For decades, the plan was simple and straightforward: You got your degree, you said goodbye to your family, and you came to Silicon Valley to change the world, and seek your fortune. It didn't matter if your home was India, China, Japan, Israel, Egypt, or Russia. The destination was the same: Techland.
But the plan has changed. For one thing, Silicon Valley is far from the world's only Techland. The abovementioned countries all got hip to what we've been doing, and over the last several years, have offered opportunities of their own. Companies like Bangalore-based Infosys Technologies now dangle stock options, innovation, cool buildings, all with a hefty dose of patriotism. No longer do engineers have to travel around the world to change the world. Also, almost all large American companies have offices in several countries, so people don't have to stray if they want to work for Oracle, Cisco, Yahoo, or NetApp.
For example, the story told by Rajeev Madhavan, CEO of San Jose's Magma Design and Automation. When he was graduating from University in India, 40 of the 44 students in his class left India to work in Silicon Valley. Recently, Madhavan went back to his alma mater as a returning hero of sorts. He asked the question, who's heading to Silicon Valley now? Madhavan, I should mention, is still a young man, but things have changed in a short period of time: Four of the 44 students now say they plan to seek their fortune in Gold Rush country.
There are also issues here at home. While places like India and Israel have been making it easier for startups to get going, California is struggling economically, and has put taxes in place that make doing business here less attractive than it used to be. Add to that an already high cost of living, not to mention post 9/11 immigration crackdowns, and Silicon Valley has lost some of its overseas luster. As Madhavan says, "we need young kids with skills to take over the next generation of entrepreneurial jobs, and for Uncle Sam to say, 9/11 is an aberration."
There are still talented young engineers all over the world who dream of coming to Silicon Valley. Will we make it worth their while?
Scott Budman welcomes your comments. You can find him on Twitter: @scottbudman