Booming stock and sky-high pay: Nvidia is Silicon Valley’s hot employer

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Nvidia has about 30,000 employees, who call themselves ‘Nvidians. (Photo: Getty Images)
Santa Clara, Calif.-based Nvidia has about 30,000 employees, who call themselves ‘Nvidians. (Photo: Getty Images)

Summary

Job searches for the AI firm are rising; “They’re like Facebook in 2014,” says a recruiter.

Nvidia’s blockbuster growth has created a crop of millionaires inside and outside the company. The chip company’s stock is also rising among prospective employees, for whom a job at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based campus ranks among the most-wanted berths in tech.

Nvidia’s stability and commanding position in supplying the chips needed to power vast artificial intelligence systems are a draw for tech talent, and former employees note that even new hires are quickly put on important projects. The hefty pay packages—where half of employees made more than $228,000 in 2023—don’t hurt either. Recruiters in the semiconductor industry say Nvidia has long been a desirable place to work, but now, prying staff to defect to competitors is near impossible when the company stock is approaching $800 a share.

“They’re like Facebook in 2014," says Tom Case, who runs Atticus Growth Partners, a recruiting firm that staffs several of Nvidia’s competitors.

Unlike tech companies whose products are used daily by millions—Apple, Tesla, Meta and Google—Nvidia isn’t a household name. The company’s 30,000 employees, who call themselves “Nvidians," tend to possess a mix of hard-to-find engineering skills and a drive that one former employee compares to rats chasing cheese in a maze.

Former Nvidians who went on to start their own companies say Nvidia has retained a startup culture through years of growth. Young hires are thrown into big projects with real responsibilities, they say, and paranoia about losing status as a leading AI company fuels a constant pursuit of innovation. Users of Blind, an anonymous chat forum popular with many tech workers, ranked Nvidia founder Jensen Huang first among CEOs, with a 96% approval rating.

Searches for roles at the company have risen quickly on job-search platform Indeed while they have flattened or dropped among other major tech companies. Colleges say students now refer to Nvidia as a dream job, and the company received seven times as many internship applications in January 2024 compared with January 2023, according to Handshake, an early-career jobs platform.

Getting hired takes technical acumen. Among the roughly 1,800 job openings listed by the company are engineering roles in areas such as AI storage, deep learning and behavior planning for autonomous vehicles with base pay that ranges from $144,000 to $414,000. Many jobs look for a Ph.D., and the company requires that some applicants know multiple programming languages.

After four rounds of interviews in 2022, Himanshu Agrawal says he turned down an Nvidia offer that included restricted stock units that averaged about $150 a share. Though he has been happy as a software development engineer at a competitor, the 23-year-old said he can’t help but think about what he’s missing out on.

“I’m feeling a little bad that I don’t have the stock in my portfolio right now," Agrawal said.

High bar to hire

Some of the skills that Nvidia hires for are so niche that engineering veterans at other semiconductor companies can’t transfer into the field, said David Stone, who runs MRL Consulting Group, which he said has scouted new recruits for Nvidia for the past six years. Young professionals will be focused on learning those specialized skills, “clamoring" to get in the door, he said.

So small is the available pool of talent for some roles that the company will move a job elsewhere to fill it, according to Stone. “They will not deviate from their requirements," he added.

Candidates must be excited to innovate, “contribute to an agile environment and create a platform for others to do their life’s work," a company spokeswoman said, adding that Nvidia continues to grow and hire as it expands in healthcare, automotive and other industries.

For college students, Nvidia has now joined other big tech companies—many of which have cut staff recently—as a most-wanted destination, professors and career coaches say. Forty Carnegie Mellon University graduates got hired to the company last year, up from 12 in 2019. At the University of Washington’s business school, students quickly signed up for a two-day trip to the Bay Area to tour companies last year when the school confirmed a Nvidia site visit.

Diana Marculescu, who leads the University of Texas at Austin’s electrical and computer engineering department, said landing at Nvidia appeals to students because of its dominance in AI.

“I think the interest will grow even higher," she said. “It’s the uniqueness of the work that they do."

‘Like rats in a maze’

People who’ve spent time with the company describe an intense, but collaborative culture where expectations are high, even for early-career hires.

“It attracts the sort of people who are humble, have humility, but also are almost like rats in a maze," said Debparna Pratiher, who worked in product management at Nvidia for two years before co-founding software company Quest Labs AI. “Just like running around looking for cheese, looking for the next project, looking for the next way to jump on things."

Nvidia jobs come with perks, too. A new headquarters includes a bar, and employees have a take-what-you-like unlimited vacation policy, plus two “free days" every quarter when the whole staff has the same time off to recharge.

Working at Nvidia can be intense because of the pressure to make things work and deliver, said Aman Kishore, a former senior software engineer who left to co-found software company Mirage in 2022.

“It was a lot of responsibility and a sense of urgency to make things work and figure things out and see how you can move the needle," said Kishore, who was hired in 2020. He added that the company has numerous boomerang employees, who leave and return because there are opportunities to move around internally.

Kishore was hired into Nvidia via a referral, which he said was typical for the company, and interview questions were highly specific. (In his case, around his knowledge of computer vision.) When he was involved in hiring candidates, Nvidia would usually wait no longer than two weeks from first interviewing a candidate to making a decision, he added.

This week, Gary Fowler, who has recruited in the semiconductor space for decades, presented a job-seeking Nvidia candidate to one of his clients. The company couldn’t compete on pay, and said the Nvidia employee would be crazy to leave, given the company’s stock performance.

“He could just work a few more years then retire," Fowler said.

Write to Katherine Bindley at katie.bindley@wsj.com, Lindsay Ellis at lindsay.ellis@wsj.com and Isabelle Bousquette at isabelle.bousquette@wsj.com

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