"Like drinking from a fire hose..."
"High-tech is the #1 buzz in the area," says Mike Walden, president and CEO of OnCampusRecruiter.com. For the 1999 start-up, life is great. Headquartered in Alexandria, Va., the company performs college recruiting for D.C. area high-tech firms, focusing on small and mid-sized companies.
"This is the place to be," Walden says. "The Internet started around here and it's here that the first generation of MCIers and people at AOL made their money. Now [those people] are doing start-ups. Much of the high-tech growth in this area is Internet- and telecom-based.
"There are many more jobs than qualified people," he says. We have companies all the way from start-ups to the established giants. " Here everything moves fast. "It's like drinking from a fire hose. You can drink as much as you can handle."
Drawn by the challenge, Alan G. Merten came to Northern Virginia in 1997. A computer scientist with experience as a business school dean, he finds his position as president of George Mason University in Fairfax puts his technical, business and academic talents to use. "There are five to ten centers of high-tech concentration, depending on how you view them," he says. "And each has a different character. In the Greater Washington/Virginia area, it started with a rush of consulting companies and system integrators to D.C. in the 1980s. This created a technological base, which has been applied to the private sector. It is estimated that over 50% of all Internet business passes through the hubs of Northern Virginia."
He sees the highest demand for computer and information technology skills, encouraging all students to be alert to the fact that they need these skills. "Everybody is in the information technology business now," he says, "so a civil engineer needs to understand there are information-based skills needed to do the job. In aerospace, the demand is there if you have the information-based skills."
Merten calls bioengineering a power area in Northern Virginia. "But here also, information technology is important," he says. "Bioinformatics, combining bio- and info science by using technology to analyze technical information, is booming. Some think it may be the next big wave, so people in biology and bioengineering need to look at the skills needed."
Pamela Palmer, Ed.D.
"There is a buzz here..."
"We have ten jobs for every one person we see," says David Hayes, president of HireMinds LLC, a Cambridge, Mass. company that specializes in staffing Internet firms and companies that build dot coms.
"Cambridge is the true Silicon Valley Eastthe real e-commence center," he claims. In the Cambridge/Boston area, students will find many leading e-commerce software vendors and consulting firms. "It's the hottest up-and-coming e-commerce area in the country."
Hayes sees powerful advantages for the region, including MIT and Harvard, as well as a diversity of high-tech opportunities. "There is a buzz here that you don't find in Atlanta. ...I've been in staffing for seven years," he says. "But I've never seen salaries grow like this before."
Leslie Smith, executive director of the Massachusetts Interactive Media Council, agrees. She cites the state's long history of technological development from the telephone era to today's Internet. "Lotus and Lycos are headquartered here," she adds. "There are more than 300 Internet companies in the state."
"Hiring in the high-tech space in Boston is certainly on the incline," says Collin Earnst, corporate marketing manager at iXL's Cambridge offices. "Growth is not only from the dot coms but also stems from the venture capital companies in Boston who work with larger organizations."
"Boston has a strong Internet space, biotech space and electrical engineering," he adds. "There's not so much activity for mechanical and aerospace engineering now. For electrical engineers, [however,] there are the electronic component manufacturers."
Pamela Palmer, Ed.D.
"Industries of the Mind"
"You have to be extremely bold to be heard," says Tom Noonan. "If you are conservative or play by the rules, the game's over."
Not many call Noonan timid. When he risked everything on an Atlanta-based start-up in 1995, he showed a strong tolerance for risk. Now president and CEO of Internet Security Systems, Noonan forges ahead. In second quarter 1999, ISS reported revenues of nearly $17 million, up 131% from the same quarter last year.
Active in Atlanta's bid to become a dominant high-tech center, Noonan deals with realities. "It takes three things to create a high-technology nucleus," he says: (1) availability of high-quality technical personnel; (2) access to capital; and (3) supporting infrastructure (companies providing accounting, legal, marketing and other services to high-tech firms).
