There has never been a better time to be involved in all things data. Whether your specialty is a new breed of NoSQL databases, such as Apache Cassandra, a software engineer with expertise in Hadoop, or that hot skill with the mercurial job title of “data scientist,” the Bay Area is tech Disneyland. Brands can emerge from obscurity to worldwide recognition in a matter of months, with young entrepreneurs turning into rock stars, holding court at massive conferences, filling up all available San Francisco downtown hotel space for weeks at a time. Competition is so hot that the startup perks have gone from expected free lunches to the sublime of decoration budgets, free helicopter rides, and even getting paid more to take longer vacations.

(Photo Courtesy of Ramon Chen)

(Photo Courtesy of Ramon Chen)

Amongst the beautiful offices and wonderful amenities, many are also chasing the dream of the next big startup. These “unicorns” are startups that reach $1 billion in valuation prior to an IPO. Those who get in on the ground floor can reap significant financial rewards, but the law of averages can wreak havoc with those plans.

Last year, CBInsights reported in a blog that “Companies typically die around 20 months after their last financing round and after having raised $1.3 million. Companies in the social industry saw the highest of number of startup failures in the period in question.”

So what should a highly skilled, in demand, tech worker do when faced with so many opportunities, and a seemingly equal amount of risk? Think like an investor. Finally, for many – particularly those in the early stages of their careers – it’s more important to choose your boss than to choose the company you may be considering. Having a mentor that is supportive and not threatened by your success is key. As legendary business guru Tom Peters once wrote, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” That’s worth a million perks.

Ramon Chen is VP of Marketing at Reltio, a leader in enterprise data-driven applications and modern data management. Reltio is passionate about giving candidates an in-depth understanding of the company’s potential and their opportunities within the organization.

Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on