Yes, yes... it was ALL the chatter in the lounge area of one of our stylish new work areas in the office late last year. Google gave its employees a 10% raise—across the board—plus a cool $1K bonus at year end. Silly Valley software benchmarks show that Google has already been roughly at the top of the pay scale for SW engineers here, but Facebook has been recruiting heavily, and ... well, in some key disciplines (including my own), it's definitely an employee's market.
So, I posted a few articles from local media to my Facebook Wall, and while I was inconspicuously crashing between meetings in the oh-so-tasteful North Bay area of our office building (I could live there and be quite happy), I wrote up the following "Top 10 List" about why I'm not even thinking about making a jump - regardless of what Intel does or does not do to remain "market competitive". Arriving home just before 7pm, I looked at my home email inbox, and saw four notes from friends who weren't on my Friends' list subgroup that saw the news articles I'd posted, all asking if I would be applying to work for Google. One of them helpfully included a req. :) Thanks - but really. No Thanks.
Without further ado, here are the reasons—whimsical, but oh-so-real—why I'm still here. With the exception of #10, they're not about why I don't want to work for Google, but why I'm in no hurry to leave Intel.
10) Mountain View
When the Kid was in high school math there this summer, we joked about whether I needed to pick him up a few blocks away from school. My car, you see, is not up to the community standards of Mountain View. I know some very cool people who live there, the school was nice—but I'm afraid my clunker 1992 Volvo with its "People's Republic of Portland" bumper sticker would be towed away late at night. I'm just not a Mountain View lady, y'all.
I have a nerdgrrrrl crush on Jeffrey. I get a tear in my eye when I see that ad where he heads over to a table for lunch (no, our cafeterias aren't that pristine, but our food is better that the stuff they had) and overhears his coworkers talking about one of our products as the best thing they've ever invented. They forgot all about Jeffrey! Jeffrey drops his tray and slides away in sorrow. I want to go find those guys and verbally eviscera.... er. ....constructively confront them about how they treated Jeffrey. Don't be haters, guys.
8) Did I mention the food?
Our cafeterias rock. Or at least some of them do. OK, so the one in my building could use a bit more ambiance, but it's really a lovely walk over to the one in an adjacent part of campus, and the exercise is a nice touch in the day. It's the only reasonably affordable place to eat in the Bay Area, unless you're up for hitting the little taquerias. (Which I do as well.)
7) The airport parking lot coordinates
Sure, Conan made fun of them, but for someone with my pathetic sense of direction, they're a godsend. I met a friend for lunch in one of the redesigned floors in another building yesterday. "I'm in Napa" or something, said he. I can't even remember. Fortunately, the poles with the familiar "N4" and "G3" are still there; the numbers are just on tasteful discs reminiscent of silicon wafers. You can make it pretty, but the nerdy still shines through. I like that.
6) That crazy five note jingle thing
Yes, it's officially called the "Intel bong", and yes, you may now all start your California jokes. Go for it. But–that little chime is recognizable. Depending on the building you work in, it may go off twice a day to remind you to stretch and keep ergonomics in mind. BUUUUUUUUMMMMMMM. Bum Bum Bum BUM!
5) If you can do it, you generally can do it. Eventually. (Maybe with bruises.)
Guess what? I have a HISTORY degree. Yet now I go to an annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Requirements Engineering Conference most years where I represent Intel as one of the people working at the highest level in a pretty esoteric yet essential discipline. I was interested in the work, demonstrated some aptitude for it when I was asked to take some of it on with no prior experience, found a great mentor, and worked my way through hell and back sometimes to figure out how to learn that stuff and do my day job. (I had a manager once who thought I matrix-reported to my mentor, even though I never officially did.) I was willing to work hard to learn, and I now have a job where this work is the core of what I do. Is it perfect? No. Are there challenges? Oh yeah. (See "bruises", above.) But I got a sweet note just yesterday from someone I worked with awhile back, teaching her some really cool new advance in the discipline that's barely out of prototype stage where it's being developed. It's already helped improve the quality of her work, and she just wanted to say thanks. That note won't buy me anything, and it shouldn’t. I’m just doing my job. You can bet I'm keeping it, though. It's why I do what I do. I'm not qualified on paper—not by education, not by experience prior to Intel—to have the job I have. I have it because Intel was willing to let me try.
4) Soccer practice.
