Rossy Vargas has worked with SurveyMonkey since 2011. She has followed the company that provides free, customizable surveys through moves, and she has worked closely with the company leadership as the start-up has grown to a valuation of $2 billion.
"To me, we are like family," said Vargas. "We feel like we are treated like a part of the team."
But even though Vargas works at SurveyMonkey's San Mateo headquarters, she doesn't work for the company as a full-time employee. She runs the cleaning company Clean & Green, and her role with SurveyMonkey is technically that of a contractor.
That places Vargas in a similar position to a rising number of Silicon Valley workers brought in by tech giants to work on third-party firm contracts, not only janitorial services and caterers that can be found in any corporate campus, but more specific roles created for contractors as projects evolve.
Tech companies rely heavily on contract workers, who allow companies to scale up or down depending on the upcoming workload. Researchers Chris Benner and Kyle Neering from the University of California Santa Cruz estimate as many as 39,000 workers in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties are contracted to tech companies. If tech companies focus on hiring full-time employees only for the core mission, they can be more adaptable. This means many software testers, finance managers and administrative assistants are contractors.
That means once a project is over, there's no reason to keep certain workers on the payroll. The Silicon Valley worker benefits and perks — the free, fresh produce and transcendental meditation pods — have become symbols of the riches created in the tech sector and how good it has been to workers, but the hype belies the truth that many of the employees operating within big tech companies are working on second-class contract terms.
"Each year the contract penetration rate increases," said David Chie, the CEO of Palo Alto Staffing."There are a lot of resources that are project-based."
Companies generally save money by using contractors according to Chie, but it's the ability to easily scale up or down that makes temps so appealing to tech companies.