I've been designing Joomla websites, logos and print material from Seattle, USA for just over two years now, and I thought you may be interested in what a techie's life looks like as a Microsoft neighbor (excuse the US spelling, but when in Rome...)
The most striking part of living is this world (where operations like Microsoft and Amazon have their HQ's and companies like Google have a strategic presence) is that it is not all that high tech.
I imagined that I would be at a distinct disadvantage as a South African competing against highly skilled designers and coders in this part of the USA, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I have had to educate most of my clients on CMS and social media before we could even have a meaningful conversation leading to a workable brief.
I think that there are a lot of reasons for this but nevertheless it was a surprise to me. It seems that there is some kind of tech-shadow that these giants have created that affects their immediate surrounds. Also the US economy is still pretty much in collapse, its only weight bearing parts right now are small to medium sized businesses, and they are not just carrying the legitimate tax need. Small business is also carrying economic bailouts for big business, bloated government expense on both the federal and state levels, as well as the ever growing debt. It's a lot of tax pressure to put on a shrinking (although still big) part of the economy and the specific situation has created a double whammy on tech skills:
- As as skilled tech person, why start a business when you can work for the government for a lot more money and better benefits and, frankly, a lot less work? In fact why spend the time and money gaining a tech qualification when you can earn as much without one?
- As a business owner, why invest in marketing, branding and tech development on the web when you're battling to pay your bill in a high tax, low margin economy?
Of course there are good answers to both, at least I think there are, which is why I am both starting a tech business and investing in building a brand. But for the average Joe in the US becoming a GI Joe is a lot more lucrative than building the economy. Which leaves a lot of room for people like me.
Now just in case you were thinking that this sounds like a great option (the US needs entrepreneurial skills the way a knife wound victim needs a blood transfusion, so why not pack bags and head overseas?), let me just caution you that the immigration process into America is the most demoralizing, long-lasting, expensive, painful and frustrating process you could hope to embark on; akin to stroke recovery or DIY appendix removal. At the risk of getting dramatic; we have broken ourselves like waves against the unyielding and irrational US immigration shipwreck wedged precariously against the cliffs of American federal bureaucracy which functions with the relevancy and precision of the medieval medicine fraternity, perpetuating double the ills it cures.
Having said all that, the USA is a great place to live; and for e-entrepreneurs like me there is a lot of opportunity, in that way it is very much like South Africa, except with +12MBPS download speed and little to no crime issues :)