What considerations should I make when looking for a software job in San Francisco if I want to continue living in Fresno?
February 19, 2011 6:22 PM   Subscribe

What considerations should I make when looking for a software job in San Francisco if I want to continue living in Fresno part-time?

I am specifically looking for a Ruby on Rails position at a software production company or a startup. I want to maintain residence in Fresno because I have a young child here who lives with his mother and I want to remain close. My ideal schedule would be 2 or fewer consecutive days per week in the city, the rest remote, at a company that is in close proximity to some sort of public transportation that I could use to get into work on my "onsite" days (or the night before).

Specifically what area of the city would my ideal company be located in that is accessible to public transport? It looks like I can use the Amtrak to get into the Bay Area from Fresno, and then take the BART over the bridge into SF proper. Anyone know if I can get my bike on the Amtrak and THEN onto the BART or is it worth the hassle?

If I were to rent a room in an apartment or home, so that I could stay overnight part of the time, where would I find a public transport accessible neighborhood to start my search?

Am I crazy for thinking that I can reasonably pull this off? My son is almost 6 months old now, so when he gets older (2-3 years old?) it might be possible for me to move permanently but until then I think this is the only way to make it work.

What other expenses should I be planning for that are SF specific? I am expecting to pay about $70 per week for roundtrip transportation to SF (Amtrak/Bart), and about $100 per week for a night in a hotel or a sublet room in an apartment/home. Anything else I should consider? Are these realistic estimates?

Any other thoughts, words of advice or caution you may have are welcome!
posted by farmersckn to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
Any reason why specifically you want to look for Ruby jobs in SF? If you're open to East Bay (Fremont) or South Bay, you may substantially reduce your commute by an hour. Cross-reference Google Maps with a Craigslist search to see if a rental in a home is convenient to public transport.

You may also ask the employer if they participate in a transit reimbursement program. When I was taking Caltrain to my job, my company sponsored this and it saved me a couple hundred a month for Caltrain and parking.

If you're really set on SF, my friend's company is hiring aggressively for Ruby on Rails engineers. You can MeMail me if you're interested.
posted by hampanda at 7:18 PM on February 19, 2011

Bikes are not allowed in BART during rush hour. Folding bikes are fine at any time. To get from the East Bay to SF with a bike, you can take an AC Transit bus that has a bike rack. But bike capacity on these buses is limited.

Seconding that commuting to the South Bay would be much easier, and I'd bet there are just as many jobs there as in SF for Ruby on Rails.

But some advice - the two days a week on site schedule you propose isn't going to fly at any startup nor at most companies, at least not for full-time contractor or salaried positions. If you're a known guru, this does not apply, and there are exceptions to everything, but you've got an uphill battle here. Two days a week just isn't enough office time to be part of a team, especially at a startup.

Working as a consultant or project-based external contractor would be an easier sell with your schedule.
posted by zippy at 10:05 PM on February 19, 2011

the two days a week on site schedule you propose isn't going to fly at any startup nor at most companies

This is true. If you have a group you've worked with previously, and you're a known quantity to them, they may be willing to take you on remotely or mostly-remotely (I worked closely with a team, one member of which had worked out EXACTLY the arrangement you want, but he had been local to them in Mountain View for several years previous to that). I worked for several months entirely remotely, but again, it was with my previous team and I just had to move and it was the only way they could keep me on. It wasn't ideal. It's hard to be the only person on the team who isn't in the office every day...people forget to tell you important news and don't set up conferences for meetings you need to be in and stuff. I don't recommend it, although some people do make it work, of course.

There are some exceptions, though. I interviewed for a post at a startup a year and a half ago that had one entirely-remote team. They were all on IRC all the time, and having people in many timezones simplified what sounded like a hectic oncall scheme. They were interviewing me to work from home and they all seemed to really like how the team worked together. If I were you, *this* is what I would shoot for if you can find a team like that.
posted by troublesome at 11:05 PM on February 19, 2011

People with babies move all the time.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:45 AM on February 20, 2011

@tylerkaraszewski: I apologize I wasn't clear - my son lives primarily with his mother in Fresno, so I don't want to move so far that it then becomes impossible for me to take care of him part of the time.

@troublesome, zippy: Very good points, and duly considered. I don't want to create a situation that is just going to implode on me in the short term. If I can, I'm going to focus on those companies who are remote friendly from the start and would consider 100% remote - then if I can't find that, the split-time scenario.

@hampanda: This is exactly the type of suggestion I wanted - I don't know enough about the region to make that connection, I have just heard that SF is the hotbed of RoR companies, and I know it has good public transport, so that is why I targeted the city. I'm expanding my search now, and please check your MeMail, as I would definitely like to get connected.
posted by farmersckn at 10:47 AM on February 20, 2011

Sorry, It sounded like you just didn't want to have to move with a baby.

