From Silicon Valley to Chilecon Valley

November 28, 2018


Two months ago I wrote a post where I bid Silicon Valley farewell.  It was the end of an era for me.  Goodbye to nearly 10 years in the Valley working in tech, building and leading marketing teams, working in startups and being part of the tech mecca of the world.  


But I left you with a cliffhanger - where did I go?  What am I doing?  WTH is next?


So I figured I'd give you an update.  Not with the intention of simply sharing what I'm doing but to also share how I'm feeling, my challenges, fears and how I see the world.  


So if it wasn't obvious from the pictures above, I moved over 8,000 miles away.  I'm actually writing this post from a Starbucks (yes, they have those here too!) in the heart of Santiago, Chile.  


Yup.  Chile.  As in Easter Island, the Atacama Desert, Glaciers, amazing wine, and the Lithium capital of the world - that's right folks:  If it weren't for Chile you could probably kiss those pretty smart phones "adios" since 50% of the world's lithium - which power your smartphone batteries - comes from here.  


Why Chile?


Well, for starters my ex-wife is from here.  When we married back in 2003, in a galaxy far far away, I knew someday we would be back.  Friends have often told me that most latina women eventually want to move back home and although I can't speak for the rest, that was certainly the case for me.  


My ex wanted a better quality of life, more time for family and friends and a less high pressure environment.  After 10 years in Silicon Valley, I can't say I  blame her.  In addition, as I talked about in my Hasta la Vista Silicon Valley post, it was simply a no brainer for me to follow her to ensure I remained a core part of my kids' life.  


Fortunately for me, I had lived in the country at the beginning of my career from 1996-1999 when I worked for Pepsi, so luckily I spoke the language and was somewhat familiar with the city, culture and ways of doing business.  


The fact that my ex and I are actually still legally married, (we never divorced) meant that I could file for a marital visa since we we're married in Chile.  


So as crazy as it seemed for me to move 8,000 miles away, there was method to Mad Morks' madness.  


On fishes and ponds


One of the insights I've had here so far is just how much value people with experience in Silicon Valley can bring to Chile.  


When you work in the valley, it's easy to forget the level of talent that surrounds you day in day out.  We take it for granted and on balance its an amazing thing that allows the ecosystem to solve some of the world's biggest problems.


But it also risks burning us out.  People work hard not just to get better and deliver but also, at times, due to a deep seated fear that they simply aren't good enough compared to their peers.  


This imposter syndrome was one of the most common sources of misery among my clients and people I talked to in the valley (for more on that and how to deal with it, check out my post here). 


So the flip side here in Chile, is that if you're really strong in a particular area which can benefit companies, you can really make an impact very quickly.  


In my case that meant multiple job offers within the first 6 weeks of being here and actually landing a consulting gig with a local Chilean company 2 weeks after arriving here.  


Dollars, cents and pesos


The other reality I've found here is that your money simply goes much further then it did in the Valley.  


Consider the following:


1.  Rent for a 3 bedroom, 1400 square foot apartment in one of the best neighborhoods in Santiago runs around $1450 / month

2.  My health insurance (at age 46) will end up costing me around $137 / month - which covers 100% of my health related costs 


3.  Cost for an unlimited smartphone data plan runs about $40 / month


4.  The average ride on the cities underground (equivalent of BART) is about $1 / ride


5.  You can have a full time nanny for your kids for around $25 / day


Naturally, salaries are also lower in Chile but if you're working either as an expat or  simply based in Chile doing contract work with international clients, as I am, then the upside in cost savings are significant.


How I'm making it work


I've always said that taking risks is like weight training.  The more you work that muscle, the easier it gets.  Moving is no different.  After 24 international moves, I'm no stranger to moving and so I've developed a routine.  


Here's what's worked for me:


1.  Get into a routine:  Plan you days.  Start early and make sure you include sports, enough sleep and good nutrition to keep your energy level high and your mood positive.  Set yourself goals and get out of the house, hotel or Airbnb.  


2.  Find a permanent place to live ASAP.  I used Airbnb for the first 6 weeks but aggressively looked for a place to live which I moved into about 2 weeks ago.  The sooner you have a place to call "home" the sooner you'll start to get used to your new city. 

If you have furniture of your own, as I do, that also helps you develop some familiarity more quickly and have a place to call your own.  


3.  Exercise.  I actually packed my bike along with my suitcases and moved with it to Chile.  I immediately got into a the same routine I had in the Valley - 6am bike rides.  Moving countries is highly stressful and my bike rides have been instrumental in helping me deal with that and stay sane.



4.  Get social fast.  Smartphones and social media make this so much easier than the last time I moved, but getting connected via sites like, signing up to your university / grad school alumni association (if they have a local chapter), registering for events / news with your consulate / embassy or simply joining local Facebook groups centered around activities you enjoy, are quick and easy ways to meet people.  


I've also complemented this by asking for 1-2 intros from each person I meet so my network (and coffee bill) increases much more quickly and I also come across more opportunities work-wise.  


5.  Immerse yourself in the local culture and explore your surroundings.  Santiago is a wonderful city  and well worth visiting,  so using sites like Tripadvisor or CultureTrip is a terrific way to find interesting hotspots that cater to your interests and to meet new and interesting people.  


So how am I doing?


I won't sugarcoat it:  There are some days where it's a bit tough and I miss my friends back in the Valley. There are other days when I feel far away from much of what I know but overall, I'm tremendously happy with the change.  


As some of you might know from my previous posts, I journal every morning and track my mood.  On most days I'm jazzed, energized and positive.  I have new and exciting things to look forward to every day.  Each day brings new people, new companies, new challenges or new joys (like opening a bank account - don't ask why!) and keeps me going.  


As I set myself goals each week and as I hit those, my confidence grows.  As that confidence grows it shows in my dealings with other people and makes getting to know others that much easier.  


Changing countries or cities is one of the toughest things you can do and at 46 and single, it certainly seemed nuts to a lot of people I know, my parents included!  


But the reality is that it's only when we move out of our comfort zone and really stretch ourselves that we grow.  It's only by overcoming adversity and achieving things we didn't think were possible that we can become the people we really want to be.  


Each time we overcome those challenges, we strengthen those muscles and build our confidence.  


The key is to take that first step.  To be willing to step outside our comfort zone and to leave the past behind.  


Who knows where you'll end up.  You never know until you try.


So get out and stretch yourself.  What have you got to lose?


mad mork - from Chile.  






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