How Silicon Valley Attracts the Best Talent

January 14, 2015

For more than a decade Silicon Valley has been the go-to destination for ambitious young professionals looking to make a big name for themselves. After all, the Bay Area suburb is home to tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook that offer huge starting salaries and even nicer perks. But there are plenty of opportunities for talented careerists beyond the Valley’s most notable names. Startups tend to attract many young coders and engineers as well, even though they don’t pay as well as their established competitors. That’s because there’s always a chance a startup will get bought out by another company, leading to huge payouts for any employees who then make a quick “exit.”

While the migration of so many brilliant individuals to Silicon Valley is good for the tech industry, economists fear that it’s leading to a talent drought in other parts of business. For instance, the number of Harvard Business School students who went into tech rose to 18 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, those who chose careers in finance saw their numbers drop from 35 percent of the graduating class to just 27 percent. To combat this decline in interest, Wall Street financial firms like Goldman Sachs are raising their starting salaries and bonuses for interns. Industries like manufacturing and transportation are also desperate for talent, though they lack the financial clout to compete with Silicon Valley or Wall Street.

Nevertheless, money isn’t everything to many of today’s talented young people. Along with bringing in a big paycheck, they also want to change the world with their work. While this may seem idealistic, Silicon Valley is chock full of companies with similar globe-altering visions. These firms look to make a real impact on humanity using technology and innovation; a concept that is far more appealing to many young people than being a trading drone on Wall Street. But no matter where these budding careerists end up, all of them are guaranteed to need at least one thing: a college degree. The days when dropouts could work their way up from the mailroom are long gone. Nowadays, even those coveted positions are handed to promising interns from universities around the country. As a result, young people entering the working world will likely need a degree to land a job in any industry, let alone highly lucrative ones like tech and finance.



  1. How can small firms keep up with major companies in attracting talented employees?
  1. What qualifications do potential employees need to have in order to land a job at one of the companies mentioned above?


Source: Michal Lev-Ram, “The Global Talent Crunch,” Fortune, September 4, 2014. Photo by: Christian Rondeu.