June 24, 2016

Office Cubicle. Credit: Michael Lokner / Flickr Creative Commons

Is Nashville the new Palo Alto?

Probably not. But tech companies are increasingly spreading their wings beyond the Bay Area.

Lauren Smiley, a staff writer at Backchannel, has been tracking employees at Silicon Valley’s hottest startups. And she’s noticed that those in customer support and sales are now being relocated out of California.

Engineering and executive positions, though, are mostly staying put.

Smiley says that in the last few years, highly educated people have flocked to entry-level, low-skilled jobs in up-and-coming tech companies. Many customer service employees she spoke to had at least a bachelor’s degree, and in many cases, master’s or law degrees.

Those without an engineering background or a technical degree have seen those sorts of jobs as golden tickets: “a way that the liberal-arts-degrees of the world can get into the riches and equity of the tech industry.”

But over the last year, many of those dreams have been quashed.

“Soft-skill” employees who might have been relegated to their own floors in Silicon Valley offices three or four years ago, are now being moved away from high-rent areas like downtown San Francisco to more affordable locales.

Warby Parker, Lyft, and Eventbrite have moved their customer service teams to Nashville. And other companies may soon follow.

“All jobs are good jobs,” Smiley says, but she cautions that local reporters in various cities often equate new positions with the idea of “a growing tech scene.”

“People are hoping that this is a foot in the door,” Smiley says. But all too often, it’s a door in a different building.

Looking for more? You can read Lauren Smiley’s article about entry-level startup jobs here, on Backchannel.

innovation hub, Business, Lauren Smiley, Kara Miller

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