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Eugene's speech to graduates in computer science at the University of Oregon: stay local – News – The Register-Guard

Anne Glickenhaus did not know much about the companies she was going to visit in a recent night.

And that is a big problem for the Eugene technology community.

Glickenhaus was one of the 50 computer and information science students at the University of Oregon who took the bus last month for a free visit to three Eugene technology companies: CBT Nuggets, IDX Broker and Palo Alto Software.

They are trips of the Oregon Technology Association, industry group called Oregon Tech Experience or, simply, "technology tours". And they have a crucial purpose for the organization and for the economy of Lane County in general: keep talented UO students in computer science in Eugene once they graduate, where they can earn 74 percent more on average than the typical Lane County worker, instead of running for more. technology centers like San Francisco or Seattle.

"I had a feeling Eugene was on the map for technology but I had never really heard of any of these companies," said Glickenhaus, a 26-year-old Portland native. who came to the UO to obtain a degree in computer science, after obtaining a degree in behavioral neuroscience from Eastern Washington University.

"I did not fully understand the reach of the technology community in Eugene, and what steps they were taking, they were taking to help increase the technology (opportunities) here," he said, "with fiber optic Internet lines in the city center. and exactly the kind of quality of life that these companies provide their employees, I had no idea of ​​any of these. "

It is a problem that the local employers and the technology association have been trying to solve in the last three years, a technological tour at the same time. And technology advocates say it's crucial to connect this group of young talent with the hundreds of small technology companies in Lane County, especially because Symantec, which once employed 1,400 local technology workers, has sold its huge Springfield complex. and it has been reduced to about 200 people.

Before the tours, "one of the overwhelming issues we heard from local technology executives was that the retention of talent was simply overwhelming," said Matt Sayre, vice president of the technology association. "We have this wonderful university in our own backyard, graduating from tons of smart kids who are going to San Francisco or going to Seattle, there was an overwhelming concern about that, the 'brain drain' and the loss of talent."

The "density" of Eugene's technical work

Last month's tour began at CBT Nuggets, a firm that provides online training for information technology professionals around the world. Along with several Lane Community College students, UO students split into small groups and followed CBT employees on tours of each of the company's departments.

There they learned about the benefits of the office that have become synonymous with technological culture. : a kitchen and an adjoining lounge with arcade games, table tennis and foosball, an exercise room and a "serenity room" for employees to reflect in silence, not to mention the Nerf guns and the floating boards scattered throughout the office.

But the real releases came in the middle of the tour, from employees like CBT Nuggets web developer, Peter Osborne. Osborne has worked in cities as big as Seattle and as small as Medford. He said he would not have accepted a job in Eugene when his Seattle employer fired him in 2009.

"But Eugene has done a lot with his (technology) infrastructure." Eugene has more than 400 technology companies now. "Osborne said. He moves to work from his home in Creswell, where he pays less than half the average monthly rent of approximately $ 3,000 for a study in San Francisco or New York.

"San Francisco has many jobs, but the cost" Living there is really prohibitive, "he said." Do you want to think about how far your money goes and thinking about work density? What is a comfortable amount of work density to live in a place where you can live but are you also protected? Eugene has 400 technology companies … For me, if something happened and I could not work here for any reason, I feel very confident that I can find something very quickly. We are in a community that has a high density of jobs that need quality (web) developers. "

The feeling was identical in the second stop of the technology tour, real estate technology firm IDX Broker.The company's founder and manager, Chad Barczak, welcomed the group of students in his business in the center of the city and said he had no problems if students preferred to seek an internship at CBT Nuggets, Palo Alto Software or another technology company instead of theirs.

urged them to consider maintaining their talent in the backyard of the UO once they obtain a degree,

"We can compete for employees, but we are very cooperative," Barczak said of the city's technology companies. Eugene, buy houses and pay taxes. "

Less technological employees, but more technology companies

In Palo Alto Software, students in the final step of the technology tour ate pizza while gathered near a wall, some photos with smartphones. They were looking for publications for 16 internships available next summer at the software company, which develops business training programs.

Kaela Schaefer was nearby. Graduated in June from the UO Computer and Information Science program, Schaefer completed an internship at Palo Alto Software during the summer before being hired as a full-time software developer in October.

Before knowing the company on a technology tour of 2017, Schaefer knew of the company just for a sponsorship banner in Sheldon Pool where he worked, and thought they were based in Palo Alto, California

But, "I heard (to Palo Alto Software CEO) Sabrina (Parsons) talking about how Palo Alto does not want to sell software to people, they really want to improve small businesses, "said Schaefer. "Only the idea that there is a technology company in the city that has such a great culture platform, has a solid and solid base in ethical business practices, I thought: 'This is the only company I want to work on.'"

That's music to the ears of the Oregon Technology Association, and an encouraging sign for a region that has really lost technology positions in recent years, despite the addition of dozens of new small firms .

About 4,100 Lane County Workers were employed in technology jobs at the end of 2017, according to data from the Oregon Department of Employment, compared to 4,500 registered in 2014.

The net loss in recent years is almost entirely due to Symantec's multiple layoffs, said Brian Rooney, a regional analyst with the Oregon Department of Employment who has studied the region's technological landscape. It has also dropped from around 5,600 a decade ago, when Symantec and the Hynix semiconductor plant in western Eugene were operating.

But the number of companies has increased even when Symantec has reduced its workforce. Approximately 450 technology businesses operated throughout the county at the end of last year, compared with 418 in 2015, according to data from the Department of Employment.

"There is a lot of loss in the technology sector, because companies start, their goods and services are in demand for a while, and it is the nature of technology that things improve and things change," Rooney said. "But the incorporation of the new firms in the last year is definitely a good sign for the future."

The average annual salary for Lane County in the technology sector was $ 74,279 last year, according to figures from the Oregon Department of Employment. That's 74 percent higher than the average annual salary of $ 42,644 in all sectors of Lane County.

The technology association does not record how many technology tour participants later got jobs in Eugene, Sayre said. But he surveys each student before taking part in a technology tour, asking about his knowledge of Eugene's technological landscape and the number of employers here, said Sayre. The knowledge of these companies has increased from approximately 10 percent of students in 2015 to 25 percent today.

"There are dozens and dozens of graduates in the past 24 months who, instead of going to Portland or Seattle, are choosing to stay and work for companies like Palo Alto Software," said Sayre. "I can point to a seemingly unlimited number of recent college graduates, these guys tell me, 'I did not even know there was a technology sector, I'm working here now.'"

Follow Elon Glucklich on Twitter @EGlucklich. Send an email to

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