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Do You Have What It Takes To Succeed In Silicon Valley?

Dreaming of working in the tech world like these three young Pinoys here? If you do you might as well shoot for the stars
by Allan P. Hernandez | Mar 16, 2017
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Robert Cornelius 'Bobby' Murphy is a 28-year-old Filipino-American. He is smart. He earned his degree in Mathematical and Computational Science from Stanford University in 2010.

He is also insanely rich. As the co-founder of Snapchat, now Snap, his net worth was valued at $4 billion after it was announced that Snap was going public in the US stock market.

Remember that: He is Filipino. The cutthroat global tech industry could use smart people among us. While Murphy’s is a stellar success story, there are other Filipinos working in Silicon Valley, the acknowledged center of the tech world. Meet three of them and gauge for yourself if you have what it takes to land a job in heaven.


Mark Joseph Tan

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University: University of the Philippines; Carnegie Mellon University
Job:  Senior Product Manager
Company: Amazon
How long in Silicon Valley: 5 years

Raymond Castillo

University: Ateneo de Manila University
Job:  Global Strategy and Planning (Community Operations)
Company: Uber
How long in Silicon Valley: 6 months

Jonathan 'Jojo' Antonio

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University: De La Salle University
Job: Database Team Lead/Manager
Company: Twitter
How long in Silicon Valley: 16.5 years


Antonio: I lead a team of DBAs and manage databases that store all the data used at Twitter or by our internal systems. I’ve done the same thing for eight years at YouTube and another seven years at PayPal. We own and support Twitter’s relational database infrastructure. We take care of the security, stability, and scalability of the databases. If it goes down, Twitter will go down. We’re like doctors of the databases. I’ve been doing this since I came to the US in 1999. It is hectic but it’s fun, I always have an adrenaline rush every time there’s an emergency problem and we were able to solve it in a few minutes. 

Tan: I engineer and build software products. At Amazon, I focus on video games and consumer electronics. I enable customers to get something that they want by redesigning our mobile and web customer experience. As a Product Manager, I work directly with various team members to build road maps and launch products. I partner with a broader team (Engineering, Search and Science, Marketing, Sales and BD).

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Castillo: I use data and analytics to ensure that all our users have the most efficient and safest possible experience when using Uber. This involves mining data, surfacing insights to our product and engineering teams, and coordinating with operations teams located in different cities across the globe.


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Tan: I got into the tech industry by relentlessly lining up grit, opportunity, and passion. I’ve always been passionate about technology but never really figured out what I wanted to do within the industry. So I kept myself informed on what’s happening in the Valley and realized the opportunities that fit my skills and passion well are available here. I found out that the best path to land a Silicon Valley career is to pursue an advanced degree and I completed my masters program at Carnegie Mellon University. To get a job, I did traditional processes via online and LinkedIn (LI), but what ultimately landed me a job was in-person networking in the Bay Area. That’s how I landed my first gig at Quixey, a mobile app search and discovery startup.

Antonio: I first got accepted as an Intern at Digital Equipment Filipinas for three years, while still in college. That stint taught me a lot about computers and I also acquired a good network of people who helped me start my career. I never forget those connections. Every time I visit Manila I make sure to meet with them and also stay in touch through social media.

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Castillo: A headhunter reached out to me for a local role in Manila back when I was working for a multinational consumer goods company. My scope grew from a regional role managing our Asia-Pacific business to my most recent role as part of the global team based at our headquarters in San Francisco.

Antonio: To get yourself in the door, I believe the best way is to find some connections in your network that maybe working in the company or a connection of a connection. It’s always easy to go in if you are referred by an employee rather than get mixed with thousands of applicants. Make sure that you have an updated resume or LI profile.



Castillo: My recruitment process involved several rounds of one-on-one interviews, an analytics test, a happy hour where we got to meet regional team members of Uber who flew into Manila (since they were still building the local team), and a panel interview. Granted, Uber was a smaller company back when I joined and I believe that we now follow a more stringent process for hiring.

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Tan: The screening process for Product Managers is super competitive, since companies require several years of experience and the skill set cuts across several domains–engineering, business and operations, and even sales and marketing. Fortunately, I was given a chance to take on this role by consistently learning the skill set and going through several interview rounds.

Antonio: Only two percent of applicants get an interview [in Twitter], in some companies in Silicon Valley, maybe less. That is how competitive it is here. The bar is high and teams are not willing to lower it down because they don’t want to pay the price if they don’t get that A-type candidate. In a normal tech company you go through two phone screens, each one lasts for an hour. If you pass you go on-site for an interview, which usually lasts for three to four hours. You will not only be tested and interviewed technically, companies/teams will also evaluate if you will fit in their culture. Having a good work genealogy will help a lot. Working at PayPal, eBay, YouTube, Google, and Twitter always puts me at the top of the search list by recruiters. But the main thing is you have to come across as hardworking, smart, and passionate. If they see that, you will get all kinds of recommendations. Your work will speak for you.

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Castillo: The pace is definitely much faster here compared with other companies I have worked for. Technically, there are no office hours and everyone hustles to get the job done. I’ve come to accept that my role and responsibilities can change from week to week given how fast the company is growing. It can change from leading a project involving several regional teams to learning a new programming language needed to create reporting dashboards that the whole company will use.

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Antonio: It really depends on what type of company you are working for. If you are working in a startup expect to work long hours including weekends and holidays. In a startup your team is always fighting to make sure that everything works. If you are in a mid- to large-sized company there will be times that you will need to work extra hours. But these hours are pre-determined so you can prepare for them.

Tan: As for me, I’ve learned to work within the bounds of eight to 10 hours a day as that’s the only way that I will be able to accomplish all other things that I want to achieve.

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Castillo: Dynamic and relentless are the two words that come to my mind when describing the culture. The companies and people who do well are those that can evolve and adapt quickly. Those that cling to the status quo or who get too comfortable with a certain way of doing things are swept aside by the constant pace of change that happens here. You constantly have to learn new things and be willing to stretch yourself to get things done in this kind of environment. People here also have a strong sense of mission that they attach to their work. Most fundamentally believe that what they do is making the world a better place, which is a useful mentality to have when the workload starts to pile up.

Tan: It’s overflowing with positive energy, optimism, and a constant drive to make a difference in the world. I’ve never seen a place where coffee shops exist for people to make apps and pitch their ideas as much as Silicon Valley.

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Antonio: SV embraces a culture of openness, collaboration, autonomy, and continuous learning. Here in the Valley, age, gender, color, religion, etc. does not matter. If you are smart and know what you are doing, companies will find and offer you an opportunity.  To be successful in SV you have to surround yourself with smart people. The opportunity to work with the smart/er people and collaborate with them gives you a chance to learn and establish yourself as a dependable and knowledgeable person in the field and your network will notice that. When you work in SV good companies give you autonomy, a power to decide on your work, which allows you to perform at your best. What you get done, the results, is all that matters.

For the full feature, grab a copy of the March 2017 issue of FHM Philippines.
*Some minor edits were made by the editors.

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