"Atlanta is a service industry focused town," says iXL Director of Staffing Programs Felicia Oglesby, speaking about the city where the company is headquartered. "And from my perspective there is a 50% increase in the need for computer science majors. While this may spill off into other areas, you won't see that high a percentage of growth in the need for other areas of engineering."
Atlanta's growth gets fuel from the Industries of the Mind initiative, sponsored by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. "It's a nationwide campaign to tell Atlanta's story," says C of C President Sam A. Williams. "We think success in the future is dependent on talent, on intellectual capital. People with engineering and technical training are in high demand, especially in the areas of telecom, software and to some degree, biotech. We want them to come to Atlanta."
A quick look at the Industries of the Mind stat sheet shows Atlanta's strengths: Metro Atlanta is home to more than 9,000 technology companies which employ over 165,000 workers. This company base, growing at the rate of 12% a year, is a major reason that Atlanta is projected to be the fastest growing job market until the year 2020.
Atlanta also leads the nation with more Internet sites per person than any other city. Additionally, pointing to the relatively low cost of living, Williams explains that you can buy a house in Atlanta for a fraction of what you would pay in Silicon Valley. "The quality of life is superior and Atlanta offers career ladders, not just within a company but across companies. There are large established companies and for those who are more risk-tolerant there are red-hot companies starting out of Georgia Tech, Emory and Morehouse universities."
Pamela Palmer, Ed.D.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, businesses there will create almost 10,000 computer-related jobs a year through 2005, yet fewer than 1,500 graduates in computer and information sciences will be available to fill those positions. Governor Tom Ridge's SciTech Scholars Program has been announced as a key initiative to reverse this high-tech "brain drain" that the administration says threatens Pennsylvania's "development as an environment for technology-intensive business." The program is designed to reverse the slide by providing scholarships of up to $3,000 a year to full-time Pennsylvania students earning a bachelor's degree in selected fields of science and technology. For their part, companies such as the Unisys Corp. in Blue Bell, Pa., will offer internships to scholarship recipients and job opportunities to high-tech graduates.
"There just aren't enough high-tech workers to go around," asserts Dan Guaglianone, corporate director of university relations and recruiting at Unisys. "Whether you're in Pennsylvania or California, there isn't a market that has a large number of graduates to pick from." Guaglianone says that compared to the lure of Silicon Valley, Boston's high-tech corridor or the activity around Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania hasn't previously been able to hold its own.
He attributes the lack of student interest to the fact that much of the state's business is not consumer product-oriented, leaving company names that are familiar on the stock pages, but not on store shelves. "If you're a Microsoft, everybody knows who you are. Even Cisco [Systems Inc.] has had a huge market success and people recognize the name. There are a lot of high-tech organizations in Pennsylvania, but they're not as well known."
Though he applauds the governor's efforts, Guaglianone says the majority of the responsibility falls on companies to demonstrate what they offer as employers. At Unisys, for example, where one of the biggest needs is for software and hardware engineers, casual dress, workday flexibility and conveniences such as on-site dry cleaning are available. Graduates, he says, are keen on quality of life issues: "Students want job opportunities, but there are lots of other things on their list of considerations, as well."
Motoring Toward the Future
Detroit is best known for its connection with the automobile industry, and while automotive giants such as General Motors and Ford are still power players in the area, non-automotive and smaller businesses are offering opportunities for engineers and computer scientists in a variety of fields.
The range of tech opportunities is exemplified by FANUC Robotics, a leading automation intelligence company based in Rochester Hills, Mich. FANUC, which stemmed from an automotive venture, was recently named one of the best places to work in Michigan by Crain's Detroit Business. The company designs, engineers and manufactures robots and robotic systems used in manufacturing and on assembly lines.
Rod Coffey, director of the company's HR Group says that unemployment is very low in the Detroit area, which makes finding talent "a challenging process for all of us." Some of the demand for talented technical students is being met by graduates of local universities such as Wayne State, the University of Detroit and the University of Michigan, but Coffey says there is still a need for computer, electrical and mechanical engineers.
