Pittsburgh Tech Workers Explain Their Decisions to Move to the City

  • Amid the market downturn, Pittsburgh tech workers say they’re happy to live in low-cost areas.
  • Whether remotely or in person, they have found community in Pittsburgh that keeps them well connected.
  • Three tech workers tell Insider their stories and why they chose to work in Pittsburgh.

When the world shut down early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it suddenly became less important for tech workers to live in hotspots like New York; Austin, Texas; or San Francisco.

Many of them discovered what remote workers already knew: life outside of Silicon Valley, which can lead to a lower cost of living and a more balanced lifestyle.

Take Matthew Houy, employee program manager for Google Cloud AI and Industry Solutions, for example. In December 2020, Hoey moved back to his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to be closer to his family. While technically his job is at the tech giant’s branch in the city, he’s one of many Google employees who are at least working from home.

“I spend about half my time in the office,” he said. “Working from home on Mondays and Fridays gives me a lot of flexibility.”

He found that Pittsburgh’s burgeoning tech scene has come a long way. Even with tech companies laying off workers as the prospect of a recession looms, the community he’s found there — and the unprecedented ability to land a new remote job if the job doesn’t pan out — means he doesn’t even want to move Back to the main technology center.

“After going through the COVID pandemic, there’s clearly a lot of remote opportunity in the tech industry,” Houy told Insider. “There are far more options to work in Pittsburgh and still work for these tech companies than when I moved to New York in 2018.”

With the lower cost of living, he said, he could live comfortably on his salary in case he needed it. That, in turn, gives him a cushion to help cushion his finances against inflation, recessions or other unpleasant economic turns.

For some tech workers in Pittsburgh, community helps overcome much of the backwoods

Some who had been in Pittsburgh before the COVID-19 pandemic also found living in the city a silver lining during such a turbulent time for the tech industry.

Brenasia Ward-Caldwell is a social media-active cloud security analyst who moved from Baltimore to Pittsburgh about five years ago. Now, she says, intangible perks like the Pittsburgh tech community make her very happy with her decision.

Ward-Caldwell said she’s staying in the city in part because organizations like the Pittsburgh Tech Council and PGH for Women in Tech bring people together through networking events, awards ceremonies and other public events.

“You hear about Silicon Valley and all the big tech companies out there, but you don’t hear about organizations giving back to the community and trying to build on existing communities to build other channels to get people into tech,” she said.

In a more material sense, Drew Parroccini, associate manager of front-end development at an international engineering agency, said he was able to keep his salary when he moved back to Pittsburgh from Portland, Ore., last year.

“Once everything starts again, we won’t even have an office to go back to,” Parocchini said. “I can still get a job in Portland with a West Coast salary.”

Proponents of office work have expressed concern that people working remotely in more remote cities could miss out on valuable time with their bosses, which could increase their risk of being fired when time is running out. Parroccini said he never thought about it. There’s too much work to do, and when workers are busy, it usually means the company can’t afford to lose them.

In some jobs, even those without the Pittsburgh headquarters, there is a sense of pride in keeping employees here. For example, Houy said, there is an emphasis on incorporating local culture into the office and hosting events that bring people together.

“I really value this aspect of the Pittsburgh office compared to other offices, which are beautiful in their own right, but I love the tight-knit community here,” Houy said.

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