4 things we learned from the #SDlifechanging Startup Week panel

May 31, 2019 - Sarah Lubeck

Genomics, defense, tech, and software that's changing the way people around the world live - San Diego is known for a lot of different things. So how do we ensure we stand out among other regions around the world, while simultaneously being known as a good region to live and work?

To answer this question, we went straight to the experts: the brand alliance. The San Diego Brand Alliance is a group of HR & marketing folks at San Diego's tech and life sciences companies that meet quarterly to advise on the San Diego: Life. Changing. campaign.

During a panel at San Diego Startup Week, they spoke directly to the strengths and challenges of attracting and retaining talent in San Diego.

Here's what we learned from them:

  • 1. San Diego's changed quite a bit (and we're not done yet).

    "When I first considered moving to San Diego… it was about beaches, boards, and burritos. Ten years later, it is about brilliance, bravery, and balance," said James White, who described himself as a 20 year veteran of strategy, UX, and design thinking, and now leads marketing at LunaDNA.

  • As other panelists pointed out, this manifests itself in different ways. A few years ago, San Diego did not have many resources for startups. Today, there are numerous incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces to help entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. Additionally, many startups have hit growth stage, and now San Diego is home to numerous unicorns including TuSimple, Kyriba, and Seismic. However, one thing that has remained the same is the people.
  • "In San Diego, I find a certain level of authenticity in all the people that we work with…and that's not something you find in all cities," said Katherine Mackie, who leads talent acquisition for Viasat - one of the largest employers in the San Diego region. Last year, Katherine helped Viasat hire more than 1,400 employees throughout all of its global locations.

    2. We're stronger when we work together.

    We know what you're going to say - this one is obvious, but it's something many other regions have missed.

    As moderator Mark Cafferty pointed out, "When we sat down with Qualcomm and asked them what we could do to help, they told us we needed to tell people about the other companies and startups here."

    "From a marketing perspective, we're trying to convince people that this is not just an opportunity at our company, but that their career doesn't necessarily end here," said Michele Maley, marketing manager at Shield AI
    Simply put, more companies mean more opportunity, and people need to know about them. That's exactly why we created the  San Diego: Life. Changing. company map.

    3. We need to invest in what we already have.

    "We have some of the finest universities in computer science, computer engineering, and hardware engineering," said Charles Logston, director of engineering Aira, a tech company that empowers the blind and low vision community. Charles was also able to leverage his connections at previous employers including Walmart Labs, Intuit, and Northrop Grumman to find skilled individuals that were looking to pivot to a meaningful startup.

  • Shield AI also has a similar hiring strategy. The company leverages artificial intelligence to protect service members, as well as innocent civilians. Through its technology, it's able to deploy autonomous device that performs an indoor search such as clearing a building of threats before law enforcement enter. It looks for talent that can "build toward mastery" - potential hires that they can invest in and train to one day be leaders in their respective fields.

  • 4. We're not perfect (I know, shocker).

    We've come a long way as a region, but we still have a ways to go. And we're okay with that. From mobility to cost of living, we have some challenges that we're focusing on to make the region and even better place to live and work.

  • "Venture capital is always an issue for startup founders, but we're seeing things change," added Katherine Mackie, from Viasat.

Thank you to our panelists and to Startup San Diego for giving us a platform to tell the #SDlifechanging story.

Looking to attract talent to your company? With the help of our brand alliance, we've created a free recruiting toolkit. Sign up here.

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