From Silicon Valley To Silicon Slopes

California Roots and Love Utah Snow

Confessions about making Salt Lake City our new home

Confessions about making Salt Lake City our new home

In June 2014, my family underwent a very radical decision process, and concluded that we were not meeting our family values and virtues, or living to our fullest potential. One of the biggest contributors to this problem was our current location and surroundings – as we lived in Silicon Valley.

The commitment to move was a huge feat, because my husband was born and raised in Santa Clara County, and had to trust me that moving to a new location outside of the Bay area would indeed be opportunistic – as I’ve experienced this every time I moved to a new location over a dozen times in my life.

We took a year to research potential cities, and we watched 2 of our very close and deeply respected family friends leave the Bay due to similar reasons. Based on what we wanted our life to be, we selected to move to Salt Lake City also known as “Silicon Slopes.” We bought a home in a thriving and eclectic neighborhood within Salt Lake called SugarHouse, got our kids enrolled into the local school, and started to re-establish ourselves, focusing on the lifestyle that reinforces things we deemed important and what we want to teach our kids.

Silicon Valley has many amazing qualities. It attracts some of the best and brightest human beings on the planet that we were lucky to befriend. But it’s merciless in other regards, which we had to address, or it would consume us. Our friends applauded our honesty and our family supported our virtue driven pursuit of happiness. Over the Father’s day weekend, we packed up a u-haul carrying our hopes and dreams and drove 765 miles to Salt Lake, which would become our new home.

The Decision Aftermath

I’ve been asked how has decision process has affected me, and that’s an easy answer – I’m a doer, and my family is too. Our value driven commitment and execution proves that, hands down.

The other question that’s asked is how does living in Salt Lake City affect me – as a mom, as an entrepreneur, and as a strategic business consultant. Honestly, my answers are being formed as each day passes. However, the moment we made this change – it’s done a lot for me personally.

Moving out of Silicon Valley has opened my awareness aperture, inspired more creativity, and honed my awareness of a work-life balance that was almost unattainable while I lived in the Bay Area. As a 40 year old, it is very liberating to break down my purpose as a human being, get to the basics and re-build it with precision and intention to provide the best life possible for my children, husband, and myself.

Disconnecting from Silicon Valley

My big fear was that when I moved away from Silicon Valley, I would loose my industry cache, my value in the tech marketing and innovations, and the connection to my surroundings that inspire my disruptive business approach. Would I be isolated and deprived of the essence that attracts those amazing people to Silicon Valley? It was a risk, which I ultimately accepted while humming along at 53 miles per hour along I-80 east in that jam-packed U-haul. After a month of moving in and re-engaging my professional network, I noticed that because high tech is booming right now, there is this natural “pull” that drew me back into Silicon Valley companies, who had no problem with me contributing while not being in their office, every day.

The Disconnect was clear to me that when in the Valley, there’s an inescapable full-time employment pressure. If you’re a hot-shot executive, you can command extraordinary salaries and RSUs, but the tradeoff is that you have to work hard and long hours in SoMa. That pressure contributed to my family commitment and life-balance problem.

The moment we picked up and committed to leaving – that full-time employment pressure evaporated. Because the talent demand is high right now within the tech industry, there’s a need for strategic consultants – accommodating different working relationships and remote contributions. Viola, I move to SugarHouse and by concentrating on my consulting company, my business grew 3 fold in 6 months.

Silicon Slope Talent

Once the new business demand settled in, I needed to figure out how to back-fill it. Instead of using my Silicon Valley based rolodex to hire folks, I looked around my new SugarHouse community. Boom – there’s amazing talent that’s right here, who want to work and learn about the ways of Silicon Valley. After quickly finding 4 local contractors who would execute marketing plans, I’ve created a great face-to-face team and an actual Hen House headquarters here in Salt Lake.

Hen House HQ

The super talented Kristen in Hen House HQ

Where I’ve been surprisingly pleased is the high quality and availability of great talent here in Salt Lake.

Kids learning to 3D print

My daughter watching the 3D printer make a ring at Zaniac.

First, Salt Lake people have a thriving technology background that’s been engrained in them since they were kids. Technology awareness is rampant in the schools; with curriculum encouraging innovation and problem solving (my daughter is taking a 3D printing class at Zaniac, and uses several software programs to design a keychain… oh and she’s 8.) and is strongly supported by the parents’ education expectations and efforts.

½ mile away from my home is the University of Utah, offering a thriving business and engineering programs, and is home to one of the biggest BioMed research parks in the country – employing 50,000 people within the Wasatch foothills campus. I coincidentally met a digital marketing company CEO who also teaches marketing at the “U” (local slang for the University folk), and his company (PoleVault Media) has established an internship practice so students can get real exposure to digital marketing careers. This environment is encouraging kids to become technologists at every age, and provides many opportunities for academic technology learning to become their career path.

Second, “Utes” (also slang for the locals) are eager to cross-pollinate with outsiders, especially when they may glean new approaches and insights that originate from Silicon Valley. I have been super pleased with the courtesy, commitment, and curiosity each of my local contractors has shown during these projects. People from Utah are very polite, and are naturally interested in education and perpetual learning, especially around technology. I’ve partnered with some great people and their ramp-up time has been faster than what I expected. It’s been a saving grace with the increased business for my consultancy practice.

Third, everyone HERE appreciates the work-life balance. Perhaps it’s enforced with the phrase “Silicon Slopes” alluding to the dozen world-class ski resorts that are less than 45 minutes away from our SugarHouse home, everyone in technology out here appreciates what a “Blue Bird” is, and that sometimes adjusting work hours for some slope time is perfectly acceptable. I never heard encouragement when living in the Valley to enjoy the surroundings and weather patterns, it was always 100% about work.

Last Wednesday, I picked up my season pass at Brighton, and made a few turns to get my ski-legs back. On the way home, I stopped by Sports Den, to check out the new Volkl Kenja skis. The gent who was helping me named “Bubba” asked what did I do. I failed at brushing him off because my answer “software” was enough to peek his interest, and he peppered me with questions until I confessed my real corporate identity. Reason why he kept on asking me these things is because he too is a tech head, but born and raised in Salt Lake, graduate from the “U”. He worked with enterprise software, but focused on POS, and experienced the rapid advancement when the cloud swept his sector. We chatted about B2B innovation, what’s coming down the pipe, and of course the technology that’s compressed in those brilliant skis. After catching up about the ideal skis for my new local resort, we talked about the stashes and hikes, and how to swing a schedule to ski, work, and still pick up the kids from school.

I feel like my transplanted self is rooting just fine, as I never held a conversation like that in Silicon Valley.

If you are contemplating to change your environment, and are concerned that you will not thrive outside of Silicon Valley – my experience says otherwise. Silicon Valley will always be there. Relocating to other cities that are home to innovative people and technology is totally doable. And as for Silicon Slopes, it’s given my professional and personal growth a tremendous uplift.