By Dilara Casey

Originally posted on Linkedin.com

Last week, the blog entry heard around the world was penned by a 20-something Yelp/Eat24 employee who was having trouble making it work in Silicon Valley. In this open letter to her CEO, Talia Jane discussed the difficulty of making ends meet in one of the nation’s most expensive areas to live. Her letter was met with mixed responses from the public.

Say what you want about her approach. Say what you want about her company’s response. Say what you want about Millennials in general.  But I will say this—when it comes to tech and startups, there are plenty of job opportunities outside of Silicon Valley. Places where you can have a quality life and still snag a job designing memes all day.

After I graduated college, I had every intention of moving out west and having a career there. But for some reason, I stayed here. As my three best friends, each within 18 months of one another packed their bags and left for California (Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco respectively), I chose to stay in the Midwest.

Why I chose to stay in Columbus.

Because I could afford to live here.  Columbus is the 7th most affordable region in the United State to live. That doesn’t just mean home ownership, it is also one of the Top 10 places for millennials to rent. After renting here for a few years I was able to eventually my own home when I was 25 years old. Not only that, my condo held its value and helped lay a foundation of equity I later used to purchase my current home where I’m raising my two children with my husband.

Because there are tons of tech companies here. Granted, everybody pales in comparison to Silicon Valley, but we are nothing to snuff at. Forbes ranked us at Number 3 for one of the best cities to find a tech job.  There are plenty of brands and companies here looking for Millennials to create their cat memes. I spent part of my career working at one of them.

Because I wasn’t spending 2 hours a day in traffic. Everything is 15-20 minutes away in Columbus. You can drive your own car (which you can afford to buy!), take an Uber, ride the COTA, or use a Car2Go to get to your destination.  When you’re commuting less, you’re spending more time doing quality things with your life, like going to one of the many shows in town, seeing a new band, checking out an art installation, or playing Frisbee in a local park.

Because the weather isn’t as bad as I thought. Tornadoes versus earthquakes. Yes, we get snow. But it’s not always that bad. And the change of seasons is kind of a lovely thing.

Because I can have a life. Let’s piece it all together, shall we? If you’re working 60 hours a week (which you probably will do at most tech companies or startups, let’s be honest) and you are commuting 1-2 hours each way every day, and you are living in a place where the cost of living is so high you’re working a second job it doesn’t give you much time to do anything except commute to work and work. And what kind of life is that? How awesome are those palm trees from your seventeenth floor view during the 60 hours a week you are toiling away?

So my heart goes out to Talia Jane, and the rest of the folks who don’t realize there are other places in this country where they can have a career in the digital or tech industry. There are plenty of cities with a vibrant culture, strong vibe, and smart people. Places just like Columbus.

 
Dilara Casey is the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. She loves the sweet spot where strategy and creativity intersect. And that usually leads to collaboration and amazing results. Though her name means “delightful” in Turkish, you can also add scrappy and witty to the list. Having been in the Columbus marketing scene for over 15 years, Dilara has worked with companies with budgets ranging from $500 to $5 million all while staying on the cutting edge of marketing trends and innovations.