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The faces of Tacoma Tech Talent

Oct 17th 2017 - by Patrick Adrian, CFA

When we started RedQuarry we didn't really think very hard about the local labor market or our hiring needs in the years to come. We had the blinders on just building software and getting the first revenues booked!

If pressed then (and today) we would offer that George F. Russell Jr. succeeded in Tacoma selling Russell Investments for over a billion dollars, so it must be possible. However, possible does not mean easy. Russell had to be creative, nimble, and values-oriented to succeed in the long run. As we think about how to attract and retain high value employees in the coming years, it has been instructive to look back at what's worked and why.

In a recent internal meeting it was unanimous that by far the number one source of high value employees has been directly related to our two co-founders' involvement in local high schools and colleges. The best way we found to get lasting and relevant talent is to go straight to the schools and community. Co-founder Chris Tinsley says his time involved with the School of Business at Pacific Lutheran University kept him close to the Faculty and the latest crop of students.

Co-Founder Jared Potter took it to the next level (as per usual) and actually teaches a mobile and web development class at Covenant High School just up the road in Central Tacoma. Alec Moore, one of Jared's former students and our first intern, later joined us full-time after finishing college. Alec was recently covering for Jared teaching his class and told the students,

"Mr. Potter's class literally changed the course of my life. I didn't even consider software engineering until that point."

When asked about how vital partnering with local businesses to expand student opportunities, Covenant's Principal Richard Hannula said,

"Being able to offer our students technology education from current professionals in the field has been invaluable experience for our students and has launched several into technology careers."

It was not recruiters, headhunters or any conventional wisdom that resulted in high value employees. It was getting out there and eventually realizing that we get more back from the community then we could ever put in. It's perhaps one of many reasons why George F. Russell Jr. opens his book, Success By Ten, with,

"Before you are a successful businessperson, you need to be a person. By that I mean a certain kind of person--a person with strong core values and, most importantly, integrity."

One of our core values is supporting the community that has given us so much and perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that it's also the best business decision too.

Jared also serves on the advisory board of Tacoma's iDEA, a Tacoma public high school focused on industrial design, engineering and art.

Zach Varnell is principal at iDEA and said,

“Partnership with community and industry leaders is essential in public education because it allows us to provide the most relevant coursework, resources and technology to our students so that we can prepare them for work in the ‘real world.’ Jared and the rest of the team at RedQuarry have been an invaluable asset to us at IDEA as we’ve launched this brand new school. They have provided our leadership team with expert guidance in planning course pathways and industry-specific skillsets.”

Varnell goes on to say

As educators, we want to create relevant talent, but we aren't ....and ... so we need business leaders to tell us and literally show us what to do. We have 7 companies at the school.

I'm sure many will say this isn't a solution to the labor shortage for senior talent. While true (I guess...) in the short run, it's been amazing how much ability, maturity, and skill our young associates bring to the job everyday. Joining a company at age 17 or 18 and sticking with it through college has proven to be a model that works extremely well. It wasn't something we set out to do, but was really born from our resources at the time. Maybe, just maybe we stumbled onto an alternative strategy for talent acquisition that is actually quite viable.