may be one of those who already has children or is contemplating such a dangerous prospect. In the Bay Area, you have the excuse of a long commute and an even longer day at the office. You can get away and leave your kids in the hands of, well, someone else. That may not be so easy when you're permanently working from home. You'll feel responsibilty. That's hard.
  4. Love. Let's face it, if you're still single, you work so hard that you don't have much time for dating. And, being an engineer, your direct Tinder methods still come across as a little, well, gauche. Or rude. Or plain depraved. That's why any lovers you've had, you've met at the office. Until the office rules changed. Well, you still ignored them sometimes, right? When you're working from home in Idaho, you won't meet anyone at the office. You'll be forced to go outside to meet people who have no clue what you do. You may even be compelled to learn things like small talk and non-verbal communication. And perhaps there won't be so many life coaches in your new, smaller city to get you through this.
  5. Food (And Money). It was so good in the corporate cafeteria, wasn't it? It was healthy, and even tasty. Even when you're working from home in the Bay Area, you can still get corporate lunch boxes sent to your home. In Boise, you may have to fend for yourself. Can you imagine even having to think about something like that? Can you conceive of just how much of your precious brainspace could get taken up by such fripperies as working out how to make a sardine sandwich? How will you sustain yourself is a basic of life. And what if the local restaurants aren't as good as the ones in the Bay Area? How will you survive? Worse, and I just thought I'd mention this in passing, if you move away tech companies are going to start paying you less. They're like that, you know.

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