Neil Senturia and Barbara Bry, serial entrepreneurs who invest in early-stage technology companies, will take turns writing this weekly column about entrepreneurship in San Diego. Neil is the author of the book “I’m There for You, Baby: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which has more than 200 rules for entrepreneurs
(imthereforyoubaby.com). Please email ideas to Barbara at email@example.com.
If you can write software code, you can name your job. The Help Wanted sign is prominently posted at more than 50 companies in town. Intuit is looking for a senior software engineer. Here is the spec: “competitive compensation, benefits, unstructured time to work on your own idea, fitness center, cafe, free time for community service.”
On a recent day, the company was looking to fill 116 slots in San Diego. Sixty were in engineering, and 25 of those were specifically for software engineers. On that same day, the San Diego Software Industries Council website,
(sdsic.org), showed more than 2,000 job postings from traditional software companies like Intuit and ID Analytics to companies in other industries like Sempra and Jack in the Box.
You would think they would have résumés galore. Wrong. In San Diego and in America, we do not produce enough math, engineering, computer and science people. The ones called nerds and brainiacs in high school can now name their tune, sing it in any key and audition for the new show, “American Geek.”
“If we have 200 people apply for a job, we will interview five and then make our hiring decision,” said Intuit recruiter Jennifer Hasche. “San Diego has a smaller talent pool than Silicon Valley. We have to look outside the San Diego market to find the software talent.”
So, admittedly, Intuit is picky, but then so is Qualcomm and so is every other company competing for the best and brightest, and the sad part of the story is that the best and brightest are going to Silicon Valley. And it is not just the money. The cost of living in San Jose is higher than in San Diego.
The issue is more subtle. Those geeks are not dumb. They are not thinking about the job they are auditioning for, but rather what they will do if it doesn’t work out.
The challenge is that people outside of San Diego perceive our region as a poor place to build a software career, explained Bob Slapin, executive director of the San Diego Software Industries Council. Most software job seekers in Los Angeles and Orange County want to stay there. Thirty percent will look in Riverside County compared with 23 percent who said that they will consider San Diego, according to a study of 295 software job seeking professionals conducted in the fall of 2010 by Robert Hale and Associates. That’s right. They’d rather be in Riverside than San Diego.
“Everyone knows about San Diego’s weather and lifestyle. We’ve talked about what a great place it is to live. We haven’t talked about what a great place it is to build a career,” said Slapin.
One possible solution: advertise. In September, SDSIC is launching a national recruiting program called San Diego, Your Job is Here. The SDSIC job board will transition to a new website at
“The job board will have useful information about San Diego, such as cost of living and housing, cultural opportunities such as the Old Globe, the La Jolla Playhouse and the San Diego Opera,” said Slapin.
But the real bottom line is that the American education system does not really promote and celebrate math and science at an early age. The story of “jobs” is not that there aren’t any. It is that there are a lot of them in certain fields. The unemployment rate in San Diego may be 10.5 percent across the board, but there are numerous unfilled openings for skilled software engineers. Call it the revenge of the nerds.
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