Taro Logo

How important is location for software engineers?

Profile picture
Software Engineering Intern at Amazon2 years ago

In particular, what are the upsides of living in the SF Bay Area? Is it worth the high cost of living?

For my situation in particular, I would like to end up at Amazon working full-time after school, but I don't live in Seattle or the Bay Area (I live somewhat close to another major metro area). Does moving make sense?



  • 13
    Profile picture
    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 years ago

    In a vacuum, yes, I think it does make sense to move. Especially if you're young + don't have kids or a house (which is likely the case if you're an intern).

    A more nuanced take: it depends on the density of the team + org headcount in the area.

    • If your entire team is co-located in the Bay or Seattle, you absolutely should move -- there's certainly some element of "out of sight, out of mind", and it's so much easier to create deeper relationships in person.
    • If most of the org/company is located in one area, you'll find that the leadership of the org is going to be where most of the headcount is. So you'll have a much harder time advancing to the leadership levels, despite the company saying that they're remote-friendly.
    • If the company is fully remote, it matters less, but the Bay and Seattle are still better for job hopping given the number of opportunities here.
  • 8
    Profile picture
    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    Even with the shift to remote work, the Bay Area is still by far the best place to be in a vacuum as Rahul mentioned:

    • A lot of companies are doing RTO, especially Big Tech companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon. This means that the wealth of opportunities is still the largest in the Bay Area as so many of these companies are HQed there.
    • The best "next generation" of companies are still overwhelmingly in the Bay Area. Think pre-IPO companies like Instacart and recent IPOs like Airbnb.
    • The Silicon Valley is by far the best place to be if you are a founder or aspire to be a founder.
    • Career networking is the easiest here due to the sheer density of talent, especially in SF. There are very few places in the world where you can walk into a coffee shop in a major downtown area and be guaranteed to see several other software engineers there.

    That being said, the costs are (literally) quite steep, hence the "in a vacuum" caveat:

    • Cost of living is insanely high and not slowing down.
    • CA has some of the highest taxes in the nation, and local taxes in Bay Area counties tend to be high as well. CA is a high-benefit state, but you're not likely to experience too much of it as a young, high-income software engineer.
    • Traffic is a nightmare as outside of SF, the Bay Area is mainly suburban sprawl and extremely car dependent.
    • Crime is a problem, especially in SF.

    At the end of the day, it all really depends on your situation and what I will say is that with covid, it has become far more feasible to build a stellar software engineering career outside of the Bay Area. Here are some reasons for you to stay where you are:

    • You're already in a great position being part of another major metro area and having interned for Amazon. If you like your team and it's not in the Bay Area, it's a great option to return to them and just not move to the Bay Area.
    • If you have deep roots in your current location (family and friends) and not many within the Bay Area, that's a big argument against moving.
    • You don't want to deal with all the downsides I mentioned above, haha.

    Here's some other great discussions around optimal location for software engineers:

    If you (or anyone else reading this) end up moving to the Bay Area, I recommend these resources:

  • 4
    Profile picture
    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    Wanted to also share a YouTube video I made about location here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEf3brlRrQc

  • 6
    Profile picture
    a year ago

    I am not an expert like Rahul and Alex, but for me, working remotely is super important. In my past company, we had a mandate for everyone to return to the office.

    I changed companies in the past to move to remote work. I was even willing to take a pay cut for the same but I didn't have to. I think I still continue to enjoy remote work and have no plans to move to a company where a return to office is mandated (even if it doesn't mean I don't work for FAANG or get a super high-paying job)

    To each his own, I guess. It depends on what is essential for you. And will change employers should the need arise. But I do work hard for whomever my employer is though.

Amazon.com, Inc. is an American multinational technology company which focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, and much more. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, it has been referred to as "one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world".
Amazon129 questions