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I'm a masters student pursuing an MS in Data Science. I currently have two offers, one in California with a startup and another with an established Fortune 500 company in Detroit. The Detroit offer is higher than the startup offer, and considering that the cost of living in Detroit is much lower, this is a really big deal. I'm gravitating towards taking the offer of the Detroit firm. The reason is two fold, one being the salary, and the other being the fact that I'll have a big company on my resume. This is going to be my first job (real full-time job).

My friend raised a concern that I would like to have more clarity on. As we all know, Detroit is by no means a tech center like California. He says that by taking the Detroit offer, I will close all opportunities to move to California later on due to the loss of contacts who can help me get a job. Is this really true? Will all windows of opportunities close just because I end up living in Detroit? Don't companies in other places also hire candidates from other states?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Nov 29 '18 at 21:33
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Your friend is just wrong.

Obviously companies hire from other parts of the country, otherwise everyone would be stuck in one city for the rest of their lives. Is it helpful to live in the same area as the companies you are applying to? Yes, of course, but it is by no means a hindrance.

Especially in today's perpetually-connected world with recruiters from around the country constantly emailing and cold-calling, you don't need a personal connection to get a job. When (or if) it comes to the point that you want to leave Detroit and head someplace else, you update your resume and start putting it out there. It might not be as simple as sending it to your buddy who works at TechCorp, but the internet is a wonderful thing, and you'll have plenty of leads in no time!

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    California has a place in my heart, so there's no doubt I want to move there. But for entry level positions, pay definitely doesn't allow much saving there with high costs of living in the Bay area. My thought was to work for 2 years at a big company and save up a lot of money, get promoted to the next level and then move to California to command a higher salary. – user77870 Nov 27 '18 at 18:19
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    I have known plenty of people who have moved to California after starting their career somewhere else. I have also known people who move away from California to work somewhere else. As long as you are building experience companies want, it doesn't matter where you work. – Seth R Nov 27 '18 at 18:25
  • I have seen companies post jobs for "local candidates only". However, these are typically smaller companies that can't afford to pay someone's relocation expenses. If you're okay with paying your own travel/moving expenses (worst-case), then location shouldn't be an issue at all. – bta Nov 27 '18 at 19:26
  • I currently work at a company located basically as far as you can get from where I normally live without leaving the contiguous US. I can confirm that companies, though they might prefer to hire locally (no relocation to consider, supporting local workers, etc.) that rarely means they won't hire outside talent. – Nic Hartley Nov 27 '18 at 21:29
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    @PennyJackson after having been away two years, you'll have lost a lot of contacts. The world moves on without you. Also, moving twice in two years is not particularly nice. You'll have some overhead of lost money from moving, etc. Consider staying in Detroit longer or not moving at all, not from a workplace perspective, but from a personal perspective. – DonQuiKong Nov 28 '18 at 8:11
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There are things to consider, but that isn't really one of them.

Your first position as a programmer need not be career-defining, but it is influential, and it will start a rut that can be hard to break out of later. Location... isn't really a big deal. There are lots of ways to get a position that have nothing to do with the specific people you know. More important considerations include things like:

  • What programming languages are you going to be working with?
  • Are you working on legacy code or new code?
  • How large is the company?
  • How large is the codebase?
  • How long is the position likely to last?

Note that there are almost no objectively bad answers to these questions, but they can still be significant to you. For example, many programmers want to always be working on the new shiny thing, and wouldn't want their first few years to be plugging away on legacy code written in an older language. It wouldn't teach them what they want to learn, and it wouldn't give the look they want on their resume. On the flip side, if you like the idea of maintaining old stuff, there are a lot of people out there who've had long and rewarding careers doing just that, and the best resume you can have for getting a position maintaining code for the next decade is one where you've just finished a job maintaining code for the previous decade. Your first position starts up some inertia. There's some value in making sure that it's going where you want it to go.