While companies like FANUC retain ties with the automotive industry, Coffey points out that "on a given day, the automobile industry only accounts for about half of our business. We do a lot of business in non-automotive areas such as electronics, food handling, glass handling and pharmaceuticals, and we're doing a lot of work with the U. S. Postal Service, plastics and printing companies."
Other companies in the Midwest, like Plano, Texas-based Electronic Data Systems, have concentrated business areas throughout the country due to a relationship with a specific client. In Michigan, EDS works closely with GM and employs computer scientists and engineers who work on various aspects of vehicle electronics, software, communications and mechanics. EDS Vice President Doug Hoover explains that in the coming year the company is looking to hire more than 100 "applied engineering" workers in electrical, mechanical and industrial controls. "About 40% of those will be in the embedded technology area, about 40% in the manufacturing engineering plant floor area and about 20% on the product engineering side. " He also notes that the company hires a number of computer scientists into its development program.
Lory A. Frenkel
Bullish on E-Commerce
With 7.7 million people calling its metropolitan area home, Chicago is for those who like the "big city." The third largest city in the United States, it is also a major business center, with 35 Fortune 500 company headquarters. Industries range from insurance and banking to technology and telecommunications, with giants like Motorola, Ameritech and Abbott Laboratories coloring the corporate landscape.
Smaller companies and start-ups also play an important role in Chicago's business environment with e-commerce companies like Peapod Inc., a Web-based grocer based in Skokie, Ill., undergoing rapid growth. Laura Abrahams, director of human resources at Peapod, says that "three or four years ago we were looking for people with three or four years of experience. ...But we're really at a different place now and we do look at people right out of school."
She adds that experience is essential, encouraging students to do internships and get "any type of training that relates to e-commerce development, especially anything with Java, HTML or C++, because we look for computer science people who have done programming."
Citing the fast pace of e-commerce and the rapid growth of the industry, Abrahams says e-commerce offers "a ton of opportunities" for interested engineers and computer scientists. She also notes that "the number [of e-commerce companies] in Chicago has grown tremendously in the last five years."
Lory A. Frenkel
Minnesota has garnered a lot of attention recently, most of it based on the election of pro-wrestler-turned-Governor Jesse Ventura, but the "Star of the North" offers a lot more than colorful politicians. Following an economic downturn in the mid 1980s, and losing thousands of residents who relocated to the Twin Cities, the Duluth area is rebuilding with an eye on technology.
Duluth is home to Cirrus Design, the Northwest Airlines Maintenance Facility, Schott Power Systems, Norstar Products International, and the city's SoftCenter Duluth project, which promises to bring even more companies into the economic fold. A franchise of a business design from Sweden, the SoftCenter brings together universities and corporations, allowing students to gain experience and employers to create a talent pool.
Michael McNamara, president of SoftCenter Duluth says that the center is primarily looking for software engineers and programmers, "but we're looking at anybody within the computer or technology field that would like to live in Duluth." He also notes that the SoftCenter facility is "probably wired as well as any building in the country. We believe it's got the broadest bandwidth of anything that's being built in the world right now."
For now, the SoftCenter is soliciting resumes through its Web site and offering them to companies as they sign on to join the program. Currently working with about 50 companies, McNamara says that the goal of the project is to create 1,000 jobs within a 10-year period, following the lead of its Swedish counterpart.
Lory A. Frenkel
NEW ORLEANS:Business in the Bayou
Despite the city's reputation as one of the world's biggest party spots, New Orleans is also home to a number of small tech companies. The development and growth of such companies is being aided and observed by the New Orleans Tech Council, an industry-driven trade association.
Among the rapidly growing companies in the area is Turbotrip.com, a worldwide reservations service based in the Big Easy. Originally called Room Finders USA and servicing only the New Orleans area, the company first hit the Web in 1996, and now serves 55 countries and 367 cities worldwide, according to Executive Vice President Darin McAuliffe. While the company is small, currently employing 32 people, its need for code writers, programmers, network engineers and those familiar with Oracle exemplifies the needs of e-commerce and Web-based businesses.
