Life Behind the Silicon Curtain

These soldiers of the new economy offer a snapshot of day-to-day life in the Valley.

Silicon Valley has registered its own time zone. Separated from the surrounding Pacific Standard Time zone by a force field of innovation and mayhem, that shallow region stretching from Menlo Park to Fremont and clear down to San Jose operates on a distinct internal clock that recognizes neither light nor dark, weekday nor weekend. Regardless of hour, day, or season, Silicon Valley time passes at the same pace: too fast.

For people living and working within this speed zone, on-duty hours often blur into off-duty time, and work never really seems to end. Here, 9-to-5 is a figment of the imagination, the "lunch hour" is an urban myth, and "down time" is synonymous with sleep. The velocity of life for Silicon Valley residents is often so dizzying and so dazzling that many can not begin to describe it without a video camera and a stop watch.

Just as the anthropological team at San José State University is working to explain and chronicle the culture of Silicon Valley's working families through close-range studies, Fast Company is hoping to illustrate the speed of life for the region's change agents, knowledge workers, and risk-takers through the following profiles. The six Silicon Valley workers interviewed below, each with his or her own unique position, power, and passion, speak openly -- and quickly -- about time, the sustainability of Silicon Valley speed, and the sacrifices made to participate in the new economy.

Don Campbell, 33, works in business development at Interwoven, a software-development company based in Sunnyvale, California, that issued its IPO last October. Don and Sue Campbell moved from Dearborn, Michigan, to Silicon Valley in July 1998 and now live in Mountain View with their 11-month-old daughter, Abigail.

Mica Eades, 26, began working at Sun Microsystems shortly after graduating from the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. A longtime volunteer and social activist, Eades spends her time away from Sun's financial department, doing community service and catching up on years of lost sleep.

Susanne Estrada, 36, is a 14-year veteran of Silicon Valley who traded in her free-agent lifestyle for a fulltime marketing position with Noosh, a B2B e-commerce service based in Palo Alto, California. A resident of San Francisco's North Beach, Estrada and her fiancée are looking forward to a Lake Tahoe wedding and a much-needed honeymoon vacation this fall.

Tracey Pettengill, 29, founded 4Charity.com while studying at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1998. Since then, the sleep-deprived CEO has worked to make philanthropy accessible, efficient, and gratifying for companies, individuals, and nonprofit organizations nationwide.

Kartik Ramakrishnan, 29, migrated to the United States from Hyderabad, India, at age 16. The cofounder and VP of Business Development for QUIQ, Inc., Ramakrishnan works to meld the passion of Silicon Valley and the principles of his native land in his work and life.

Josh Silverman, 31, is the CEO of Evite, Inc., a Web service that aims to mobilize people around the Internet. Since joining the Evite team last year, Silverman has worked nearly 130 hours every week and has helped the company to raise $38 million during its first two rounds of venture financing.

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