Opinion: Silicon Valley will suffer for alienating international students

Opinion: Silicon Valley will suffer for alienating international students
Studying on the edge of Silicon Valley. Source: Shutterstock

“ Silicon Valley is a mindset, not a location.”Reid Hoffman

Known as a breeding ground for kooky tech start-ups, Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area is a haven for tech moguls and those who dare to dream.

Once recognised as the ’Valley of Heart’s Delight’, this region blossomed with orchards of fruit in the early 1900s. Fast-forward 50 years and it boomed with silicon chips, driving the current onslaught of digital manufacturers.

Since then, it has rapidly evolved into a hotbed of high-tech companies, serving as a focus point for eagle-eyed techies all over the globe. As they look on from the sidelines with intense fascination, they need only wait a mere few weeks for Silicon Valley innovators to churn out the next big thing.

An electric-scooter start-up named Bird, for example, recently flew into the market and shook up the transport sector. Though the product may have been met with onslaught of criticism and naysayers, there’s no denying its success, with its valuation starting at US$300 million, growing to an astonishing US$1 billion this year.

Bird represents just one of myriad companies to have hit the big figures in Silicon Valley. It’s no wonder that so many people desire a real-world insight into the inner workings of the global tech elite.

To grant their students a head-start, Silicon Valley schools are making use of their strategic location, connecting lower-income learners to the illustrious benefits of local tech collaboration.

Highlighted by The Hechinger Report, Downtown College Prep Alum Rock High in the southern end of Silicon Valley is one such school trying hard to trigger change.

As reported, “Most students at the high school are from Mexican immigrant families.” Since most are “the children of groundskeepers, janitors, cooks and construction workers, they rarely get a shot at high-paying, high-tech jobs.”

According to the superintendent of another school nearby, “Half our kids don’t know what’s out there or what it means to be an engineer, they drive past the tech buildings, but they don’t know what’s going on inside.”

Strange, isn’t it? Students who are living on the edge of the world-famous Silicon Valley aren’t getting the chance to showcase their skills or go behind-the-scenes of the ever-growing tech movement taking place next-door.

Stuck on the outside. Source: Shutterstock

Yes, tech is the future – but so are the children.

On the other side, there are international students who have grown up amid the valley and have broken through the borders of tech segregation. But how easy was it for them to get noticed in this complex digital matrix?

One such student is Shippo  CEO and Co-Founder, Laura Behrens Wu. Born in Germany, she arrived to the US to pursue an MBA in San-Fran.

Captivated by the creative energy of the region, Wu had visions of creating a start-up of her own. As she told the Entrepreneur, “Coming from Europe, it was a different mindset compared to Silicon Valley where everyone talks about killing and crushing it.”

As an international student trying to get her start-up off the ground, she found that the Valley was a ruthless and difficult crowd to join. After speaking to 125 investors and receiving 115 rejections, Wu finally broke through and defied expectations.

Serving as an example of pure persistence and grit, Wu is just one of many inspirational people to have shunned the closed-door policy of Silicon Valley and allowed her talents to run free, regardless of what local investors thought about her international student status.

But what if young international students are not being taught the skills of persistence or being advised on the harsh realities of the working world?

Leadership, communication and resiliency skills must be nurtured before this thriving talent pool is completely alienated from the Silicon Valley hub.

Student potential mustn’t be wasted – a growth mindset should be developed.

International students just a stone’s throw away from the world’s high-tech utopia can do little more than wonder at the depths of its musings, forever intrigued but endlessly ostracised from opportunities just out of reach.

If this is the case for those next door, what does it mean for Silicon Valley aspirants currently studying thousands of miles away? Can the Valley continue its rapid progression without the passion and diversity drawn from international graduates?

And it’s not only distance that is a contributing factor to the lack of international student inclusion, it’s also time.

Soon, artificial intelligence may have the power to exceed human performance. Now, we need to make the most of the world’s natural born global talent.

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