East vs. west: Should you take a tech role in New York or San Francisco?

Alex Curtis our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 08 February 2024

The East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry is about more than hip-hop and lifestyle choices; it's alive and thriving in the technology job market, too.


New York, known for its dynamic melting pot of industries, and San Francisco, the birthplace of thousands of tech startups and giants, each has something unique to offer when it comes to finding and hiring tech roles.


Whether you're a software developer, UX designer, data scientist, or IT manager, both cities have a seat at the table for you. But where should you pull up a chair?


And if you’re a company looking to hire tech executives across these competitive cities, how do you make yourself stand out?


Continue reading to compare tech roles in New York vs. the Bay Area and explore how companies are remaining competitive as they battle to attract the best tech talent.

What are the most in-demand tech skills in New York and San Francisco?

While New York's tech scene is vast and varied, it does have more of a leaning toward fintech, media, and e-commerce. As a result, skills related to software development for finance platforms, digital marketing, AI for consumer insights, and e-commerce optimization are highly sought-after.


In contrast, San Francisco, with its proximity to Silicon Valley, sees higher demand for skills related to cloud computing, machine learning, SaaS development, and app ecosystems.


The diverse business landscape of both cities allows companies to tap into an equally diverse talent pool and recruit those with the best skills. If you’re looking to hire tech executives in 2024, New York and San Francisco should be your first point of call.

Benefits packages in New York vs. San Francisco

When it comes to compensation, both cities offer competitive salaries due to the high cost of living. However, the tech industry in San Francisco tends to offer higher base salaries than NYC—and New York compensates with solid bonus structures.


Offering competitive benefits is crucial if you’re a company trying to attract top tech talent. Having an attractive compensation package helps you stand out in the job market, particularly in San Francisco and New York, both of which are highly competitive.


Making your company attractive to tech executives is becoming increasingly important as the tech talent shortage worsens, with only 65 potential workers for every 100 open tech jobs. Here’s how companies are battling this:


  • In San Francisco, tech professionals might find slightly higher average salaries, given the concentration of big tech firms. New York, while offering competitive salaries, sometimes lags slightly behind.
  • With many startups and tech giants in SF, there's often an added incentive of stock options or equity, which could lead to significant future value as everyone looks to be part of the next “unicorn”. NYC companies, especially those in fintech or established industries, tend to offer good bonus schemes instead, complimented by relatively steady RSU incentives.
  • Both cities value employee well-being, with companies offering benefits like gym memberships, catered meals, and flexible work schedules. However, SF firms might edge out with additional tech-specific perks like hackathons, continuous learning opportunities, and tech conference passes.
  • In San Francisco, employers emphasize high-value health benefits packages, spending tens of thousands per employee each year. New York employers contribute a similar percentage to their employees’ health benefits but typically have a lower annual expenditure.

Pros & cons of taking and hiring a tech role in NYC or the Bay Area

At Hanover, we have over 20 years of experience hiring tech executives on a global scale, and from our perspective, the East vs. West Coast competition remains one of the most interesting dynamics we’ve seen. As more companies revert to hybrid in-office working, we are already seeing an increase in appetite for relocation between the coasts, something which was prominent in many of our searches pre-2020.


That said, we’re aware of each coast’s biggest selling points—and drawbacks—that will be helpful to know whether you’re a tech executive looking for a new role, or a tech company looking to find new talent.


San Francisco, as the heart of Silicon Valley, has a concentration of tech roles. This offers tech professionals great opportunities, but it also means competition is fierce.


Tech-savvy, innovative individuals tend to gravitate towards the Bay Area, making it both a land of opportunity and a battleground of skill sets. We interviewed Bharat Kumta, a CIO with extensive experience working for leading financial institutions in New York and San Francisco, who says, “On the West Coast, executives tend to originate from a typical entrepreneurial orientation, like startups, product firms, and innovation-originating firms.”


Indeed, cities like SF are known for fostering innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, and tech executives may be attracted to this dynamic ecosystem that encourages creativity. In terms of recruitment, this also means companies will have access to candidates with a more solution-oriented and innovative mindset, which will become highly prized skills in 2024.


