So You’re Moving To San Jose
Congratulations, you’re moving to San Jose. If you’re reading this, you probably have an offer letter from a tech company in hand, and you’re probably looking for information about the city of your future home, the city for which you will uproot your family, having convinced your husband or wife that “this move could change everything.”
During your first few weeks in San Jose, people will ask you where you live and whether or not you bought your home. This question will seem invasive — it is — but you will soon learn that this is the type of question people regularly ask in San Jose.
If you work in tech, you will find that very few or your coworkers, unlike yourself, live within the San Jose city limits. Instead, they live in neighboring suburbs, like Campbell, or further locations, like Boulder Creek, Menlo Park or even San Francisco. This means that when it comes to advocating for affordable housing in the city where they do business, they simply do not care, because they have nothing to invest in it. There aren’t families of six or more sharing a $3,600 two-bedroom apartment in their neighborhoods.
Naturally, it will be assumed that you work for one of the big three — Google, Apple or Facebook — or perhaps some start-up producing some new app whose logo and web address someone has spotted on somebody’s T-shirt.
When people ask why you’ve moved here, you’ll tell them it was for a job, and everyone will nod their head “of course.” They’ll look to your husband to offer more information about his new position, but he’ll smile and explain that it’s not him; it’s his wife who found the opportunity. He’ll rub your back in the place that tenses up every time you have this conversation.
According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, only 20 percent of executives, senior officers and management roles are filled by women in US high-tech industries. The reasons? Inhospitable work cultures, sexual harassment, long hours and little to no advancement opportunities.
Naturally, it will be assumed that you work for one of the big three — Google, Apple or Facebook — or perhaps some start-up producing some new app whose logo and web address someone has spotted on somebody’s T-shirt. People working in tech like to rep their company T-shirts, and you’ll think it’s as about cool as wearing the tour T-shirt of the band whose concert you’re currently watching. You will likely find yourself unnerved by coworkers who wear company swag every day.
As a woman working in tech in Silicon Valley, I ask you to heed this warning. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, only 20 percent of executives, senior officers and management roles are filled by women in US high-tech industries. The reasons? Inhospitable work cultures, sexual harassment, and little to no advancement opportunities.
With very few women in positions of power, you will find yourself being criticized at times for being too outspoken or too direct. You might be told to smile more or to rebrand yourself as someone more pleasant, someone less feminist, someone with a better sense of humor. If you don’t comply, you will be frozen out of meetings and isolated.
If this happens to you, don’t let the bastards get you down. Use this as an opportunity to learn what can and will happen when your voice is not heard.
Tired after a long day of advocating for yourself, you will be tempted to rely on apps to deliver you food that you could easily pick up on your own. Remember, though, that certain things weren’t made to be delivered — a hot meal is one of them.
Make a point to leave your office before dark. Yes, if you are commuting home from a job outside of San Jose, that commute will be long, but if you make sure to leave before the sun sets, you won’t miss its purples and pinks over the golden foothills, and you might let your mind slip to a place beyond the screens and stand-up desks that rob you of your attention and, by extension, your ability to wonder. We don’t lose our childhood sense of wonder; we freely surrender it—a seemingly unfair trade if you give yourself time to really think about it.
Tired after a long day of advocating for yourself, you will be tempted to rely on apps to deliver you food that you could easily pick up on your own. Remember, though, that certain things weren’t made to be delivered—a hot meal is one of them. You will find that a lot of people here don’t mind something limp or lukewarm. In fact, most restaurants serve only as pickup points for to-go orders, their tables and chairs mostly empty even beneath giant television screens that fail to entice diners to eat in. Find a small Indian restaurant or hole-in-the-wall Thai joint—they’re everywhere—and eat there with your partner. You’ll need each other’s support more than ever.
Even though San Jose is the tenth most populous city in the United States, it will rarely seem that way, as the streets are almost always empty, giving many areas the feeling of a place forgotten by time and strangely preserved.
You will be wise to remember that the people who live in San Jose are not the companies that rent space in San Jose. Not everyone here is consumed by capitalist pursuits. In fact, even though San Jose is the tenth most populous city in the United States, it will rarely seem that way, as the streets are almost always empty, giving many areas the feeling of a place forgotten by time and strangely preserved. Giant, lonely strip malls with the same combinations of TJ Maxx/HomeGoods, Bed Bath & Beyond, buybuy Baby and Buffalo Wild Wings; empty movie theaters in abandoned malls; cloudy vape shops; and ancient-looking Chinese-takeout spots.
In San Jose, you will find glassblowers, hairdressers, soon-to-be-grandpas, grocery-store clerks, security guards and local activists, many of whom would leave this city if they could, but are bound by duty to aging parents or custody terms, living paycheck to paycheck and hoping to make ends meet. You will learn about their lives if you pull yourself away from your phone and chat with the other people riding in your Uber or Lyft.
Contrary to what you might see here, you do not need phones to ride an elevator or wait in line, or while using a crosswalk. You certainly don’t need them when you use a public or office toilet.
In all likelihood, San Jose is not your forever home. You’ve planned to use it as a step up or toward some greater opportunity in a city better suited to your desires. You may even grow weary of its tech-dependent ways and leave on your own accord. Most do. But for the people who actually live here, who call this place home, try to do your best to observe the campsite rule: leave the city how you found it, or maybe just a bit better. Because it’s not San Jose’s fault that San Jose can’t have nice things.