Experience of a Lithuanian working in Silicon Valley: what actually happens in the cradle of innovation?

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Giedrė, tell us about your professional path following your graduation. Have you always dreamed about working in Silicon Valley?

After graduation, I realised that the placement I did in Italy and the work experience I gained in Lithuania were not quite enough. I wanted to develop my skills elsewhere, but the European market seemed pretty familiar already, so I decided to cast the net wider in my search for challenges.

I applied to all of the international positions on the LinkedIn platform that fitted my profile. When one of the US companies contacted me and then offered me a job after the selection process, I jumped right into it.

How did the start of your new professional path on another continent look like?

I remember travelling around San Francisco with my friends three years ago, dreaming of working in one of those Victorian buildings one day and commuting by cable car. Obviously, you have to be careful about what you wish for. The dream soon came true – in full!

To be honest, coming here, I didn’t realise I was coming to the biggest city of the start-up, of innovation and the technology industry. Only after moving here did I realise that there was probably no other place like Silicon Valley for gaining practical and professional knowledge.

At first I did a traineeship in a company that was not related to information technologies or innovation, and a few months in I felt I wasn’t improving enough. I resorted to networking events that take place on a daily basis to help me find a new job. Probably, just like in the rest of the world, connections and recommendations in Silicon Valley are of great value, and meeting the right person means not only getting advice and access to useful business connections or inspiration but also an invaluable opportunity to get noticed. That’s exactly what happened to me – I received an offer to join a small team of what was then just three people and contribute to the growth of their idea.

Working in a start-up seems to be one of the current trends. What do you find attractive about this kind of workplace and what are the key advantages of your daily work?

Probably the biggest privilege of working in such a small start-up is the possibility to work shoulder to shoulder with the head of the company. And that’s not an opportunity you get every day. New challenges every day, the chance to take part in various events, while also enjoying the sights and diversity of San Francisco – that’s just part of what makes up daily life.

But it’s not all roses. Even though many believe that experience in a start-up in Silicon Valley is a dream come true, what it also entails is long working days, extra hours and never-ending lists of unfinished tasks. Anyone thinking about joining a start-up must be ready to work in a rapidly developing and quickly changing environment.

Silicon Valley is renowned for being a place of unlimited opportunities and immense competition. What was your impression of the place?

I have to be honest, this place is magical. San Francisco is a city of unlimited opportunities, connections and continuous development, and the cost of living here is currently the highest in the USA. Many people primarily focus on work and career, which is the complete opposite of the laid-back Italians who surrounded me during my placement in Italy. But I’d have never thought that life would take me to this exact place, where I have the possibility to work next to giants such as Uber or Twitter.

What goals did you set yourself in coming to the USA?

To expand my network, gain experience in event management and develop partnership with companies such as Google, Uber or Facebook. To soak up everything I can while I’m here and return to Lithuania to share my experience.

As for the high goals, my daily life is not all about working – I’m also learning through participation in various events and conferences. I usually try to take advantage of volunteering possibilities as it gives an invaluable opportunity to see the behind-the-scenes of managing an event and contribute to its execution.

What knowledge or qualities that you gained during your time at university can you apply in your current job? Has education contributed to your success?

The knowledge of marketing research that I acquired at VU Business School was of most use. The experience of working for the students’ representative office helped me develop my skills in networking, communication with sponsors, event and training management as well as time management. The international exchange experience taught me about working in an intercultural environment and improved my language skills. On the whole, I have only good memories from university.

Education and success are two different things. However, I believe education to be one the cornerstones of knowledge.

You need a certain amount of courage to travel to the other side of the world and launch a career there. What advice would you give to those who dream about it but are not quite sure?

Get out of your comfort zone. I know it sounds cliché but it’s very true. All that matters is not giving up and pursuing what you really want. If you are doubting, weighing it up or even don’t have enough courage – don’t be shy, ask, and look for a solution. Perhaps there’s someone right next to you seeking answers just like you. Two heads are better than one.

What impact do you think working abroad has on developing your personality and worldview?

Incredibly huge. Not just working but also travelling and getting to know the world has a huge impact on every person. Having travelled to more than 30 countries, I can say that my own attitudes have changed drastically – I have broadened my mind, become more tolerant and I’m faster to notice undiscovered possibilities.

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