July 1, 2012

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Technology Industry Outlook

Utah Business Staff

July 1, 2012

It’s a challenge of scale—continuing to develop the state as an ecosystem of talent. And we love that Domo and Adobe are stealing people from us and we’re trying to steal people from them. It’s a net positive to have it be an active market. It’s good to see that sort of buzz happening here.

Let’s continue the conversation about quality workforce and talent shortage. What’s your company’s top talent need? Are you experiencing any shortages specifically of software developers, engineers, sales or management talent?

GRAY: Right after this meeting I’m interviewing a candidate for senior manager of our enterprise sales engineering group. Sales engineers are our technical group that interfaces with companies’ network folks that design our high-end network applications. And I’m looking for somebody to lead that group. I’ve had that position open for about four months now. We promoted somebody out of that position to a corporate position in Philadelphia. It’s an interesting mix of requirements for this position.

CHECKETTS: If I could find this profile, I would hire 250 of them tomorrow, and that would be a very passionate technologist but somebody who doesn’t want to sit in front of a computer necessarily and program, wants to talk to people, is fluent in a second language—preferably Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French or German—and is a U.S. citizen that can hold a high-level security clearance with the federal government.

SULLIVAN: User experience design is a pretty scarce resource. We’ve been very successful in actually finding great talent here in Utah. It’s actually a more favorable market to find that talent than it is in the Bay Area. That’s one of those jobs that’s really hard to hire in San Francisco. Consequently, we’ve been able to fill some gaps here.

Also, we are more and more looking for more junior, smart, great athletes that we can turn into specialists because we’re trying to hire and scale at a level that we haven’t in the past. We’re in Utah County. We have a fantastic pipeline coming out of BYU. It’s challenging to bring young folks into the state, into Utah County, but that’s our problem. I don’t think it would be the same challenge here in Salt Lake.

TURNER: On the medical device side, we have needs for R&D engineers. Over the last three years, we’ve had three interns through BYU in engineering. We were hoping to train them up and possibly hire them. But as soon as they graduated, they got offers from Beck & Dickinson back East or up at Boeing at rates that we can’t match here in Utah. So there is a real need within the state to graduate more biomedical engineers and try to keep them here in Utah.

Has recruitment and retention become easier or harder over the past year?

LEVINZON: We’ve been very lucky. I think retention is a nonissue at this point, which in this economy is pretty impressive. Recruitment is becoming a bit more difficult. We have seen a number of local junior folks graduated from top schools here just leaving the state. It’s not necessarily the compensation. It’s just something that these kids want to do.

They are coming back two or three years later, and we’ve had great success hiring those folks. But by then maybe they’ve acquired skills that are not applicable or very narrow, or maybe they’ve acquired some bad habits. So one of our goals is really to educate the educators to make sure that their students are aware of all of the opportunities they have in the state.

What one recommendation do you have for Governor Herbert and for the Education Excellence Commission to better prepare our K–20 pipeline to meet your talent needs?

CHECKETTS: I have zero incentive from the state to do anything in K–12, and I have great incentive around creating jobs at a certain percentage of the county average wage and building things that require capital investment. So I’d like to see incentives from the state tied to some of the things that we know are the important feeder pool for the future. If the governor really wants to make an impact, then tie my incentives to where the impact should be.

CROCKER: To encourage innovative approaches to education. We’ve seen the same monolithic approach from state to state for so long and so often that it amounts to trying to cram more into this kind of public schooling system—more, more, more and always more funding. Now with technology and the variety of policy initiatives, there’s innovation out there that needs to be explored. That can set Utah apart and we could see results from that. We know what the past has to offer. What about the future?

SULLIVAN: I’ll just put in a plug for funding. The per capita spending here in the state is a reality. And I think Utah deserves its pro-business reputation, but it’s at risk over the long term if we don’t match that with an investment in the future. Dollars matter, and I’d like to see more funding in K–20.

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