Salt Lake City Gives Civic-Minded Tech Pros an Edge
The beauty of the Wasatch Range, combined with a relaxed way of life and lower cost of living, make Salt Lake City a major draw for technologists. That’s just one reason why the region’s tech sector (a.k.a., “Silicon Slopes”) is experiencing rapid growth. “It’s a very competitive environment for employers here in Salt Lake City. We’re all vying for the best talent out there. There are also a number of universities and small colleges in the valley that are graduating young people who have the opportunity to work at a ton of different kinds of tech companies,” noted J.D. Nyland, the chief product officer at InMoment, which builds cloud-based customer experience management software. Until recently, tech employers in Salt Lake City often had to look outside the state for top talent, and local technologists who grew up and learned their skills here were just as likely to leave for career opportunities elsewhere. That’s changing, however; research from the Brookings Institution cites the city as an industry innovator, with high concentrations of skilled technologists in financially viable businesses. Although area employers are hungry for talent with the right technology skills, your “soft skills” may prove a deciding factor with a hiring manager. The city’s culture values a strong work ethic, passion for lifelong learning, and commitment to service. If you can present yourself as a well-rounded professional with a sense of responsibility toward the greater community, you have an advantage over your competition. Steve Smith, the CEO and co-founder of Finicity Corporation, a financial software services company, stresses that maintaining the right kind of culture is critical to an organization’s success. “From a soft-skills perspective, we’re very team-oriented,” he said. “You have to be able to communicate openly and transparently, and we prefer employees with diverse interests, who can be relatively fungible as the company moves and pivots. Prima donnas don’t fit well here and I think you may find that’s an overall hiring flag across the state.” Salt Lake City is also known for its extremely educated workforce, and is home to the highest number of second-language speakers in the U.S. The latter demographic is associated with the large number of people who, as part of their religious service, live abroad for two years after high school. According to local employers, many people who’ve had this mission experience develop refined “soft skills” that set the bar for other hires. “They’ve spent a couple years thinking about something other than themselves,” Smith said. “They’ve developed significant people skills, even sales skills. They’ve learned how to be proactive and solve problems. Things like that are a net positive for any employer.” Both Nyland and Smith have observed that being civic-minded and service-oriented plays out particularly well on teams. When a challenge comes up, the team should rally around the issue, checking off milestones until the work is completed. “Everyone pitches in,” Nyland said, “and even though [the project] may not be their area of expertise, it gives each individual the opportunity to grow beyond their core talents and sometimes work above their pay rate.” While you shouldn’t lose sight of the technical skills that are still fundamental to any hire, employers here know that a large part of their success is predicated on maintaining their culture. When asked about outside interests, those job candidates who can illustrate diverse interests and committed volunteerism will have the hiring edge.