Friday, May 09, 2008
Talent: Top IT execs need Nashville jobs
Some of Nashville's most qualified C-level information technology executives are forced to commute to the coasts for jobs, when the gigs that brought them here run out of steam, according to executive recruiter Craig Buffkin (left) of The Buffkin Group. He told us recently that Nissan and other companies' moving to Nashville has increased the numbers of highly qualified senior execs from most corporate roles. When their jobs end, those execs almost always want to stay in Nashville, he said. However, unlike the Bay Area, Austin, Boston and other tech centers, unless Chief Technology Officers' and CIOs' timing is perfect, Buffkin says they're going to have to take a pay cut, relocate or earn a lot of frequent-flyer miles. Buffkin said he could easily think of "8 or 10" local C-level execs in such circumstances. Most of these executives have a combination of strategic and tactical skills, a strong work ethic and the ability to "check their egos at the door," all of which could make them important players in Nashville tech startups or other roles. However, Buffkin explains that those who choose to live here and work elsewhere face a disadvantage in getting picked-up by another Nashville venture. "They're just not around, not at important [civic and professional] functions, not active in the social scene," Buffkin said. That's a problem in a town that still relies heavily on the "Old Boy network." The execs are often more likely to hear about opportunities from colleagues in other cities, before they find jobs here. For these and other reasons, top candidates in the C-level talent pool are often overlooked and perceptions of a talent shortage at that level may be exaggerated. In contrast, there's wide agreement that Nashville suffers from a shortage of what Buffkin calls "really senior technical people," including engineers and specialists with hot skills. To remedy the shortage, the Nashville Technology Council, Belmont University and other allies have been pulling together a consortium of several dozen universities, colleges, government agencies and companies to encourage more students to take up computer sciences and related studies in two- and four-year institutions. The project is dubbed "Turning the Tide of Technology," and it aims to reverse the decline of tech degree-holders; keep more of our grads working in Tennessee; and, more tightly align education curricula with employers' requirements.