Larger companies in the New Orleans area include BellSouth, Entergy Corp. and Shell Oil Co. Petroleum is a big business in Louisiana with giants like Chevron, Exxon, Mobil and Marathon employing thousands in the New Orleans area alone.
Lory A. Frenkel
"We Have I.T. Opportunities"
"Texas as a state is really rising quickly in technology," says Rob Donnelly, director of the Houston Technology Center, an organization providing businesses with professional services, venture capital and networking and educational opportunities. And while Austin and Dallas are now widely known for software and telecommunications, respectively, Houston's high-tech environment is just as rich, if a bit more varied.
In addition to NASA's Johnson Space Center and energy, construction and engineering firm Halliburton Co., Houston has "a lot of life sciences and biotech, and we're the energy capital of the world, so there are energy and petroleum positions. But there's been a surge in I.T. with Compaq and BMC software and a number of smaller software companies. There's an overall demand for a very broad range of technical people," says Donnelly.
He adds that "some of our statistics have found that Houston has the same gross number of I.T.-related positions as Austin." The HTC also reports that there are more than 390 emerging software and e-commerce companies in the area.
Lory A. Frenkel
The Mecca of Technology
Figuratively (and to some extent, literally), San Jose, Calif. , has become the center of the U. S. high-tech industry, serving as home to such companies as Cisco Systems Inc. and Cadence Design Systems Inc. Neighboring communities have also bloomed economically, thanks to firms such as Apple Computer in Cupertino, Hewlett-Packard Co. in Palo Alto, Intel Corp. in Santa Clara, and Netscape Communications in Mountain View. Perhaps now, more than at any time in the past, jobs for entry-level professionals abound in the Valley.
"We're coming out of a period in which there was some uncertainty for new college graduates," admits Thad Salter, university relations and recruiting manager for Cadence. "Traditionally, we had looked for the person with eight or more years of experience but ... that pool is diminishing quickly. Now, there's a push to utilize new college graduates."
According to Salter, the frequency in which experienced workers switch jobs has helped increase the demand for new college graduates. "People are moving so much from company to company," he explains, "that more companies are using college graduates. The companies that have always been proactive [in college recruiting], like Cadence, Intel and IBM, now are competing with even more people vying for those talented folks."
Cadence's strategy has been to build relationships with selected universities, both in and outside California. Among the schools that the firm targets are Stanford, San Jose State, the University of California at Berkeley and California Polytechnic Institute. Most of Cadence's new hires, however, come from outside the state, Salter says. He believes students from all over the country continue to be drawn to Silicon Valley because "most of them know that this is the mecca of technology and they want to be to be able to work on the cutting-edge technologies."
More Than Just a Good Cup of Coffee
Technology grads know Seattle as the home of Microsoft (in nearby Redmond), aerospace giant The Boeing Co., and smaller firms like the growing Starwave Corp. in Bellevue. The Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce also includes Nintendo of America; Eddie Bauer, the clothing and outdoor retailer; and seven of the top 16 biomedical companies in the Puget Sound region who call Redmond home, such as Spacelabs Medical and Medtronic Physio-Control Corp. In addition, Redmond hosts the unit of AlliedSignal Avionics that makes the fabled "black boxes" that record data on airliner flights, and a unit of Primex Aerospace that makes tiny rockets to help control exploratory flights into outer space.
Further down the coast, San Diego is quietly emerging as a technological powerhouse, with telecom developer QUALCOMM among the corporations calling the city home. According to the city's Chamber of Commerce, the city's gross regional product is forecast to reach $91.6 billion in 1999, and further grow to $96.6 billion in 2000.
