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Blow This Popsicle Stand: Insights from the SXSW Tech Career Expo
Posted on March 16th 2012
This year’s SXSW Interactive festival included a first-time-ever job fair, the Tech Career Expo. A perfect fit: recruiters and candidates convening at what has now become the largest non-single-vendor produced technology show. (But also ironic, that this was the first year someone thought to produce it.)
Aptly -- and thankfully -- one did not need a badge to enter the event. As I was denied a SXSW media/analyst badge this year (no comment) -- and with a few hours to kill last Saturday during the torrential rains -- I walked over to the Austin Music Hall for a visit.
Job fairs are usually known as events with less-than-impressive employers recruiting for less-than-desirable positions. This was not the case at all. Apple, Dell, Google, Salesforce.com and other notable tech, media, startup and other digerati -- about 70 companies present -- were out in full-force.
Here are 2 key observations from the event, which I feel says something about trends in the technology and social media industry:
U.S.-based programmers are still in demand.
Outsourcing or offshoring? Nothing of the sort: companies were clear and direct in their need for U.S.-based software engineering architects, performance engineers, user interaction designers, quality engineers, network engineers, automation engineers, and other titles. When asked how I can help, Chad Walters, VP of Engineering for Socialware, a company which manages social business for the financial services industry, practically begged me for Java developers. Social commerce solutions provider Bazaarvoice and CRM vendor Salesforce.com were also aggressively seeking U.S.-based programmers, developers, and engineers.
Clearly, this is encouraging.
Product management is suddenly a hot career path.
Perhaps it has always been a hot career path -- I had always assumed that a product manager career track was the domain of newly-minted MBAs in marketing -- but I was surprised to learn of the number of open positions for product manager, program manager, product marketing manager, and the like. This is perhaps driven by the need for companies to continually improve their existing software and services, differentiate themselves, and stay competitive.
Austin is a hotbed of product management. Last month’s Product Camp Austin ‘un-conference’ boasted over 200 attendees.
'The demand for product management reflects the convergence of technology and marketing for online products and businesses,' says Nathan Green, co-founder and President of campus2careers, the largest entry-level recruiting site in Texas, and a partner for this year’s Tech Career Expo. 'We have seen the largest increase in jobs on our site require both a technical and other skillset, like sales, operations, or marketing.'
Another key observation: many companies that paid for table space and travel expenses for recruiters to appear at the SXSW Tech Career Expo have no presence or employees in Austin at all. This was the case for Specific Media, owner of MySpace, based in southern California, and Scripps, broadcaster of Food Network, Cooking Channel, and other ‘shelter’ networks, for which the director of recruiting flew in from Knoxville, Tenn. just to work this event. That non-Austin companies dedicated resources to appear at a first-ever career fair not only points to the popularity of SXSW Interactive but also to the fact that talent is at a premium in the technology and media sectors.
I see the event expanding. While Green and others spoke in the mezzanine area, on such topics as the value of networking, I foresee hands-on classes in Drupal, Joomla, Ruby on Rails, and other web and content-management platforms, as well as keynotes or speeches by very senior talent acquisition or human capital executives.
'While the feedback from our 30+ clients that attended was very favorable, we need to do a better job of getting the out-of-town techies to participaate next year,' added Green of campus2careers. 'I think this event has the pontential to become a fixture in the SXSW schedule, and another reason why techies come to town in March.'