The Gifts of Technology, Diversity, and Global Connections

Photo by Andrew Worley

In the jungle of offices at Rackspace on the South of Market tech hub, Shahin Shadfar sits at a desk cluttered with tech parts and points to his latest creation, an app called Zurf which is the latest in a string of successes for the San Francisco transplant. While Shadfar has gained a reputation for an innovative entrepreneur in Houston and Boston as well as San Francisco, he’s not from the US. He is a member of a large population of creative talent from the Middle East, a large community that has brought inventive talents to the tech industry in the Bay Area.
Another worker, Trisha Roy, from India, is living her dream Silicon Valley. Roy had no experience with technology in her native country.

As a woman in her old country, women did not have access to engineering jobs. But, Roy wanted a better life for herself, so when she got to the United States, she talked to people about technology. After getting an MBA from the University of Arizona, Roy moved to the Bay Area as she saw the best paying jobs were in tech, so she taught herself the basics of coding to be competitive and was successful in landing a job at eBay, working her way up to becoming a senior product manager. Today, she owns Barn & Willow, a company that leverages technology to create custom home decor.
By embracing diversity, we gain talent and dedication from all over the world.

Ben and Mena Trott, both 24 years old in 2003, had been laid off from start-up tech companies. Broke and with time on their hands, Mena, a graphic artist, began playing around with design ideas as she was journaling her feelings. Needing some technical advice, Ben, a programmer, helped out.

Soon friends began asking for Mena’s “program” and just a few months later, “Six Apart”, the Trott’s blog start-up, was born. The company became the engine behind the “blog” phenomena.

This is just one of thousands of stories of lesser known Silicon Valley innovations that have changed the world.
The San Francisco Bay Area stands on a solid foundation of existing global connections. It has the fourth highest concentration of Forbes 2,000 Global Companies, ranking after only Tokyo, London and New York. It also has 645 foreign-owned company subsidiaries, and the amount is rapidly increasing. A 2008 poll by the Bay Area Council found that local residents endorse, by a wide majority of 88 percent, the rapid acceleration in global trade and economic and cultural connections between the Bay Area and other countries, in stark juxtaposition to immigration and globalization fears in many other parts of the United States.

Some of this enthusiasm stems from the fact that many residents are themselves migrants. The percentage of Bay Area residents born outside the United States is more than twice the national average – 27 percent in the nine counties that make up the region, compared to 13 percent nationally. Forty percent of Bay Area residents speak a language other than English at home – twice the national average.

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