A conversation in Silicon Valley part 2

Last month, I had dinner with several friends in Silicon Valley. During our conversation, my friend Vikash explained: “In the past twenty years, there are more Indians working here than other immigrants. Among technology startups in Silicon Valley, most were created by Indian engineers than others. Among top positions in technology companies, there are more Indian than others. For example, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, Santana Narayen the CEO of Adobe, and several thousand who occupy high-level management positions. We even move up to other industries, you can see Indira Nooyi the CEO of Pepsi Cola, Vikram Pandit the CEO of Citi group, and many more.”

I was surprised: “That is interesting information, but I wonder what happened to others such as the Chinese and Japanese? Vikash explained: “Forty years ago when Indians immigrants began to come over here, they never thought that they could be as successful as the Chinese or Japanese, who were ahead of them. But at that time, most Chinese immigrants were focusing on small business, such as trades, import, export, or restaurants. A majority of the Japanese were interested in government’s jobs, but few would pay attention to the technology areas. The Indians seized the opportunities and became the most successful among the immigrants in the technology industries. Of course, today you have immigrants from all over the world come here and work in the technology industry.”

I asked: “Why Indian immigrants were so successful?” Vikash explained: “One of the key success of the Indians is they have a lot of information about the job market as compared with other Asian immigrants. For example, most Chinese immigrants get information from their family and relatives. The family tradition still influences their decision. If the parents own a restaurant, their children may follow that by opening a restaurant. If the parents work for the government, the children also want to work for the government. Of course, it is changing now as more information is available via the Internet and social media. The fact is most Indians follow the news carefully; they read a lot about the job market and social trends, and they share the information widely. There are thousands of blogs, Facebook accounts sharing information about technology and job opportunities. When the technology market demands specific skills, many Indians back home know about it and take quick action to learn those skills. The dream of young Indians is to escape the poverty by working in the U.S. The skills shortage here opens the door for many of them.”

Ramesh, another friend, added: “One of our advantages is we speak English very well as compared with other immigrants. You cannot do well here if you do not speak English. Because of this advantage, Indians students do well in university as well as the company as they all have communication skills. If you look further, you will see that Indians do not just succeed in the U.S., but also do well in other countries such as Singapore, England, Germany, Australia, and the Scandinavia.”

I argued: “But today many Chinese and Japanese also speak English well too. What prevents them from achieving the success that Indians have?

Vikash answered: “It is the cultural aspect. For some reasons, many do not share information with others but keep it for themselves. For example, when Google is looking for certain skills, within minutes, most blogs and Facebook in India post the news but you do not see that in other countries. There are many blogs providing technical advice and supports all over India, you do not have something like that in other countries. If you look carefully at newspapers in India, they have a lot of information about the knowledge, the skills and information about the job market all over the world. However, most newspapers in other countries are full of advertising for technology products, such as the latest iPhone or Apple watches. Basically, they promote the consuming of technology, NOT how to create technology products or how to work in the technology industry. We believe the best way to encourage young people to study technology is to provide more information, more technology news about job opportunities and what the industry needs —not just in the U.S. but in Europe, Singapore, and elsewhere. Today the Internet and social media are powerful tools that connect Indians who work overseas and Indians who are living back home. As you travel, you may notice that in any country that have strong technology industry, you will see Indian engineers there. The more technology advances, the better for Indians because we all know how to seize the opportunity to make a living in the 21st century.”


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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