Silicon Valley

When one hears these two words, one of two things may come to mind: a cosmetic surgeon’s professional playground or the ultimate destination for all tech junkies. For a change, let’s focus on the latter.


Silicon Valley is a nickname for the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area. It is home to many of the world’s largest high-tech corporations. The region also houses two of the world’s greatest medical centres—University of California, San Francisco Medical centre or UCSF and the Stanford University Medical Centre—and the reason why I was in the state.


Unable to afford any housing, I was given shelter by two of my friends from school, one who worked at Intel and the other at Netflix. For those unaware, Intel makes microprocessors found in most personal computers and Netflix is a global provider of streaming movies and TV series that now has over 75 million subscribers; I’m sure that when they have an Indian version, all of you will be watching reruns of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.


On a free weekend, I was driven around the iconic Google and Apple campuses, listening to stories of the perks their employees get—many of who were half my age. While in the medical profession I’m still considered young, in the world of information technology, I’m a grand old daddy. As the sun set on the swanky, shimmering glass buildings of Adobe, eBay, Twitter, and Yahoo, I wondered whether still continuing to study was a bright idea—even the employees at Yahoo had a perkier life than I did! And nobody even uses yahoo anymore!


The last nail in the coffin was when we reached the Facebook headquarters at 1 Hacker Way. As we drove by the iconic billboard with its historic Facebook blue thumbs-up logo, marking the arrival of this gigantic complex, we were greeted by Chinese tourists, unable even here to resist the urge to display the ‘V’ they make with their fingers in every single picture they are a part of.


Fortunately, one didn’t need to have a Facebook account to enter—or I’d have had to go back home. Another friend of mine who works here was obliged to show us around. After a brief registration, we were garlanded with IDs and marched through a building with a massive screen telling me that 70 million people in India were accessing their accounts at this point in time—and other crazy statistics.


The campus has free food for all employees and any of their visitors at any time of the day. Every day offers 2–3 different cuisines, the menus of which you can check on your phone before deciding where you want to go to gorge. They also have a pizza place and an ice cream parlour open all through the day. Needless to say, all employees put on weight when they first begin their job. They also have a video game parlour where the Indians and Chinese compete, a salon for free haircuts, a gym, a spa, and a big screen that telecasts activities of the company across the world. It’s in this very square that Modi met Mark and Pricilla, proclaiming them his bhai and behen.


Just when you think they can’t have it better, I was told they get free laundry. Bring in dirty clothes with all sorts of stains on them and take home fresh, dry-cleaned, crisply ironed versions; the dream of every parent with school-going children! Further, if you live within 20 miles of the campus, the company pays you an extra $25,000, in addition to $5,000 for every child you have—giving the Jiyo Parsi scheme serious competition.


Then there are vending machines all over the campus, and no, they don’t contain drinks, candies, or condoms. They contain computer and phone accessories: chargers, earphones, keyboards, hard drives, and phone covers. If yours isn’t working or you’ve forgotten to carry it, just swipe your card and pick one—for free! Facebook doesn’t want you to waste time on petty issues. When I lose a charger, I spend days on Amazon waiting for the right time to get the best discount!


Across the road is their other sprawling campus, designed by a friend of my wife, the famous architect Frank Gehry. It’s a 40,000 sqm office building with the largest open floor plan in the world, where 3,000 employees work together in one large urban living room. Incidentally, Mark Zuckerberg’s desk in his office is no different from any other employee—just an unassuming wooden table with stacks of some books he’s currently reading. On the top of his pile was a book titled, How to Run the World… interestingly written by an Indian, Parag Khanna.


On the roof is a park the size of New York’s Central Park. If you are tired after hours spent on the Internet being logged onto Facebook, you can go up and have a drink at one of their multiple juice bars, where there are plenty of organic fruits and juices and herbal teas to rejuvenate you. The place also offers lounge chairs and hammocks where you can relax with a view of the Bay. The only downside is that while the view of the Bay is breathtaking, the smell is too! I’m sure the tech guys are in the process of building giant diffusers to take care of that problem.


Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. If you are on Facebook, they have managed to narrow it down to 3.5 degrees of separation; something else they take pride in. That’s akin to what we have in our community, way before Facebook existed. No two Parsis are separated by more than 3 degrees – And if you’re a Parsi on facebook, its 1 degree!!


We returned home stuffing our pockets with as many freebies that would fit in the palms of our hands. As I lay in my bed that night, I thought about what makes these brilliant young entrepreneurs rule the world, how they’ve channelled their vision to realise their dreams. I hope our children and our children’s children can lead lives where they have jobs that everyone else is envious of. Until then, for those of us who despite this revelation of better jobs, still remain delighted and enchanted with our current ones – here’s wishing you a Happy Navroze.