What I would do is first, drop the San Francisco requirement. If you're going to be remote most of the time, why do you need to be in San Francisco? You'll have more options available if you include the rest of the bay area.

Also, let me be frank based on my experience in this environment. If you're good enough at what you do that you can choose a job based on the specific language they like to work in and the neighborhood they're in, then you're pretty much implying that you can get a job anywhere you apply. Seriously, there are only so many RoR shops in any given neighborhood that are hiring. Even in SF.

Maybe that's true and you're that good, but if it is, then you've probably got plenty of connections that you've worked with before who can get you in the door at wherever they're at now. If you're not in that position, and you're trying to get your foot in the door in the industry in the area, then you might not get to be so picky.

I know of two startups in SF that I could work at. I previously worked with the founder of one, and the CEO and hiring manager at the other. One has offered me a full-time remote position, and the other has offered me a 2 days a week in the office. Neither works exclusively with the exact same dev environment I use now, so if I were sticking with your criteria, Id have to turn them both down.

Just think about that for a second, but I have two standing offers for jobs in SF, both of which would let me work remote, and I'd have to turn them down if I made my job selection criteria as strict as yours are. One shop is doing server-side javascript, the other I believe is using PHP, both are also doing things like iPhone apps.

The chances of you getting exactly everything you want are slim, so you might need to be more flexible. Also, the people who hire at startups are going to be a lot more excited to hire you if you're saying "I want to work on your awesome-sounding product." than if you're saying "I don't really care what you're working on but you're close to BART and I already know your web dev framework."

Also, I live in Santa Cruz County and commute to San Mateo. It's about an hour an fifteen minutes each way, and that is far enough that I only go in two or three days a week. Fresno would be a pretty hellish nightmare unless you just really love driving, or can maintain two apartments. We have one guy here who lives in Modesto and only comes in one day a week because of the horrific commute. I know you say you want to rent an apartment part-time, which might be doable, but I doubt you can get anything you want at the price you're quoting, there's also going to be a limited supply of places that you can rent one or two nights a week, because most people who want to rent a room are going to want to rent it full time. The supply will probably be low enough that if you can find one, you're going to have to go wherever it happens to be in the city, which isn't necessarily near your office or BART. YOu can get a hotel room, sure, but probably not for $100/night (not anywhere you'd want to stay, at least).

Finally, I'm trying to figure out your transportation here. You can take Amtrak from Fresno to Richmond, which is $39 (round-trip) and takes 3 hours and 40 minutes (each way). Then you can take BART into the city. To get to Montgomery St (which is about as close as you'll get) is going to cost an extra $8.50 (round trip) and take an extra 40 minutes each way.

It probably takes you at least ten minutes to get to/from the train station at either end, and you get to wait around for 10 minutes in Richmond while you transfer, which means realistically, each trip into the city takes you about 5 hours. A round trip is 10 hours of commuting, and costs you almost $50. This doesn't even include transportation on either end, or parking at the amtrak station in fresno, or when you have to get a cab because you don't want to ride your bike in the rain in SF. You're honestly probably better off driving. It'll save you at least an hour each way, and gas and tolls combined will be less money than train fare (although maybe not if you include parking in SF). Also often overlooked is that if you end up staying late at work and are taking public transit home, you can just end up completely screwed, where you're either waiting an hour between trains, or you've missed the last one.

I can only imagine you'll hate the commute almost immediately, and will want to work full time remote, move, or quit within weeks.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:28 AM on February 20, 2011

@tylerkaraszewski: Thank you so much for taking the time to respond in such detail.

You (and some of the other folks who've posted) are causing me to reconsider my very specific rationale for a potential new place to work. I guess, to justify it, I had ruled out the possibility that anyone would really want to hire somebody with my experience for a full time remote position without some sort of on site work as well.

I AM trying to get my foot in the door. Thanks for bringing me back down to reality. I have extremely high self confidence and so I often enter into these sorts of situations not really aware of what I am really walking into. I hadn't really thought about it from the perspective of the company looking to hire - here I am being so picky and I don't really have the experience to back that up (yet :).

I DO want to work for an awesome company, and I DO want it to be in Ruby on Rails. I could have a job in PHP or Python here in Fresno that would meet my needs financially but working with Rails will make me much happier. I want either a startup or a production company. Preferably a startup, and preferably a product/service I can get behind because I believe in it.

I'm going to shift my search to target companies that are looking for remote workers, regardless of their physical location.

Again, thank you.
posted by farmersckn at 12:06 PM on February 20, 2011

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