Despite the nation's lackluster job market, those with education in science, technology, engineering or mathematics -- commonly referred to as STEM fields -- are finding their skills are highly sought by employers.
The problem is so acute that many jobs in Silicon Valley are going unfilled because of a lack of qualified applicants. For those with the right stuff, however, landing a job at one of many tech firms these days -- especially as a software engineer -- can result in a pretty sweet deal (or even a date!).
But where do such prized workers want to work? TechCrunch recently conducted an informal poll asking just that: "If you could work for a start-up, any start-up, which one would it be?"
By far the largest vote getter was "My Own," which garnered 1,245 votes, or 21 percent, of the total tally. Working for oneself does have its advantages. There's no one to answer to (until you start selling shares in the company, then there's those pesky shareholders to deal with), you can set your own hours and pay yourself whatever you can afford to. Also, perks are limited only to your imagination (or budget).
Nearly as many respondents to the TechCrunch poll -- 1,228, or another 21 percent -- said they'd like to work for Milk. No, not the dairy beverage, but a brand spanking new San Francisco-based start-up that develops "apps," those small software programs for mobile devices that allow people to make restaurant reservations, check bank balances and post photos to social-media websites on the fly -- among countless other things.
Milk was started earlier this year by Kevin Rose, who in 2004 founded Digg.com, the once-popular online-content sharing social media site. Milk remains a small venture for now, TechCrunch reported in April. Rose and five other "coders, designers and thinkers" comprise the staff -- although the company is looking for a senior engineer, according to its website.
Coming in at Nos. 3 through 5 in TechCrunch's poll are trio of tech companies that many would expect to make such a list -- Square, a developer of apps and devices that allow merchants and service providers to be paid by credit card via smartphones and other mobile devices; and social media giants Facebook and Twitter.
Square's products haven't yet been on the market a year, but the company already employs more than 120 people and is looking to fill about two dozen positions at its San Francisco headquarters, according to its website.
Twitter, meanwhile, employs about about 400 people, BusinessInsider noted in February. The social media site famously limits users' messages to 140 characters, but there is no shortage of job openings at the San Francisco-based company.
Twitter's jobs page lists literally dozens of openings. New hires at Twitter get a T-shirt and a bottle of wine on their first day of work, and then there are monthly happy hours on Fridays to allow new employees to rub elbows with more seasoned ones.
Facebook, meanwhile, is about five times larger than Twitter, based on number of employees. The Palo Alto, Calif., company generates $2 billion in annual revenue, is valued at $50 billion and has a global "customer" base of 600 million people, thenextweb.com noted in May.
Facebook's size means it needs a lot of people -- 2,000 -- to conduct its everyday business, and it's looking for more. Among openings at the company are 50 slots for software engineers alone, in addition to dozens more in other classifications within the company.
Perks, as TNW noted, include an all-you-can-eat buffet, a giant slide and an equally giant replica of a T-Rex dinosaur -- to perhaps help Facebook employees keep things in perspective.
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