Day in life of an IT engineer in a Silicon Valley startup company

Ata-tech
4 min readJul 5, 2021

Coming back home after working in the Bay Area for a couple of years, I received a lot of questions about how does a day in life of an IT engineer look like in Silicon Valley. Therefore, I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on my daily activities when I was there.

To clarify, this is solely about my own story and I’m sure it’s different from person to person, and it also depends on where you work too.

Redwood City, CA

About myself

To help explain what I do during my time in the Valley, it’s probably worth checking this story about “How I got a job in the Bay Area from Finland”.

In summary, I worked as a Software Engineer before coming to the Bay Area. However, I made a job switch to work in a Machine Learning position when I came to the Valley.

About myself, I love working on technical tasks, and I can spend hours working on something tirelessly (well, quite a typical character from Software Engineers, isn’t it? :) ).

What I do

I used to work for a corporate company, but having freedom to work on different things and avoid organizational friction were the main motivation for me to decide to go work for a startup.

During my time in the startup where I worked in the Bay Area, I had a lot of freedom to work on different tasks and to make contribution on various things. Some days, I could spent the whole day reading some research papers, but some other days, I would spend the entire time writing code or implementing some prototypes. My tasks mainly focused on Machine Learning related topics, but since Machine Learning is such a broad term, I was able to learn quite a lot and acquired a lot of hands-on experience with it.

How does my daily work look like

In my company, typical work hours aren’t fixed. Some people come as early as 6am and leave the office at 3pm to beat the traffic (yes, traffic congestion is such a big issue in the Bay Area) but some could start their day at 9am or 10am depending on the meeting schedules.

My work desk :)
My messy work desk decoration :)

For me, I usually start my day at around 7am or 8am. Also, I decided to live quite close to the office to avoid time lost to traffic congestion. As mentioned above, there were days I spent my time on reading research papers, but there were also days when I spent lots of time doing my own coding / code review or doing pair programming (pair programming was really fun and it was new to me when I first came). Another the nice thing that was new to me as well is the whiteboard culture. Before coming to the U.S, I barely used whiteboard at work. It took me quite a bit of time to adapt to it, but after that, I became a big fan of it. The office where I worked has whiteboards almost everywhere, and some meeting rooms’ walls were even built by glass whiteboards.

The good thing about working in a startup is that there aren’t many unnecessary meetings, and you can really focus on the productivity of your actual work. It was probably the thing that I like the most. However, there are 2 sides to every coin, and therefore, there are cons for working for a small company as well, but I will keep it for another occasion :).

Lunch time was one of the most exciting time of the day that I was looking forward to as well. The office where I worked located in downtown of Redwood City. Even though it’s not a big downtown, if offers various types of food, including Mexican, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Greek, and of course American (well it’s hamburger 😢) food.

Also, the company where I worked organized monthly “lunch and learn” session in which a volunteer would give a presentation about a random topic, and others can enjoy company lunch while listening. Believe me, I enjoyed the presentations much more than enjoying the free food offered by the company 🙈.

Pizza I made during a lunch and learn session about “learning how to make 🍕 🍕🍕”

Things I believe I should have done differently

Looking back, I feel pretty happy with my time in the Bay Area since I was able to learn a lot professionally and personally. However, I wish I could have spent more time exploring some other things besides work such as meeting new people or exploring more places.

California’s nature is beautiful and the people are brilliant!

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Ata-tech

Knowledge is power, but shared knowledge is far more powerful