Silicon Valley still top location for IT professionals?

Job geo-location not as important now with employment and business opportunities more globally distributed today, market watchers observe, but agree Silicon Valley still top spot for tech innovation and startups.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor on

Industry voices are mixed on whether Silicon Valley is still the leading global location IT professionals aspire to work in, as globalization, mobility and Asia's growing tech dominance have made job and business opportunities more distributed across the globe, hence, downplaying the importance of geographical location. Most agree, however, that the Valley remains the prime spot for tech innovation and startups.

Douglas Howell, executive vice president of IT at recruitment agency Hudson, noted that Silicon Valley is "losing some of its luster" as the world's top employment location for IT professionals due primarily to cost.

Geographically located in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area in California, United States, the area is home to many of the world's largest tech companies including Google, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Yahoo.

Chicago-based Howell told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that while several major IT players remain in the Valley, other companies which chose to "stay away" do so in favor of lower-cost markets within the United States, where the overall financial requirements of doing a business--including taxes and labor expenses--are not as high.

According to Annie Lim, IT commerce manager from recruiter Robert Walters, with globalization, geographical location does not hold as much importance as it previously did. Thanks to technological advancements and mobile workforces, most companies today have a team of IT professionals based in different offices all over the globe, Lim said in an e-mail.

Vincent Lauria, who is based in Silicon Valley and the co-founder of forum-hosting solutions startup Lefora, noted that in terms of career and business opportunities, the location--such as whether one was in the U.S. or India--had a "huge advantage 20 years ago".

"[Today, however,] location doesn't have such an edge anymore [and] lots more opportunities are spread out evenly among cities across the globe," Lauria said in a phone interview with ZDNet Asia. He attributed this to factors such as the rise of remote working, developing markets and global corporations starting offices in those areas.

For instance, a company may choose to hire professionals located across the world and have them work from home, paying them salaries that are competitive in their local market, he explained. "The Internet is a flattening force when it comes to information sharing and communications," he added.

Lauria, nonetheless, noted that while there is now a large IT market for professionals in several locations globally, Silicon Valley is still the top place for startups. The Valley's culture, enthusiasm and support network of knowledge sharing and partnerships are "unmatched", he said.

Silicon Valley for latest in tech
Wong Lim Soon, head of computer science department at the National University of Singapore's School of Computing, noted that when it comes to finding the best location for IT jobs and professionals, the nature of the organization matters more than where it is located.

For that reason, Silicon Valley remains the top location because it is home to the "right kind" of companies, Wong explained in an e-mail. He described such companies as having "exciting projects, exciting people, good pay, and lots of employment opportunities".

Chua Ruiwen, co-founder and CTO of Singapore-based Staircase 2 Productions concurred that since many of the leading tech companies operate in that area, simply by geography, the Valley remains the "premier place to be if you want to be at the absolute cutting edge of tech".

"[But], it's not absolutely necessary to be [in Silicon Valley] to survive," he said in an e-mail interview. "If one is a consultant comfortable in an MNC (multinational corporation) that tends to stick to the tried-and-tested, this is perhaps not too relevant."

Chua, who is also co-founder of HackerspaceSG, noted that the Valley is not the only location identified today as a "tech capital". He pointed to other cities in the U.S. such as New York and Austin, as well as areas outside of North America such as Beijing, Singapore, Israel and Europe, which he said might not be "as well-publicized" as IT hotspots.

For Lee Min Xuan, co-founder of Singapore startups PlayMoolah and StartUp Lah, however, Silicon Valley is still the most attractive place for IT professionals, even simply from a "pure earnings perspective".

The Singaporean, who has been working in Silicon Valley for the last two years, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that the area is home to a professional community of top minds from across the globe, supports strong IPR (intellectual property rights) and has venture capital concentration. In addition, the region has good infrastructure and a pleasant environment in which IT professionals can settle for the long term, Lee said.

Asia's growing dominance
However, Silicon Valley's appeal may diminish with the rise of other IT powerhouses, specifically, Asia.

Audrey Seah, senior consultant of IT&T at Hudson Singapore, noted that Asia's IT market is booming and the region is today's "growth engine". More candidates are heading to the region including Shanghai and Singapore, especially since many MNCs have opted to place their Asia-Pacific headquarters in the latter, Seah highlighted in her e-mail.

Lee agreed that Asia's IT market is "bustling", and added that Singapore is in the "midst of all the action" with high connectivity to many big markets in the rest of the world.

Similarly, Lauria noted that Singapore has a "Silicon Valley vibe", with both entrepreneurs starting companies and large global corporations setting up local offices.

Along with the country's modern IT infrastructure, strong financial support from the government, an English-speaking population and a large, active and growing community of IT professionals, Singapore is one of the top tech locations worldwide, he said.

Besides Singapore, he also highlighted Bangalore in India, and Hong Kong as other top locations for professionals in the IT industry. The former is an outsourcing hotspot, while the latter has a stable and well-established infrastructure that has attracted many companies to set up their Asian headquarters there.

Glen Joss, manager of IT&T at Hudson Hong Kong, added in an e-mail that Hong Kong has a highly-educated and tech-savvy population. He added that the continuous high demand for skills from local and MNCs means the city still faces a talent shortage, thus, opening up "niche opportunities" for overseas IT professionals to relocate to Hong Kong.

Kirk Drage, Asia-Pacific software industry development manager for Microsoft, who also runs Microsoft's global BizSpark program, pointed out that over 6,000 software entrepreneurs chose to build their companies in Asia.

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