Except for the week I was away at that IEEE conference in September (about a 15-hour flight away, in fact), I've been at every one of the Kid's soccer practices. This year, last year, and really, for the past six years, I'm out there being a soccer mom. If I'm in town, I'm there, and I can usually schedule my "out of town"ness around those dates. Yeah, I make up the work hours at night - often late at night. It works, because I have colleagues around the world and it helps to be available to them in their own time zones sometimes, just as they are to me sometimes. I make it a priority to be at soccer practice, though. It makes a difference to the Kid, and it matters to me.
3) The inevitable results of soccer practice. (Ouch!)
With the rest of my US-based colleagues, I've been pounding my head against the wall, trying to figure out what to choose for health benefits for next year. We have orthodontia planned for 2011, but we also have unplanned broken fingers from time to time, and this year's new addition – the Kid running full-speed into a metal pole. Health insurance matters. I'm utterly baffled by the plans, and the one that everyone is urging me to pick looks like it is NOT the right one for us next year (and perhaps for next year only), but maybe it is? In the midst of wading through all of this, it hit me—I am choosing between five or so exceptionally good plans. I'm not trying to pick the "least worst" among them—because any and all of them are better than what most people will ever have the opportunity to have. I could pick by "eenie-meanie-miney-moe" and end up with a plan that covers me and the Kid quite well, and that won't bankrupt me should the very worst happen.
I'm enrolled in grad school—in my spare time. I'm studying cultural anthropology and semiotics/linguistics, contemplating a doctorate in the same, taking classes a day a week right now. My studies are directly and immediately relevant to my job. I could prove that with an exhaustive PowerPoint® presentation, but my management hasn't asked for a massive amount of documentation. (Or any. For all they know, I'm playing video games on Tuesdays from 11 am-1 pm.) They've asked how they can help me be successful—as a student, as an employee, as a mom, and as a person. I was even asked if I was going to submit a request for funding—which I'm not —but that's partly because I have access to funding elsewhere, and others who want to apply for degree assistance might not have the same options available. So I take classes, I check email and take meetings on either side—and it works. I ran into my second level manager in the cafeteria a few weeks ago—odd, because he's not usually in California. We talked for the better part of an hour, during which he brought up my school plans and asked if there was anything he could do to make this all work better for me. Short of reading the textbooks and writing my papers for me, nope—there's nothing else he can do. It's already better than I expected.
Which brings me to #1...
1) The people
I work with some incredibly awesome people. I know photographers who are doing amazing work that I'm privileged to know about and see. I still am in touch with the Senior Executive who saw a random comment I left on our internal blog thanking the workspace redesign folks for working to make things better for us, and who sent me a quick note just to say thank you for recognizing the group's effort. I know people doing semi-urban farming and homeschooling, blazing trails in different ways. Some people are devoting most of their off-hours to volunteering with schools or with nonprofits serving special-needs kids, homeless people, or others who are in need of support. Oh yeah—and the agencies and schools are getting paid by Intel for OUR time. (That still amazes me, by the way.) One of our company's values is "risk-taking"—it shows up as the highest-ranked one on my annual review here, ten years and running. I know I'm a PITA to some folks - but I can take crazy-@$$ risks, and be rewarded for trying. Not all work out. Many do. I have a great management chain, which tolerates me :) - and lets me try out these new methods and practices in hopes that they'll improve our company's work. I've learned more in nearly 11 years at Intel than in however many years I've been in school—and they actually PAY me to do it. Pretty wacky, y'all.
And that's what worries me about what Google did last year. I don't want to lose any of these people I work with —these, and many others that I'm privileged to run into in the classes I teach, or who send me mail because they see my name on our internal website about the work my little group does, or who meet me for coffee to chat about a job opportunity, or who seek me out as a "technical female" who's survived and thrived here, and want to get some support. Down here in the Silly Valley, it IS an employee's market in so many areas. But it's also stupid, stupid expensive to live here, and all of those things listed above don't put food on the table or pay the bills.
I don't know what Intel will do in response to Google's 10% pay raise, and if I DID know, do you think I'd blast it on Facebook before it was public? Ha. As if. To make me happy next year, they need to not kick me back to my cubicle when I illicitly sneak onto one of those stylish new redesigned work area floors, even though my own assigned place is still in the "square, grey box" section of campus. I'll take that over a 10% raise, thanks. The Kid and I are having to be much more careful with money living down in Santa Clara, but that's OK. It's my choice. I could move back to Oregon tomorrow and Intel would be cool with it. ("Just let us know where to put your stuff.") We're doing OK here for now, the Kid and me.
I worry about a lot of other folks, though. I hope they stay, for reasons as quirky, weird, and bizarre as my own—but uniquely theirs as well. We'll see...
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