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Career Advisor by Edgar Saadi

Is there high-tech life in the Midwest?

You betcha! In fact, once you've tried Austin or Chicago,
you may never want to leave.

August  1996
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There's a country between Silicon Valley in California and Silicon Alley in New York, but you might not know it from the talk of a jobs gold rush to the two coasts. Can a sophisticated programmer find job happiness in the Silicon Corridor? Edgar says, - "You're darn tootin'!"(1,050 words)

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Dear Edgar,

I'm a software engineer working in New York City. I'm doing some sophisticated OO development and the pay is good enough, but I'd like to move back to the Midwest, where I'm from originally. I often read and hear about leading-edge work going on in California and New York. Are there any such up and coming communities somewhere in between that would be worth exploring? How would I go about finding a job there?


Midwest Bound

Dear Midwest Bound,

That's a great question! This is a topic that I fielded with one of our candidates last week. Since Pencom is constantly tracking the national employment trends, it is very easy for me to comment on the exciting opportunities in all of the technology corridors. While our New York office keeps its eye on the nationwide trends, each Pencom office updates the entire recruiter network on the local differences in technology and the changing needs of employees and employers.

Although I'm partial to the innovation and start-up fever here in the Bay area -- where I live and work -- I must admit that there are some exciting developments in both the Midwest and Texas.

The love of Austin
Austin is definitely a strong technology center and a city with an exceptional quality of life. We started our Austin office back in 1988 as we staffed, among other things, IBM's AIX project. Soon, we found that none of our contractors wanted to relocate out of Austin! When we started our software services division (PSW Technologies) the following year, we based it in Austin because we saw it was a city that was full of young, interesting technology companies and one in which our contractors loved to live.

One of the most attractive benefits of working in the Lone Star state is the relatively low cost of living. Although salaries are somewhat lower, so are mortgages, food, and gas. And, as in Florida and a handful of other states, there is no state income tax in Texas. If you make $100K in New York and Joe Botz makes mere $90K in Texas, Joe still takes home a few thousand more than you. Plus, he probably pays half the rent you do.


Cost of living -- and living well
I was just on the phone with Jonathan Hines, the manager of our Texas office, who proudly gushed about the benefits of his city. "What does it cost to park a car in a large city?" he asked. "Four or five hundred a month? It costs a hundred bucks a month to dock a boat on Lake Austin." Jonathan is originally from New York, but seems to have found his niche in Texas. "The things I love about Austin include no traffic, low cost of living, no snow, low crime rate, good schools, and an all-around excellent quality of life." Well, I guess we know where Jonathan is staying.

It's more than just the money that keeps people in Austin. This relatively small city in the heart of Texas is the home to a lot of leading-edge development, as well as a bevy of Fortune 500 companies. In recent years, Jonathan's team has been staffing projects for multimillion-dollar database, financial, and petroleum companies.

The world has witnessed the growth of some fabulously successful hardware start-ups in Austin, such as Dell. There are also many powerful start-up development companies cropping up in Texas; by Jonathan's conservative estimate, over three dozen with serious funding exist in Austin alone.

The power of Chicago
Austin is not the only city between the coasts that is drawing attention, venture capital, and top talent. If you want to move to the Midwest, but still want the benefits and pace of a big city, you should consider Chicago. Just last year Vice President Tom Morgan launched our newest Pencom office in the Windy City. Already our Chicago recruiters are overwhelmed with demands from major manufacturing, retail, and major financial companies -- all in desperate need of seasoned software engineers and systems administrators. Chicago is one of the trading capitals of the world and continues to draw more sophisticated businesses.

Beautiful city, bustling with work
A former New Yorker, and then Austinite, Tom had much to say about Chicago's beauty and assets. Tom said the expansive Lake Michigan gives one the illusion of being by a quiet sea. He also remarked that many big companies are headquartered in the suburbs--a very desirable area in which to live. A lot of Internet energy, talent, and innovation are in this part of the world. The University of Michigan has a massive Net presence and the famous NCSA--the home of the first Web browser--sits a few hours away in Urbana-Champaign.

One of the most interesting things about our industry is that geographical location is becoming less of a restricting consideration. With engineering projects going on all over the country, one can virtually pick a spot then find a job. Our systems administration outsourcing division (PSA) which is only two years old and growing, now has over 180 sysadmins, and a presence in over 23 states.

Midwest Bound, you should feel very confident in planning a move into either of these technology corridors. There are ample opportunities to maintain your cutting-edge skills.

Now here's a challenge to our readers: If you send me mail about other technology locations and related web sites, I'll then pen a follow-up article next quarter! It should make very interesting reading. Until next month, work hard.

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