The Top 4 Skills You Need To Make It in Silicon Valley

Not everyone can be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, but having these skills might help you land that highly coveted tech job.
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The technology sector is considered one of the most highly competitive industries for both employers and job seekers, especially in Silicon Valley, where tech firms and potential candidates fight tooth and nail to fill coveted positions. Whether you're looking to work for a promising startup, or at one of the major tech companies like Google, Microsoft, or Apple, having one or two of these skills might help you make the cut.

Programming/Engineering Skills

Good programming, or a well-written code, is the backbone of any successful app or software, and it goes hand in hand with (hardware) engineering skills. It's what makes a product or service cohesive, and it's the bread and butter of software/hardware engineers and CTOs (Chief Technology Officers). If you plan to be in this field, you should have at least a basic understanding of computer science and electronics. C++, Javascript, and SQL are just a few of the many programming languages that you'll need to learn.


Dr. Lisa Su and Bill Gates

Notable Programmers: Bill Gates of Microsoft and Steve Wozniak of Apple both built computers from scratch and wrote the codes to operate them.

Dr. Lisa Su is the first female CEO of Advanced Micro Devices, and her arrival in 2014 was some sort of renaissance for the struggling semiconductor company. Armed with her doctorate in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Lisa Su led several programs that ultimately improved the company's products and bridged the gap between Advanced Micro Devices and their company's chief rival, Intel.

Design Skills

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Design applies to both hardware and software. If it is intuitive, responsive, and aesthetically appealing, credits go to its designer. Positions in this area include user interface designers, product/industrial designers, art directors, illustrators, and graphic and web designers. Some of the key requirements include a good eye for design, art direction, and the ability to create effective information architecture. The last one is important because it's the science of determining what you want your app or product to do, and who your audience will be. 

Jonathan Ive

Notable Designers: Silicon Valley's finest include Sophie Xie of FacebookJonathan Ive, Chief Design Officer of Apple, and Matias Duarte, Vice President of Design at Google. Ive and Duarte helped shape the current look and design language of their respective companies' range of products and services, such as iOS and Android. Meanwhile, we've got Xie to thank for all those lovable Facebook stickers. She was the product and art designer who spearheaded the company's sticker initiative back in 2013.


Data Analysis Skills

Data scientists or analysts are some of the most in-demand but harder to fill positions not just in the tech industry, but across all sectors. (No wonder they are also some of the most highly paid.) Since every company collects data, whether it's market research, logistics, sales figures, or user behavior, the work of data scientists entails interpreting information in order to improve a product or a service and help make informed business decisions. Candidates must be highly analytical and inquisitive, and have strong mathematical skills, as they control a substantial amount of information. 

Notable Data Analysts: John Rauser of Snapchat (formerly of Pinterest and Amazon).

Product Management Skills


No matter how impressive the finished product, it won't thrive if it doesn't receive proper product management—especially in Silicon Valley, where everyone competes for the highest number of sales, downloads, and daily active users. Product managers are attractively compensated because they must have a range of skills: marketing, knowledge of enterprise software, leadership, customer service, and in some cases, the ability to command an audience, as they can be expected to make stage appearances during tech conventions and conferences.

Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel and Sheryl Sandberg

Notable Product Managers: Most CEOs or founders of top tech firms are also good product managers, such as Snapchat founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. All three were programmers first but managed to build a following for their products, making billions in IPO valuations in the process.

Another worth mentioning is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. While Zuckerberg is the brains behind the social networking site, Sheryl's major contribution was the company's successful advertising strategy. To put it simply, she made the company tremendously profitable while boosting the user base to around a billion users.


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John Patrick Meneses
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