You’re reading an excerpt of Land Your Dream Design Job, a book by Dan Shilov. Filled with hard-won, personal insights, it is a comprehensive guide to landing a product design role in a startup, agency, or tech company, and covers the entire design interview process from beginning to end, for experienced and aspriring designers. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.
In today’s largely digitized world, the physical environment still matters to a degree. Living in a city that has a vibrant tech ecosystem confers a number of advantages. Take for example the San Francisco Bay Area. The venture capital industry creates an opportunity for many new companies to kick start growing. A few of these companies go public and become your regular big high-tech company like Google or Facebook, thus creating even more opportunity. Even in the case for startups that don’t make it, and that’s usually the case for many of them, the ecosystem makes it easier for employees to transition to another company. Because tech opportunities are abundant, the risk of being unemployed for a long period of time is significantly less compared to places that don’t have a tech ecosystem.
Aside from employment opportunities, there’s a higher chance to run into other like-minded folks and to strike new connections. San Francisco, for instance, has no shortage of tech- and design-related events happening every day. Every summer, San Francisco Design Week allows companies to open up their doors, giving eager designers a sneak peek into the space. Aside from connecting with other designers, there are courses and training for product managers, bootcamps for new engineers, and overall a vibrant ecosystem that supports professional development.
storyWhen I first moved to San Francisco, I found one of my jobs by waiting in line for a product management event. Outside the venue, in the uncharacteristic San Francisco rain, I struck up a conversation with a couple of folks behind me. One of them happened to be a data scientist who was looking for a designer for her startup. I applied and a few months later got the job. This is the power of serendipitous connections and being in the right place at the right time.
Of course the Bay Area is a well-known place, but it does have its challenges, such as rising costs of living that promotes a transient population, making the Bay less of a destination and more of a spring board. According to Hired’s 2018 report in the U.S.: Seattle, Austin, and Denver are some of the top cities for relocation for tech workers. New York City boasts its own tech hub, while having far more diversity than the Bay Area. Boston’s high student population and medical focus create a unique culture of health tech innovation.
When looking at companies, it helps to shop for a good ecosystem that will not only support you in your current job but for many jobs to come. Of course, depending on where you are in your career (and life), it’s not as simple as packing your bags and leaving. An ecosystem that’s growing and evolving is helpful for career prospects. Research your geographical locations closely and think not just of the company but also of the surrounding environment.
Remote Work and Location
In the times of COVID-19 many companies are now going remote. Some, like Facebook, Twitter, and Coinbase allow employees to permanently work from home. While not all companies are following this trend yet, it’s highly likely that in the future more opportunities will be geographically distributed.
If you are interviewing for a remote role, it’s important to dig into the details of the remote arrangement. Has the company done remote work before, or is this a first-time experiment? It’s not necessarily a red flag if you’re the first remote employee. That said, you should learn more about how the company will support you if you are the sole remote pioneer. Holloway’s guide on Remote Work is a good resource for anyone figuring out how to navigate the remote work experience.