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    As nearly all employers have an established code-base, showing an ability to work on such (rather than playing with the new shiny) is a major plus point for potential employers. (A recent job had a wiki page with the line "some of our code is older than some of our employees". I don't think it was then older than any of the programmers, but it probably now is. However that is moderately extreme.) – Martin Bonner Nov 28 '18 at 10:07
  • Depends on the employers. You're going to want to work with some sort of established codebase in almost every case, sure, but the skills necessary to work on a relatively young codebase and the skills to work on an old codebase are not the same. Also, it may well be the case that there are more companies with old codebases than young, but the ones with young codebases and new projects tend to hire more programmers. (at least, to my understanding) – Ben Barden Nov 28 '18 at 20:46
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Your friend is wrong.

I work in a company in Southern California and we hired somebody from Michigan.

I have grown up in Southern California, worked in Silicon Valley, then worked in Connecticut. I then moved back to Southern California, without any issues.

You always have the option to move to CA after working in Detroit, then look for a job (or if you are really lucky, the CA company may pay for your moving to CA).

Don't plan too far out into the future. "The future always changing, it is".

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    +1 for the last sentence. In my experience, a good horizon is about two years. – njuffa Nov 27 '18 at 23:44
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    Two years is what I'm planning for. Just want to gain the right experience at a big company, hopefully get promoted to the next level and then start searching for a job. – user77870 Nov 28 '18 at 3:22
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Your friend just doesn't want to see you go :)

Because he's wrong on both counts.

First, you won't have any trouble going to California later, unless you develop an addiction to Coney Islands or Buddy's pizza. Social connections tend to be by social media anyway, and I must admit by your language I assume you are not already in CA or MI.

Second, Detroit is a tech hotbed -- wait, we need to have the 8 Mile conversation. Because there's the city proper, and then the metro area.

The Metro Area, i.e. The suburbs, has been booming for 30 years+, and has been sort-of hogging the growth for the entire region. You can't throw a rock in Novi (know-vie) or Ann Arbor without hitting a technology company. Medical is huge, mechanical engieering, and of course, the industry that made Detroit famous: Pizza. Dominos, Little Caesers and Hungry Howie's are from the metro, but you'll want Buddy's, which defines Detroit style pizza.

Engineering departments from almost every engine and automaker in the world are also located in metro Detroit, even Indian, Russian and Chinese companies who don't even build cars for North American markets. Why? The critical mass of staff and suppliers, particularly in enginering and prototyping.

The D was the poster child for white flight and urban decay. About 3 years ago it finished bottoming out, cleared bankruptcy and made a turnaround, and now all the cool kids think it's trendy and hip to live in the D - certain neighborhoods anyway. A million people don't move back overnight, so Detroit proper will, for quite some time, be a block by block patchwork of "trendy" and "extreme blight". Not a lot of white collar industry is in the D, and obviously it's in the nice parts.

One more thing: the self-driving car industry is a veritable Manhattan Project, focused in the Bay Area and metro Detroit. If you get involved with that, you could find yourself with a lot of opportunities on both "coasts".

On the cost of living...

Detroit's patchwork makes it harder to price living expenses from afar. If you just push "Detroit" into Zillow, you'll get a box of chocolates. Figure out what city your job is in, check Google Maps traffic at 8am Eastern time on a weekday for what commutes you don't want to be married to, and choose towns nearby. For pricing, put in Berkley as a safe, pleasant working class town, Novi is more upscale, and Huntington Woods or West Bloomfield are downright tony.

Honestly I would recommend renting until you get the lay of the land. If I had to spitball one, I'd say the huge apartment complex at 10 mile and Halstead, right at the I-696/275/96/M-5 hub. Farmington is a decent town, and the whole west side is an easy commute. Most of the job growth is on the west side, Novi, Livonia, Commerce, etc.

The social culture is that almost anyone who is financially able to own a home, does. This marries you to a whole ton of home-ownership expense. You may also need a riding mower and use it every week.

Transport: "Detroit is a great big freeway, put a hundred down and buy a car." If it's an automaker or automotive supplier, hold off on buying the car until you find out if you qualify for the "A-Plan", a steep discount for auto industry employees. This also gluts the used car market.

If your job is with the auto industry, consider using that A-plan for a swap to a marque of your employer. They're mellower about foreign cars these days, but the Prius still pushes buttons: it's thought of as technically lousy, but people still buy it! Anytime automakers do a limited coastal-cities release of a cutting edge car like the Chevy Volt, Detroit is always included for obvious reasons. So if your next stop is urban CA, one of those is fine.

