Text and pictures: Pauliina Alanen, @palan3n

If technology, future, startups, blockchain or AI interest you, but you’re not a huge tech nerd, don’t worry. You can still come to Silicon Valley. It just might be a bit more challenging (read: not advertised) to find out about the “open positions” as they’re for 1) not so hard to fill than hugely needed AI data scientists and 2) no startup starts by hiring a bunch of marketing folks. Here’s my 2 cents to help you land a job in the tech mecca of the world.

1. Talk to people
Find anyone, who has ever even set their foot in California. Read about people who’ve made it, connect with Startuplifers etc. Try to get connected to folks that somehow managed to land a job at your dream location (goes to San Francisco, Silicon Valley, or any other spot in the world).

Once you meet the person, try to understand the next steps. Can he/she connect you with someone who might be able to push you further? Give you more ideas on what it is exactly that you are looking for? Tell you more about the industry that interests you?

2.  Stay patient (the company is probably just very busy)
I got in touch with everyone I knew to learn more about the job market where I wanted to be. I talked to many companies and met people without really knowing if that would lead anywhere.

Eventually, the company I went for had 3 rounds of interviews. With the 10 hour time difference between SF and Helsinki, the experience was all but quick and simple from a candidate’s point of view.

First I met with the CEO on Skype, then with my potential team (Head of Business Development and his team) and then in person with the CEO at Slush. All this seemed forever for an eager candidate, especially as all the meetings had to be late in the evening. However, once I joined the company I understood that they were doing their best within the time constraints they had — they were just pretty busy.

3.  Small talk helps you understand your company
Especially for a non-developer role, you need to be able to network and talk about anything. Even in English, and with complete strangers (might be innate for Americans, not so much for Finns). I carefully studied the company, their financial situation, their competitors and what they were trying to build.

Yet, with our complex product and the US healthcare market being quite different from Finland’s, I honestly struggled to understand what it was exactly that I was getting into. Turned out the important bit was to show I’m capable of handling whatever it is that was waiting for me, and meanwhile be able to get to know people that would help me get there.

4. Join local Facebook groups
Might sound stupid, but seeing how your fellow countrymen and women — expats — survive day-to-day in Silicon Valley helped me to understand that there is a network of people that already live there (the place actually exists), and that network could help me if I get into trouble or don’t find a job that fits me at all.

Joining groups at random and introducing yourself will likely get you your first contacts and the very much appreciated moving-in help as you try to dig your way through banks, social security, and driver’s license. It also helped me to motivate myself to write more (and better) applications.

5. People in San Francisco are also just people – just relax and be yourself
I grew up with the idea of treating other people, even rich/famous/successful, as just people — something that comes quite naturally in an equal society like Finland. Once I moved to Silicon Valley, it felt crazy to be meeting some of the most famous and successful people from my country, serial entrepreneurs turned angel investors and world citizens that have been working for companies like Google for years.

These wonderful encounters have taught me to be myself even when it’s hard not to be too self-aware, whether it’s around someone you admire or your future coworkers. You’re the best as you are, and that’s where the most sincere and insightful conversations start from — that might even end up getting you that dream job.


Pauliina is currently working as Marketing Manager at BetterDoctor, a startup that powers the healthcare market with accurate provider data. You can follow her on Medium (see the original post of this text here) and Tumblr
If Pauliina’s startup life resonates in you and you’s like to try out an internship in Silicon Valley, read this blog or reach out to Pauliina on Telegram with the name @palanen. Regarding the application process, don’t hesitate to drop us a line or just apply!

Startuplifers is a student-driven nonprofit and internship program that sends the brightest brains from Finland and Sweden to do startup internships in California and Singapore. Get selected for our talent pool to receive personal feedback on your application, coaching for the interviews and all the flights and visas taken care of!