"The other night I was studying late for a midterm exam — I am a grad student in computer science at Columbia University — with several friends who will be working at Dropbox and Facebook this summer. Around 9 o'clock, we ordered Chinese food on Seamless. I paid one of the guys back with the digital wallet Venmo. This summer in San Francisco, I'm living with three roommates, also students doing tech internships in the valley, two at Google and one at the news aggregator Flipboard. For better or worse, these are the kinds of companies that seem to be winning the recruiting race, and if the traditional lament at Ivy League schools has been that the best talent goes to Wall Street, a newer one is taking shape: Why do these smart, quantitatively trained engineers, who could help cure cancer or fix healthcare.gov, want to work for a sexting app?"
So writes Yiren Lu in New York Times magazine's cover story earlier this month, Silicon Valley's Youth Problem," as she explains the millennial mindset that seeks out cool and sexy jobs in the valley.
Throughout modern American history, one thing is true, especially in Silicon Valley, wherein lies the heart of technology innovation and wads of free-flowing capital: Young people fueled by lofty dreams and boundless energy just don't want to drive their father's Oldsmobile, ever.
It's the same today as it was when I was in my 20s in the late 1990s, riding a cresting tech publishing wave that carried ambitious dot-comers eager to advertise in so-called new economy magazines. There were drugs and booze and rooftop parties and fresh college grads making six-digit salaries and thinking they were worth it. There were the market makers, the valleywags and the Napsters, all shaking their heads derisively at the old ways of doing business and, particularly annoying, at the old people who couldn't think different.
"Let's face it: you're the new kind of dot-comer with the same short shelf-life."
And when the bust finally came to pass at the turn of the millennium, tears were shed but there was also a sense of comeuppance. Humility's corrective drug had been finally administered to those who needed it most, the ones now carrying worthless paper stock options and suddenly deflated egos. Some were lucky enough to find jobs that paid a third of their former salary.
These GenX-ers who lived through it and survived today walk from their cubicles to train stations and bus stops and parked cars, with a tinge of sadness as they watch millennials partying at the same San Francisco bars and Silicon Valley restaurants (only with different names) where they used to reign. They sheepishly look over yonder at those young techies flush with cash who are working at startups and dreaming of soaring valuations, and they've got a story to tell.
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