Three Things I Learned Working in Silicon Valley
Britton Lorentzen
Designer, marketer, and owner.

Published: February 27th, 2017

Silicon Valley is the hotbed for technological innovation. It is a designer’s dream to one day be able to work for a large tech company in the valley. Some designers land a position right out of college while others work their whole life for an opportunity. Back in January of 2016, I was offered the opportunity to work with one of the largest brands in the world as a graphic and web designer for a five month period. It was an amazing opportunity that allowed me make a significant impact within a large company. There are a ton of things I learned about business working in Silicon Valley. Here are the top three things I learned while working in the valley.

1. Networking and Collaboration is Essential

No matter how great of a designer you are, or how amazing your work experience may be, a career in design can be affected based on your ability to collaborate with others. It’s important to collaborate with other designers, folks from marketing, human resources, legal, and other organizations in the company. At some point in your career, you will run into trouble with individuals that you don’t normally work with on a daily basis. They may have nothing to do with your team yet have everything to do with your ability to deliver or distribute your message. It’s important to build relationships with key individuals from different organizations so you can understand their perspective, problems, and level of expertise. It’s better if you have the ability to help other teams out on their problems and projects as well. Networking and collaborating cross functionally has the potential to build your network and open up future opportunities.

2. Fit In Before You Stick Out

First impressions are crucial for establishing rapport with your team. It’s counter intuitive to come into a new role acting like you know everything about the project, team, and work at hand. I can guarantee that you won’t know processes and how business is conducted within the first couple weeks of a new role. Fitting in means that you need to build rapport with your team and learn about how business is conducted before trying to change everything. Your ability to fit in will determine your cultural fit and if you’ll be able to stick with the company for a long while. Once enough rapport has been built, you can start branching out and identifying areas where you could optimize or improve the business process. Your team mates will be more likely to listen if they have a positive experience with you and they understand that you are open to all ideas and perspectives.

3. Be Open to New, Conflicting Ideas

In an ideal world, we would get to work with a team that meshes perfectly with our work style, ideas, and philosophy. Unfortunately, this ideal world doesn’t exist and it doesn’t produce the best end product. At some point in your career, you will end up in a team where you don’t perfectly mesh with one or more of your team members. What if they have more expertise in an area that you may be lacking knowledge in? It’ll be productive for everyone involved to actively listen to conflicting ideas and understand how those ideas deviate from your own. Conflicts usually occur when team members fail to listen and don’t seek to understand different perspectives.

It is essential to embrace new ideas and treat is as an opportunity to hash out ideas that may require more thought. The team I worked with referred to this process as ‘rock tumbling’ since we all had our own perspective coming into meetings. When working with these individuals, I kept a tight lip until a thought came up that involved a design or communication problem. Fortunately, I was able to contribute to conversations involving development and marketing principles as well. However, it’s important to identify individuals that are experts in their field. There’s nothing worse than a new employee or intern coming in and picking a fight with an industry expert with no experience or knowledge to back up their claims. It’s more effective to engage in conversation and treat it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and provide insight that is productive for everyone involved.

There are so many things I learned from working in the valley that I could go on about. However, I would love to hear some of your experiences working in the valley or starting out at a company. What are some tips you would give to someone starting out in their career or starting out in a company? Let me know in the comments below, send me an email at, or send me a message on Twitter. I’m sure there are a lot of things you all have to share. If you enjoyed this post, make sure to subscribe to my email updates below so you can receive updates on new posts. Otherwise, I look forward to chatting with you all again soon.

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