As a Colorado transplant living in Silicon Valley (19 months and counting) to pursue my dream job and passion for tech, I’d say it’s been an interesting transition.

I’m someone used to a relatively slower paced lifestyle, where a full workweek often means half days in the office and afternoons spent on the slopes, so my initial reaction to being in the Bay Area was that of overwhelmed awe. From San Francisco to San Jose, there are more ideas, innovations and startups than one knows what to do with. Even as a tech enthusiast, I didn’t know where to begin. After a little education from some patient coworkers, I learned that it all begins with an introduction. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way as I navigated the waters of the Valley:

Silicon Valley Lesson 1: When making a new acquaintance, introduce yourself by name, profession and tech company of employment.

This lesson is crucial because literally everyone in the Bay Area works in the tech industry. Well, perhaps not everyone because some people have to staff the restaurants, and good thing too because it turns out techies are also foodies. In fact, I realized quickly that there is a special relationship between restaurateurs and technology professionals, so much so that it almost seems one can’t survive without the other. Some of the most exciting and important developments happen in the corner booth of a dim sum restaurant. Which brings me to my next lesson:

Silicon Valley Lesson 2: Groundbreaking things can happen anytime, anywhere, involving people you may not entirely expect.

Silicon Valley has a very unique culture, and I found it unexpectedly exciting to see CEOs and innovators in non-boardroom environments. Executives blend seamlessly with khaki and sweatshirt clad employees, favoring causal lunches to formal meetings. This overall sense of accessibility generates a freer flowing atmosphere. Feeling comfortable enough to be vocal and collaborative is one of the most important qualities for a successful company. So that being said, when you are working in this hotbed of intelligent creativity, it’s important not to be a wallflower.

Silicon Valley Lesson 3: Speak up and participate.

Being engaged and sharing ideas is absolutely key – inventions like the self-driving car don’t come from silence around the drawing board. Personally, this has always been a challenge. Speaking up in a room full of informed, opinionated people can be daunting, but I realized that the sooner I mustered the courage to participate, the sooner I could be a part of a truly exciting process. And with that in mind, here is the final lesson:

Silicon Valley Lesson 4: Step back and appreciate the view.

It is easy to get bogged down in the details or intimidated by the rush of information and change, but it’s all part of the Silicon Valley charm. The companies here and the minds that propel them forward are constantly fighting to stay at the forefront of innovation – technology isn’t just a product, it’s a way of life. So in those moments when you’re tired and overwhelmed, approaching two hours stuck in traffic after a long day in the office, just remember that the people on the road with you are making amazing things happen, and you’re a part of something that can’t be found anywhere else.