Presentation on theme: "Finding a company This is the hard part, and the one I cannot help with. Before I went to the university, I worked for my father's company during school."— Presentation transcript:
Finding a company This is the hard part, and the one I cannot help with. Before I went to the university, I worked for my father's company during school holidays, which among other things was a distributor for a computer company in the Silicon Valley. Later, when studying, my father suggested to make contact with that company for an internship. Personal connections made this happen, and I worked for a sister company (Aurora Systems, now part of Chyron) in San Francisco, for three months during the summer holidays. I was not paid but the company took care of the flight and the hotel. The next year I repeated this, and Aurora Systems was sufficiently impressed that they offered me a permanent job after I finished my degree, which I accepted. I took advantage of the fact that an internship involves little risk for the company. Since no salary, no social security, no benefits, and no work permit were involved, the company stood to lose very little if it had not worked out. The visa rules limit such an internship to the duration of a tourist visa, three months. I was lucky that the contact could be made from over here; if you do not have this advantage I assume it would be necessary to research possible candidate companies here and then fly over there and meet with them, at your expense.
Obtaining the visa Anybody working in the USA needs a work permit. As a foreigner, you are an "alien". Not the kind with the green skin and antennas on the head, but alien enough to go through a tortuous legal procedure. It begins with obtaining an H1 visa, which is a work permit valid for three years. An H1 visa is tied to a particular company, which means you won't be able to switch jobs. After these three years, one can apply for a green card, which is not restricted to a specific company. Green cards are valid permanently and do not need to be renewed until you leave the USA for one year, at which time the green card expires. This last restriction was introduced some ten years ago. Before, a green card was a lifetime work permit no matter where you lived. The only practical way to get an H1 is to have the company that wants to hire you ask their lawyer to do the paperwork. It cannot be done in a reasonable timeframe without a lawyer. My company tried and failed, until they got a lawyer. (Lawyers have a very peculiar status in the USA, passionately hated yet indispensable.) Even so, the procedure usually takes six months, plus/minus three.
Company paperwork Predictably there was no problem with the work contract. Aurora Systems offered an excellent benefits package. "Benefits" is the term for everything you get besides the salary. The main benefit is health and dental insurance, which are separate. I got 100% medical and 80% dental coverage after a waiting period of three months. This meant that I was uninsured for three months, after which the insurance would pay 100% of all medical expenses and 80% of dental expenses. This is unusually generous. Many companies offer less than 100% medical coverage, and less dental coverage or none at all, or a deductible (you pay the first $500 and the insurance the rest, for example). Waiting periods are also often much longer. Family members are usually not insured. There is no such thing as German universal coverage. Most people who live in the US find they must own a car because the distances tend to be very large. My daily commute, for example, was 40km or 25mi daily. (Now it's 15km or 9mi.) This means you'll have to take a test at the DMV (Department for Motor Vehicles) to get a US driver's license. Your European driver's license is only valid for the first three months. I don't like cars and used a bicycle, so I went to the DMV and got a California ID, which is the same thing as a driver's license with a special note saying that I couldn't drive
Working conditions There is little job security in the US. Unions have bad reputations and usually don't exist or are have no influence, except in some traditional blue-collar jobs. This means that if your boss decides he no longer likes you he is pretty much free to fire you on the spot and have you escorted off the premises. There was never any question of this happening to me but I have seen it happen to others. For you this would be the end of your stay in the US because your visa is tied to the company. Smoking is banned in working environents and nearly everywhere else, except outside and in your own home. Having worked with smokers before this was great for me. Smokers are now having a hard time in Europe too, but in the US they are really serious about this. If you smoke and can't kick your habit you'll suffer in the US
Housing The cost of housing depends greatly on the location. I hear it's possible to buy an entire farm for $50,000 in remote parts of the country, but I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where At this time (2000) the cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area has spiraled out of control. You are lucky if you can find a dingy one-room apartment in a bad part of town for $1000 a month, and you will very probably find yourself paying twice that. Living expenses are so high that a dollar is worth less than half as much as it ought to, based on exchange rates. Salaries are also higher but not enough to offset this. Still, the Bay Area is so attractive to computer workers that the population is still growing rapidly..
Transportation Public transportation systems in the USA are usually extremely poor, with a few exceptions. San Francisco is one. It's fairly easy to get around by bus, tram, trolley, subway (BART), and train (CalTrain). One problem is that all these systems are mostly independent, don't synchronize their schedules and stops very much, and have their own fare systems. The systems extend outside the city. Especially CalTrain and BART are very convenient to get into the city, and they take bicycles for free except during rush hours. CalTrain, however, is primarily a commuter service for the peninsula that doesn't run very often on weekends
Food and shopping You'll find junk food anywhere, but in the USA it's almost a way of life. European grocery stores and supermarkets cater to ingredients for good home cooking while US supermarkets stock up on Microwave TV dinners (not unlike airline food), "snack food" like giant potato chip bags, and long rows of refrigerators for frozen food. European stores tend to be small, and there are many different ones nearby. US supermarkets are like huge hangars that you could park two 747 aircraft side by side and still have room for a soccer field (French readers will know what I mean). They have names like Safeway, Lucky, or Vons, and are all pretty much identical. You walk into one of them, watch the rows of aisles receding into the distance, and know that there are approximately six edible food items you can buy there.
Culture San Francisco has a very active cultural scene - lots of museums and galleries and avantgarde art. San Francisco has the Haight/Ashbury, Berkeley has Telegraph Street, and there are a few others. Still, even San Francisco doesn't seem to have quite absorbed its role as the cultural center of the Bay Area; almost everything shuts down at around nine o'clock. Perhaps I am a bit jaded from Berlin, which keeps bubbling all night, and should check out New York instead, but it does seem strange. Out in the suburbs the picture is grim. The typical suburb has two cultural centers where people meet: the mall and the multiplex. The former are giant parking lots with a cluster of depressing concrete stores in the center. Typically there is a Safeway, a Foot Locker, a Chiropractor, a palm reader/psychic, and assorted other chain stores. They are convenient for people who have to travel a long distance and want one-stop shopping convenience to save time. Except in selected places in San Francisco, there is nothing like the streets designed for strolling and window-shopping, with sidewalk cafés and a large diversity that one finds in Europe. The other place, the multiplex movie theater, plays assorted mainstream Hollywood movies on sixteen screens simultaneously. These malls and multiplexes are where people hang out. Sad. (I should mention that there is one complete exception to this urban nightmare - the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto is very pleasant.)
REALIZED BY: Giuseppe Tarsia Federico Martellucci Vittorio Ferrari IN COLLABORATION WITH: Luigi Massimo Valeria Zafferri