High-profile tech companies increase campus recruiting in Triangle

rbutt@newsobserver.comNovember 16, 2013 

A growing number of high-profile technology companies are recruiting on Triangle campuses, the latest indication that the region is becoming a reliable source of engineering talent for companies with headquarters elsewhere.

While tech giants such as Red Hat, Google and Microsoft have for years recruited computer sciences majors from local universities, some of the country’s fastest-growing startups – including Square, Dropbox and LinkedIn – took part in their first career fairs here this year.

Leela Srinivasan, marketing director at LinkedIn Talent Solutions, said the Mountain View, Calif.-based company came to the Triangle for two reasons – to recruit talent and better connect with some of the millions of students and recent graduates that use the company’s services to find career opportunities.

“The Triangle area has incredible schools, so it’s not surprising that our campus team came here,” she said. “Separately, students and recent college grads are our fastest-growing cohort of members on LinkedIn.”

Square, a mobile-payments startup that has raised $340 million, participated in a job fair at UNC-Chapel Hill in mid-September. Spokeswoman Lindsay Wiese said the university’s computer engineering program produces strong candidates for the company.

“We have space for 1,000 employees, with room to grow, and are actively hiring engineers and designers,” she said. Square, which processes more than $15 billion in payments annually, has doubled its workforce to 600 in less than a year and recently moved into new headquarters in San Francisco.

More than 315 technology companies also attended N.C. State University’s Engineering Career Fair this year, up from 291 in 2012. Overall, N.C. State has seen a 10 percent jump in the number of companies signing up for campus job fairs, said Arnold Bell, executive director at the campus’s Career Development Center.

Pitching to startups

The increase in on-campus recruiting by large companies comes as elected officials are working to retain more of the local talent by cultivating a startup scene and boosting the region’s image as an innovation-friendly community.

L.J. Brock, vice president of talent acquisition and infrastructure at Red Hat, said the Triangle’s network of universities is something that few other areas can offer employers.

“When you look at the foundational seeds for the success of Silicon Valley, it's built around strong university systems in the area,” he said. “Likewise in North Carolina, we have a lot of good schools in close proximity.”

The relocation of Red Hat and Citrix’s ShareFile to downtown Raleigh has coincided with a concerted effort by city officials to recruit more startups. Last year, Raleigh hired Derrick Minor as an innovation and entrepreneurship manager to lead the effort.

“We are seeing a trend of startups and growth companies with headquarters in larger markets setting up East Coast operations in Raleigh to tap into the fresh supply of talent,” he said.

While some chose to open satellite offices in Raleigh, others have simply rented out meeting space to gather local freelancers.

Lower cost of living

One of the new arrivals is UberConference, a San Francisco-based company that offers a technology platform that is designed to be an alternative to teleconferencing.

UberConference CEO Craig Walker said opening a second office in Raleigh allows the company to offer customer support in multiple time zones. But a bigger draw was the ability to hire local developers and engineers.

“Hiring has always been the most important criteria we had,” Walker said.

UberConference expects to add up to 20 employees at its office in the historic Briggs Hardware Building on Fayetteville Street.

Richard White, a Raleigh native and CEO of UserVoice, said his company’s new office on Hargett Street costs about one-third of what a similar space in San Francisco would cost.

“You also get a comfortable lifestyle and (comparatively) low cost of living,” said White, whose company provides customer feedback platforms for Web-based businesses. “It takes a longer time to hire somebody in Raleigh, but once they’re on board, they tend to stick around longer.”

Butt: 919-829-4523

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