Every yuppie I knew in New York worked as either a Wall Street guy, a lawyer, or an agent of some sort. Basically, there were all subtly screwing someone else for a living.
As an academic exile, my passport to this foreign world was my then live-in girlfriend, an embodiment of her socioeconomic cohort: Bryn Mawr School for Girls, followed by Harvard, followed by med school. This was a person who could open the Sunday Styles weddings section2, instantly identify a half-dozen couples, and rattle off the juicy gossip dating back to their time at Eliot House.
At cocktail parties with these people, the “ambitious ass-kickers” Paul Graham thinks will save the New York tech scene, the second question you’re asked is inevitably what do you do? And so begins the not-so-subtle binning of you into your social echelon, more ritualistic and damning than any Japanese business card exchange ceremony:
+2 for working at Goldman Sachs
-1 for being a quant rather than a banker or trader
-1 for living on the Lower East Side
-2 for not being Ivy League
+/- 1 for being Gentile (depends on the cocktail party).
And you’re socially in the red at that point. The rest of the conversation is as vacuous as interstellar space.
I’m from the West Coast. I went to Harvard, but I moved back to the West Coast after graduating, living in the Bay Area, LA, San Diego, and Portland (my favorite city of all). But I finally moved to New York for the change of pace, for the different lifestyle, for the art scene, for the challenge of living in a difficult-to-live place. I’ve lived here for eight years now, have never worked for a bank or financial services company, and for the most part, while I have met, know, and think many folks working for financial services companies are perfectly fine people, I think they’re more or less wasting their lives doing things which are simultaneously boring and unproductive. I am, in other words, a West Coast snob. I think building things is more worthwhile than skimming off the top of the economy. I think hustling is a waste of time and life. You only live once. I have no interest whatsoever in appearing in the Sunday Styles wedding section and I have to say if I ever met anyone remotely interested in that I would run, not walk, the other direction as fast as I could.
But you know what? There are a lot of other people like me here. They are either tired of working for banks or they never took a bank job. They want to build things, too. If all you did when you lived here was work as a quant, no wonder you have a skewed view of what people are into here. I’ve worked for nonprofits, also staffed to the gills with Ivy Leaguers who want to build things and make the world a better place. I’ve worked for startups here too.
Yes, Silicon Alley is probably never going to rival the Valley. But there is a vibrant culture of smart, dedicated builders here who couldn’t care less about the vaporware culture of the financial services world, who want to make a difference, who want to build things and have fun. And frankly, Silicon Alley folks, for whatever reason, seem to be a bit healthier, and more female, than the equivalent crowds in the Valley. Don’t know why, but it’s just an observation.
Quality of life in New York is way less than the Bay Area, yes. Food on the West Coast (not just SF — LA and Portland have superior food in my opinion than New York, too) is far better overall. Produce is better. But there is a real tech culture here and it is not going to disappear.permalink |