Nov 05, 2013

    Silicon Valley draws more S'poreans

    The Business Times

    MORE Singaporeans have moved to Silicon Valley (SV) for work in the last decade, according to people who have worked or are working there.

    And while information-technology (IT) and engineering professionals are known to command higher salaries, those who move cite other reasons.

    "As a trend, I do see it increasing; we actually try to keep track of the numbers," said Mr Vinnie Lauria, founding partner of tech incubator Golden Gate Ventures, which has offices in Singapore and Silicon Valley.

    "As the Singaporean network in SV gets stronger, it encourages more folk to make the jump - something they were afraid to do earlier."

    Mr James Chan, the founder-CEO of tech incubator Silicon Straits who studied and worked in SV from 2005 to 2009, said the increase was not obvious to him - until he came home.

    "It got a lot more obvious after I returned to Singapore and tried to wrap my head around the shortage of start-up-compatible software engineers here. Those who were sufficiently exposed to Western tech media tended to aspire to leave Singapore to work at start-ups in SV," he said.

    Why SV? A major pull factor mentioned by many is surprisingly not the salary, but that there is a greater respect for tech and engineering professions there.

    Said Mr Shaun Lim, who moved to SV to work at PayPal after graduating from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2010: "The work here is more interesting and meaningful. Even as a junior engineer, I was able to start projects of significant size from scratch and be responsible for design and implementation. I don't believe this is something engineers in Singapore enjoy."

    Mr Caleb Chao, a fellow NUS graduate who is now a software engineer at Google, said he appreciated the opportunity to develop and work on established and complex IT systems there.

    SV's open, welcoming and progressive culture is another much-talked-about pull factor.

    "Hours are flexible. If people want to take time off for appointments or errands, there's no need to specifically take vacation hours," said Mr Mark Sin, president of SingaporeConnect, a grassroots organisation that supports Singaporeans living in San Francisco.

    Said Mr Chan: "It's the only spot in the world that has kept up with its virtuous cycle of paying it forward, and celebrates failure as much as it celebrates success."