What's behind that growth? A regional report in September 1998 found that San Diego's defense industry generates $9.5 billion within the local economy, so it's not surprising that the city is home to the highest concentration of military personnel in the United States. The Chamber notes that approximately 22% (275,000 jobs) of the region's total employment base may be traced to defense, although this left the region vulnerable when the federal government axed parts of its defense budget in the 1990s. Far from a one-horse town, however, San Diego has strongly recovered from past cuts and is building a solid base from other pursuits.
The Chamber reports: "In the years following the first declines in defense-related income, some industries in San Diego have remained stable with steady growth, while others, such as high technology and medical technology, have come onto the forefront as major areas of potential economic growth. San Diego is beginning to be seen as an area for emerging technologies, and while aerospace jobs do not have the[same] impact on San Diego they did in past years, advances and growth in other technology areas, including biomedical, computers and more means there actually is a shortage of highly trained workers needed for high technology jobs."
The greater Phoenix area is riding a modern wave, driven both by increased job opportunities (it is third in the nation in employment growth) and continued population expansion (second in the United States). The greater Phoenix metro region added 95,000 new jobs in 1998, many of which were filled by its relatively young residents--who average 34.4 years of age. These factors have propelled the Phoenix area to18th place in high-tech employment, as ranked by the American Electronics Association, and 20th in average high-tech wage levels, two factors that led ComputerJobs.com, an online recruiting service for I.T. professionals in 19 selected regions of the country, to launch a site focusing on the city last May. "We keep an eye on the top technology markets," explains the site's Vice President of Corporate Development Joyce Needham, "and Phoenix was one of our top 20."
Much of Phoenix's growth mirrors that of the state at large. The Arizona Department of Commerce reports that manufacturing has become a key component in the state's economic equation. Motorola, Honeywell, Boeing, Allied Signal and Intel all have major operations located in Arizona. "And each of these companies brings with them a large supplier base," cites a report from the department.
Needham adds start-up companies within the I.T. industry to the list of promising employers for graduating engineers and computer professionals, many of them Internet-related. Within more established firms, resources are also being directed toward doing business on the Web. "A lot of money is going to Internet-related investments within software and communications firms," she says. Among those companies, Needham notes that knowledge of e-commerce and ERP, networking, and Windows development skills are most in demand.
All this activity has prompted booms in other sectors, too. Civil engineering students will be happy to know that the increasing demand for commercial space has spurred the construction trade to flourish. This market grew from $5.5 billion in 1994 to $11.2 billion in 1998.
Thin Air, Fat Opportunities
Visiting Denver may make you a little short of breathnot because of the high altitude, but because of the tremendous opportunities for technical professionals!
According to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, telecommunications, aerospace, financial services, computer software and other high-tech sectors anchor Denver's economy. Telecommunications company U. S. West, aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, financial services company Merrill Lynch, utility provider New Century Energies, and software pioneer Sun Microsystems all operate from the Mile-High City. "These companies have helped Denver in its 11 years of economic growth since the area's oil- and gas-induced slowdown in the mid-1980s, and will help Denver grow well into the next century," notes the Chamber.
A perennial addition to many "Top Employers" lists, U. S. West actively continues to recruit engineering and computer science majors. According to its Web site, most of the company's opportunities are in its Denver headquarters and are open to civil, computer, electrical and industrial engineering undergraduates, as well as computer science students.
The Denver area also hosts one of the country's largest environmental consulting and engineering firmsCH2M HILL. The company provides a full range of integrated services for project development, planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance of public and private industrial facilities and infrastructure.
A fair share of software jobs, many of them related to the Internet, can also be found in and around Denver. According to HyCurve Inc., a firm that provides Internet skills training, a recent report by a Los Angeles-based researcher found that approximately 7,000 I.T. jobs are currently unfilled in Colorado, and that the number could grow to 30,000 over the next decade. A recent report in The Denver Post confirmed the shortage, noting that in terms of salaries, "Denver appears to be headed in the direction of the coastal tech centers." It concluded that grads with bachelor's degrees in computer science or information systems could expect first-year salaries at about $45,000, with annual increases averaging 15%.