Demand an enhanced Michigan drivers license for easy passage to Canada. Windsor is a long lunch, Toronto is a daytrip and the closest "big city".

Public Transit is purely survival-tier, with shockingly early curfews and a 1-3 mile walk on both ends of most suburban trips. Difficult in winter. The exceptions are a few genuinely transitable enclaves like Ann Arbor, Royal Oak or downtown Detroit. But that depends on your employer also being transitable, and for any random employer, that is highly improbable.

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    I have a lot of friends living in Ann Arbor. It's a very pleasant city, and certainly commutable to Livonia / Plymouth / Dearborn. – Martin Bonner Nov 28 '18 at 10:17
  • This answer explains why Detroit is not a bad place for technology jobs, but it doesn't address another aspect from the question: Maintaining connections to the California tech industry. – Philipp Nov 28 '18 at 12:41
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    An excellent answer for half the question is still worth having. – Ben Barden Nov 28 '18 at 20:49
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    My opening line is kind of a joke. What I read in OP is he is considering going to either CA or MI, implying he's currently in neither. – Harper Nov 28 '18 at 20:59
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I'm a programmer in the south east and receive unsolicited contact from recruiters from California (general San Fransico) as well as other parts of the country at least once a week.

You'll always have the opportunity to move to California (or probably anywhere else you'd like to live). Take the job you're most excited about. If you're more excited about the job in Detroit, take that job. If you're more excited to work in California, move there.

Your friend is wrong about limiting opportunities. I've known people who moved to California from my city because the job was right. I've also known people who moved from California to the south. You probably won't live in one city your whole life.

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Your friend is almost certainly wrong that taking a job in Detroit will close opportunities to move to California later. If you're good at your job and there's a market for what you do, then you shouldn't have much trouble finding an opportunity elsewhere in the connected world in which we live.

Where he may have a point is in the opportunity cost of not surrounding yourself with some of the top talent in the industry. One could certainly make the argument that living in a tech hub can provide you with additional opportunities that you may not get elsewhere.

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I could not understand why the new job appourtunities are closed while working in Detroit. Yes, upto some extent a big state like California has always more appourtunities than a relatively small state. In my opinion in this global world boundaries of state and even countries having no hinderess to excel or choose your better career throughout the world. Only experience, requisite knowledge and performance in current appointment is counted for considering new job. In the era of global village you can easily approach your desired job throughout the world.

In current scenario you have rightly decided to choose at Detroit due to more salary and less expenditures. I think for starting a job it is good option

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All people here saying that your friend is wrong, are (partially) wrong.

Any company worth working for, will have no issue with you relocating back to California, or wherever in the world for the matter. If Google or Facebook think you're worth it, they'll extract you from North Korea if necessary.

BUT

The chances of you getting in contact with jobs in California are just lower if your drinking/sports/hobby buddies are not in California. Most people get jobs through networking. This means that when you're unsatisfied about your work, maybe not even considering leaving, you'll just talk about it with your friends. One of them maybe knows that there's about to be an opening at their company that fits you perfectly and tells you about it. Your friend vouches for your character and your resume vouches for your skills, and then you have the job before it is even open.

The above scenario cannot happen if you're in Detroit, at least it is not very likely with jobs from California. If you'll later want to move to California, you'll have to look for jobs online, apply, and you won't have anyone inside that company to vouch for you. It's by no means impossible, it's just harder.

With all the above being said, what are the chances of meeting the right people if you work at a startup likely to fail in one year? I don't know, but probably you can take a guess.

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What I did: Type in several job combinations in Dice and Indeed that matched my skillset. Compare the job counts. Look at whether there is a local preferred university with a similar MS program. I found Detroit to be an insular place. They highly preferred MSU or UM graduates. The job number counts were low compared to my preferred state. But if you are a lady and have a real job offer, you are clear. There are several national-grade corporations in and around Detroit. Except for the strip housing is very affordable. I can comment more if I know the company. --Veteran of the Detroit area job market.

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