When I first started looking for PR internships in Silicon Valley, I was nervous that most of the opportunities were in tech PR. B2B tech seemed highly technical. I felt like I had to have an engineering degree to even begin to comprehend what tech PR clients were doing and I was terrified of being a fish out of water, of being a liability to my firm.
Turns out, I didn’t have to worry! While tech PR can become very technical, the basic skills and fundamental activities associated with generating coverage for our clients remain the same. I came to California from the East Coast with just one PR class under my belt. I had a basic idea of how to use platforms like Cision and vaguely knew what pitching entailed. All I had to offer was a willingness to learn and curiosity for how the tech PR field actually worked and if it was something I could see myself doing in the future. After three months in Silicon Valley, I think I can safely say that tech PR is not the great unknown. It is not the exclusive, specialized club I was afraid it would be. The research skills I obtained writing college history papers transferred effortlessly to researching speaking and award opportunities for clients. Organizing dashboards was similar to juggling deadlines with assignments and projects as a college student. While continually following up with spokespeople was a little nerve-wracking for fear of being aggravating, I think my relative inexperience and lack of a reputation helped me be aggressive in the pursuit of obtaining tactical information.
While I’m slowly feeling more at home in the tech ecosystem, it seems a little isolated. The world of technology enjoys a more prestigious reputation than other industries for its track record of turning out high-achieving individuals and companies. From my perspective, this high level of success as well as the developer stereotype can discourage traditionally “non-techie” people outside of the Valley from taking a shot at the industry. But as the outsider coming in, I now know that anyone can learn the ropes no matter how inexperienced they are. While there are always speed bumps, the tech space is a learning environment where collaboration is key. I think the industry would benefit from promoting inclusivity, so people who are currently under-represented can inject fresh talent and add new value to the industry. While people don’t hesitate to take a shot in other industries, the tech world seems invite-only. Although most residents of Silicon Valley are from around the world, they largely consist of young men who have been interested in computer science their whole lives. They tend to devote large amounts of time in pursuit of their passion. Looking at these people makes it seem as though the tech world is highly skilled and specialized; if you haven’t coded every day of your life, you won’t make it in the Valley.
I think the tech ecosystem would benefit from showing outsiders that if they are committed to a career in tech, they can do it. Basic workshops and training sessions in schools and colleges can show young people that anyone can learn the skills the tech ecosystem requires. Additionally, exposure to careers that are not entirely technical but still support the industry (like tech PR!) would be beneficial. While the learning curve in tech PR is steep, it’s no different than trying to learn a new sport or language. If the tech world embraced this concept, their reputation as an out-of-reach field would decrease and lead to the drastic change in culture that is overdue in Silicon Valley.