Silicon Valley runs on Asians. This is a well-known aspect of the tech world in general, but it’s especially apparent in elite sub-sectors. Even by 2010, Asian Americans already had become a majority (50.1 percent) of all tech workers in the Bay Area: software engineers, data engineers, programmers, systems analysts, admins, and developers. Census Bureau statistics from the same year put white tech workers at 40.1 percent. Other races made up, in total, slightly less than 10 percent.
Leon Zhan is a 24-year-old Facebook product manager fresh out of the University of Virginia. He interacts daily with teams of software engineers at Facebook, coordinating and leading projects and getting them in line. Among the four teams of five or so software engineers he works with on a daily basis, Leon told me, 15 out of the 20 are Chinese. “I don’t mean Chinese-American,” he clarified. “I mean Chinese-Chinese, like from China.” These Chinese engineers largely speak Mandarin during work, making the company billions as they write code with machine-gun efficiency. Or, as Leon puts it: “We’re at an American social media company surrounded by Chinese [speaking people].” (In case you were wondering about the other five out of the 20, they were Asian American. “I think I might see one or two white software engineers here and there,” Leon added. “Not a single black or Hispanic [engineer].”)
Where else in America, besides NBA basketball maybe, are you going to find an elite field so dominated by one minority race? And just as basketball players are the core of the NBA business, software engineers are the core of Facebook. The company can survive without marketing managers or HR staff, but not engineers. Big Tech rises and falls with the quality of its technicians.