Santa Clara, CA or Madison, WI (San Jose, San Francisco: real estate, condo, home)
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I'm a new graduate from rural New Mexico with a Master's in computer science, with about 8 months of software development experience. Right now, I am expecting offers from Epic Systems in Madison, WI and Quadbase in Santa Clara, CA within the week.
Here are some of the factors I am considering:
Cost of living/Salary - CA is much more expensive, but the salary would be lower. Quadbase in Santa Clara quoted around the 60s, while Epic quoted in the 70s. The exact pay TBD, but if Epic makes an offer, I'm planning on at least asking for a counter-offer from Quadbase.
Temperature / weather - I was in Wisconsin about a week ago, and the temperatures didn't bother me too much. I am fond of snow.
Geographical area - I didn't get to see much of Santa Clara, since I flew in and out on the same day as the interview, but I'm fond of California in general. The scenery in Madison was nice, but I would probably miss the mountains.
Boat ownership - Madison is directly on the lake (2 of 'em!), but the surface of the lakes also freeze in the winter, so I could only go boating for part of the year and would need one that I could transport. CA, on the other hand, is bay-area, expensive, and available year-round.
Open space - Santa Clara is very crowded, while Madison is much more rural by comparison. Both are a lot larger than what I'm used to (rural New Mexico). There's also the California wilderness just south of town, which is a huge plus.
The company itself - In terms of product quality and company culture, Epic Systems seemed a lot better, and it definitely offered the better working environment. Quadbase's product didn't impress me very much.
Career advancement - Epic prides itself in a horizontal structure, which means that there may be limited advancement, but they try to give employees the opportunity to find a niche, whether it's managing projects or people or just to code. Other employment in the area may be difficult to find. The flip-side is that it looks like a heck of a good start. Quadbase is a small company, but Silicon Valley looks good on a resume, and there are a ton of other companies in the area.
Hours per week - Both companies want more than 40, and consider people who work "only" 40 to be slackers (Epic is more interested in meeting project deadlines). I guess that's to be expected in software development.
Development languages - Quadbase uses Java, while Epic uses Cache and VB, with a slow transition to .NET. I would expect Java to be more useful in the long run.
If I were to work at Epic Systems, I would be interested in more long-term employment, while I would expect to switch jobs several times in the bay area. I'm leaning towards Santa Clara at this point because of future job opportunities, proximity to the mountains, and warmer temperatures.
even if the 2 offers were the same, in real terms, that money will go so much further in madison. as it is, they are actually offering you more!
i had a similar situation where a company in a low cost of living location was actually offering me more money but it's been my dream to be in the bay area for a long time so i ended up taking one of the bay area offers. i would most likely be not happy at the other location and for me the money wouldn't matter if i wasn't where i wanted to be. life is too short to live where i don't want to live. now the difference in pay was very hard to ignore as the other location has a cost of living that's half that of the san jose area, and since they were offering more it was as if my income would be more than double in real terms.
Moderator cut: linking to competitors sites is not allowed
one advice i've been given is to take money off the table and where would you go and go there if the difference isn't great but i would definitely try to negotiate with quadbase. for me, the company i went with has a strict non-negotiating policy which they stressed even during the on-site interviews but at least i tried.
I lived in Milwaukee for 9 years before moving East and working, then coming here. Not Madison, I know, but not far from it either. If this were my choice, I would avoid Madison. Madison doesn't compare to Silicon Valley in terms of potential opportunities and alternative places to work. Like you mentioned, working long hours in software is expected. In Madison, you have a very limited number of alternative employers to work for, so Epic can treat their people any way they want. They know that if an employee wants to leave, he/she would have a major effort on their hands to do so, with the prospect of having to uproot completely and leave Madison and Wisconsin. Avoiding this choice probably makes a lot of employees there put up with a lot. Not sure if this is the type of environment you want to get yourself involved in.
Quality of life is better here hands down. Culture is more condusive for software development. Weather is not a major nuisance during any part of the year. Plenty of alternative places to work and a greater range of opportunities here. Want snow, Tahoe is not that far away where you can get it when you want it.
Also, what salary you start with is irrelevent in the grand scheme of things. A higher starting salary in Madison could be followed by little to no salary increases. I wouldn't go by this. A lower salary in Santa Clara could be followed by higher increases, and even greater bumps in salary when you switch companies. Pick the place that offers you the greater range for growth. Companies here are competing against each other for your talents whereas in Madison, the limited number of employers means that the market favors them. They offer you a good salary to get you in, then once you have moved there, they've got you where they want you...stuck in a cocoon that's hard to get out of.
I'd pick Santa Clara. Here, you're not limited to Santa Clara. Consider the entire bay area your home. From Berkeley to San Francisco and wine country to Silicon Valley and San Jose. In Madison, you just have Madison. Wisconsin in general is a place where you will be expected to work very hard for minimal pay. Keep this in mind. You're not going to find the highest salaries in Madison. Madison does have going for it that the cost of living is lower for housing. Weigh this against the other factors. Bay area is extremely expensive, but if you live within your means and seek to make the most of the many opportunities that will come your way, your salary will increase. You have a greater exposure to other means to make money such as better job opportunities and salary bumps, startups, stock options, and if you can buy a home or condo, real estate appreciation.
Location: Mountain Ranch, CA The heart of Calaveras County
5,058 posts, read 7,744,958 times
I guess I'm just too much of an independent old cuss. After reading the links provided, I doubt I'd be able to work for that WI company for more than about 15 minutes. Life is short do something that makes you happy no matter where you end up.
The two immediate environments are very different- compare your life in a suburban high tech center with that in an urban collegetown/state capital. Socially, I'd think Madison would offer better opportunities. I was just looking at some of the charts (I don't have better things to do at 3am) and it seems the percentage of unmarried females aged 20-30 is higher there. Then again, nearby San Jose has about 4x the population of Madison. Actually, I'm sure others have better insight on this than me..
In the end, no matter where you live or where you work, make yourself available. I know that's easier said than done. My sister just moved to Madison this past summer. Despite living in an area having many ingredients for a great social life, she finds little time for herself to take advantage of it between travel and fieldwork. Best of luck to you. I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist the opportunity to lecture a total stranger.
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