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Left Coast Perks

Big-city culture offsets the big-ticket housing prices for these Best Places to Work.

By Jennifer McAdams
May 7, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Cosmopolitan living, access to "extreme" recreational activities and proximity to vibrant cultural meccas like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are factors that draw technology workers in droves to the nation's Pacific region. Typically, the only thing standing in the way of a West Coast wannabe's dream is affordability or, more accurately, a lack of affordability.

Though it's hard to make the case that a move to the exciting West Coast is a pragmatic decision, some local officials argue that now is a good time to make the trip. The Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (Silvar) in January declared that the area is "experiencing a return to normal conditions," meaning that a four-year housing boom has showed signs of slowing. The California governor's office recently said that the median price of existing homes fell 4% from October 2005 to October 2006.

Region Pacific

Granted, these figures may provide small consolation to the IT worker poised to give in to the Pacific region's allure. "Affordability continues to be a concern, because the median income does not allow just anyone to buy a house in the area," says Janet Case, Silvar's executive officer. Still, for those workers who are eager for sun and fun and are ready to make the ultimate change, renting is always an option.

Charles Schwab & Co.

  • IT head count: 1,567
  • CIO: Gideon Sasson

  • Current IT projects: Infrastructure upgrades, client platforms, client processes and brokerage systems simplification

  • Current IT openings: Hiring for a wide range of positions, including business systems specialists, project managers, data modelers, systems administrators, IT managers, database administrators, information systems engineers, software application engineers and solutions architects.

  • Excitement abounds: Along with exposure to the latest technology and IT projects, excitement is front and center at Charles Schwab. "Working in San Francisco affords a lot of choices when it comes to having fun," says Christopher Hiller, a senior software engineer, who says "Schwabbies" often flock together after hours.

Hiller and other IT staff members at the financial services powerhouse are afforded many workplace opportunities as well. "Project work is abundant at the company, and most staffers have an opportunity to participate in a variety of initiatives throughout the year," says Zachary Limachar, an analyst in the access management division of Schwab's IT division, STech. "In the contact I have with techies at other companies, I've found that most often Schwabbies have equal or better access to new or advanced technology."

Currently, Limachar is working on STech's move to adopt Oracle Identity Manager user-provisioning software. While Limachar and other STech staffers say they maintain a laserlike focus on customers' needs, the IT staff is increasingly able to look inward. "We are gradually becoming as focused on our internal customers as we have always been on our external clients," Limachar says.

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