For years, conventional thinking in the tech industry was that if you wanted to grow an idea into a sustainable business, you needed an office in San Francisco or New York. But that thinking has changed over the last few years. Some of the world's biggest companies are opening offices in emerging tech hubs like Wilmington, DE and Columbus, OH. These cities often offer more affordable real estate and access to untapped pools of talent.
For companies already operating out of these cities, this shift could make it even more difficult to attract and retain developers. We talked to HR leaders based in emerging tech hubs that are preparing to face this challenge. Here's their advice.
Fatima Qizilbash is the Manager of Talent Marketing for LoyaltyOne in Toronto, which has become a popular destination for tech companies. Even though the talent market in Toronto is tighter than ever, she told us that LoyaltyOne's employer brand has helped them stay competitive.
"With some of the big players in town, we know how important it is to differentiate ourselves,” Qizilbash said. “For us, our approach to storytelling has been the key to attracting and retaining tech talent."
Qizilbash says LoyaltyOne’s most recent branding campaigns were influenced by what they learned from developers in the area. To give candidates a preview of “a day in the life,” LoyaltyOne provides ongoing training to their developers on how to be brand advocates. The company also created a series of videos to showcase their developers’ passion for STEM in and outside the workplace.
You might not immediately think of Seattle as an "emerging" tech hub. But we only need to look back as far as 2014, when The New York Times wrote about how it was the new center of a tech boom.
Anthony Rotoli is the Head of Talent Acquisition at Karat, a tech startup based in Seattle. As the city evolved, Rotoli discovered that creating a positive candidate experience would help Karat stand out. “We always ask ourselves how we can improve the interview experience,” he said. "Every developer has lots of developer friends, so we make sure each candidate has a stellar experience that they’ll be eager to share with others."
Studies have shown that Rotoli is on the right track. Harvard Business Review found that companies could spend as much as $7.6 million in additional wages to make up for a negative reputation. "Aside from that, it's just the right thing to do," he added. "When someone thinks your company is interesting and decides to apply, that's something that deserves appreciation. We do our best to make that felt throughout the interview process."
Be present in the local developer community
Rotoli and Qizilbash’s companies are in different stages. But both agreed that it's crucial to get involved in your local developer community, especially as tech giants move to town.
"Conferences like Tech Inclusion and ChickTech have been amazing to partner with as we grow,” Rotoli said. “These events have given us incredible face time with developers in our area. They've also helped us build a connection to a more diverse network, which is something that is never too early to get started with.”
As a more established company, LoyaltyOne took a slightly different approach by hosting developer meetups at their Toronto headquarters. “In 2018, we’ve hosted 28 events at our Toronto headquarters,” Qizilbash told us. “When they're here, we create opportunities for guests to meet directly with our leaders and see some of the cool work we're doing—which we find is setting us apart from other companies in the city.”