The Spirit of Silicon Valley

The Disruptors

San Francisco bay area (also
known by its nickname “Silicon Valley”) is home to many of the world’s
largest tech corporations such as Google, Apple, Facebook and
thousands of startup companies. In 2016, the GDP of California was
about $2.60 trillion. This means that if California was a country, it
would rank 6th among countries in the world. This $2.60 trillion
economy comprised $820.9 billion GDP from the San Francisco bay
area. The bay area’s economy is largely driven by the tech industry
with waves of technological innovations. Every now and then, a startup
will rise from a humble garage and completely disrupt established
industries – Uber disrupting taxi industry and Airbnb making a dent
in hotel industry to name examples. And many old industries such as
the financial system and health care industry are being disrupted as
new technologies emerge.

Hard working culture

“Move fast and break things” is one of the original values held by early days of
the Facebook team. It means to get things done quickly and deliver the product
as soon as possible. The “break things” might sound bad but it means not to
afraid of taking risks. Nowadays it is more about “reliable infrastructure”
rather than “breaking things” but keep moving fast at the same time. Many
engineering teams in Silicon Valley adopt agile methodology which is designed to
streamline the work flow by eliminating the unnecessary work and get down to
building working software and delivering them efficiently. Productivity and
focus are keys to hitting the goals. Some even go as far to drink their lunch
(think Soylent) instead of eating meals to maximize the time for coding and thus
maximize their productivities. Workaholism seems to be a desirable lifestyle
choice here in Silicon Valley.

On Failure

The vast majority of startups fail. In fact, 90% of startups fail and only 10%
finds success. Therefore, the general sentiment here in Silicon Valley is
failing fast and often so that you learn from your mistakes and move on to the
next project and repeat until you are successful. Statistically speaking, if you
have a success story, it is more likely that there are more stories about
failure than success. Failure is something we, Myanmar people, cannot handle very
well. Failures are bad and we should try our best to avoid failures. However,
they should not be a barrier to venturing into new ideas and taking risks. Some
people, especially in Myanmar, are afraid of failures and never pursue them. But
when things go bad, we must take it as a badge of honor and learn from it. Every
fall should lead you with higher rising up.

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that changing really
quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” –
Mark Zuckerberg

Now is the time

If you ask me what I regret most about my teenage years, it would be that I was
too busy catching up with school work by going to schools in daytime and then
repeating the same work at private classes (tuition) in the evening after
school. At the end of the day, most of those time and effort mostly
contribute to chasing better scores in exams. It is not a bad thing being
excellent in the school but there should be a more beneficial use of the time
outside the class. The better way to learn is not following lectures in the
class but by actually doing or building things for real, especially in science
and technology. If you want to learn how to code, You should start building
websites or apps. Want to learn how to sing? Start your own YouTube channel and
make videos with cover songs. Want to learn how to write? Start writing your own
blog. It is no longer enough with sitting in the class, listening to teachers and
swallowing everything by heart. That era of learning by heart should be long
gone or you will be left behind. The world is moving faster than ever and you
should too.

Before you go

I would like to leave you with a clip from 1999 when Jack Ma pitched his idea of
Alibaba to his friends, which I find very inspirational. At least it might give
you a dose of motivation.