With such a thriving tech scene, the West Coast provides unparalleled networking opportunities for executives and companies. But the intense competition for talent results in talent wars, with companies vying for the same skilled professionals. This drives up compensation costs and makes talent acquisition more challenging.


In contrast, New York City, while still boasting a vibrant tech scene, provides a more diversified job market. This means tech professionals in NYC can find roles in a variety of different sectors, from finance to media and more. It also means companies can access alternative talent pools and fill their roles more easily. Being the global hub it is, NYC provides a broader spectrum for networking, it's not just about tech in NYC; it's about a confluence of industries where tech plays a pivotal role. This is important for both tech executives looking to expand their careers and companies looking to build their connections.


Another thing that leaders, in particular, should think about when choosing a tech job in New York vs. San Francisco is the area’s typical management style and which would suit you best. Bharat says, “On the East Coast, there seems to be a greater emphasis on being risk-averse and having stable, secure, and more established processes. In turn, this means that the management style typically is more hierarchical, with well-defined roles, but firms are willing to adapt or adopt if there’s a measured and risk-averse approach. It’s different on the West Coast. The management style tends to be flatter, with a focus on rapidly changing demands. Decision-making can be more agile and based on circumstances, and firms are more outcome-focused and open to risk-taking. Additionally, information exchange or sharing is more fluid and open, to allow for better collaboration and outcomes, as speed is of the essence.”


One final, important thing to consider are the living costs. Both cities come with a hefty price tag, but the Bay Area is often named amongst the most expensive places to live in the U.S., while San Francisco offers a laid-back, Californian vibe, you get that fast-paced, electric energy in New York. Consider what resonates the most with your personal and professional goals.


The high cost of living across these cities also impacts a company’s hiring efforts. By impacting the personal finances of employees, it could hinder your ability to attract and retain employees. This is why offering adequate compensation packages is crucial.

Is New York a good place for tech jobs?

While San Francisco is often hailed as the tech capital, New York's tech scene is blossoming—New York is definitely a good place to find a tech job.


With its diverse industries, NYC is integrating tech into finance, media, fashion, and more, offering many opportunities for tech professionals. The city's commitment to tech is evident with initiatives like the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island and tech meetups and conferences happening year-round.


According to Bharat, “Executives on the East Coast are primarily from sectors like finance, healthcare, or other established corporations. This influences the fundamentals of how they operate, making New York a good place for a certain type of tech employee or leader.


Another important thing to note is that tech companies in Silicon Valley are losing their monopoly on tech workers. With major companies like Google, Meta, and Salesforce laying off 6-13% of their workforce in 2023, East Coast cities like New York and Washington D.C. are experiencing a boom in their tech hiring market.

Bridging the gap between the East and West

As the war for talent wages on, recruitment tactics are becoming borderless. West Coast companies are looking East for hiring, with 43% of job postings listed outside the region.


As highlighted by Bharat, it seems that many companies on the East Coast are going west to see how tech firms operate and learn from their practices. He says, “In more recent years, the gap has slowly been bridged by company’s adapting or adopting some of the practices used by their rival coast. Several of the East Coast-based mid-to-large sized firms are spending time on the West Coast to learn a few good experiences.”


Doing this is allowing East Coast tech firms to expand their growth and competitiveness, such as by:


  • Infusing more risk-taking into their organizational culture
  • Building ecosystems that encourage knowledge-sharing
  • Offering unique, tech-specific employee perks
  • Learning about and implementing latest technologies and methodologies
  • Adopting fundraising and investment strategies used by successful West Coast startups
  • Incorporating elements of the West Coast work culture, like open communication and a relaxed office environment


This cross-pollination of ideas allows East Coast-based tech firms to leverage the best practices and innovative approaches that have contributed to the success of tech giants in San Francisco’s Bay Area.


It also helps create a more interconnected and dynamic national tech ecosystem, where tech executives can find their ideal role and tech companies can overcome the talent shortage.

Choose Hanover for technology executive search

Are you looking to partner with an executive search firm that can attract executive-level technology talent that will make a fundamental difference to your business?


With our insights into the tech sector and a wide, global network of contacts, we can help you find either the right role or the right candidate.


Contact us today to find out how we can support you.

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