Why Isn’t the San Antonio Tech Scene Growing Faster?

The simple answer is computer programming talent. These are the people that can take a business’ or customer’s requirements and create software products that solve their problems.  These people are at the apex of the tech ecosystem.  They don’t just maintain or configure, they imagine, design and create new things for technology to do.

The symptoms are everywhere:

• Established tech companies cannot hire. Rackspace has taken the significant step of creating the Open Cloud Academy to train people who can work entry-level Linux administration jobs. Sweb Development and Denim Group both opened satellite offices in other cities to recruit talent.  Rackspace opened a second Geekdom in San Francisco to get access to talent there.  Big tech companies are opening branch development offices in Austin or Chicago rather than here.

• Startups cannot hire. One local startup recently hired a developer who had never worked in their chosen programming language. The choice of hiring a smart person to spend months learning a new skill or having no hire at all is an awful choice to make, but it is something we see all too often.

• Entrepreneurs are not able to find their founding team. I run the San Antonio Tech Co-Founders Wanted meetup. We usually get about 20 people. At most, 1-2 are programmers. The rest are business and design people.

• Graduates are leaving. I have spoken at the Computer Science departments at UTSA, Trinity, and St. Mary’s University this year. Many of the students I spoke with were planning to leave the city. Our brightest high school graduates are leaving, too. The officers of the computer society at UT Austin are most all San Antonio kids.

We think the answer is making more of our residents programmers. More programmers means more people starting companies and those startups hiring more people. People who create companies that create more jobs for San Antonio are the ones we want to bring up and support.  (Don’t believe that a few tech startups can change a city for the better?  Just look at what the Rackspace founders have changed since they start 15 years ago.)

My startup, Codeup, is part of the solution as are things like Open Cloud Academy from Rackspace and CodeHS at Highlands High School.

However, there is more to be done. CodeHS is only in one school. Codeup’s first cohort will be less than 30 students. We are a drop in the bucket of what can be done to make high-tech, and the great careers it provides, as big of a component of the San Antonio economy as tourism and medicine.

To get more programmers out there, we need to make their creation a focus at all levels of education. Programming competitions should be treated with the same celebration as multi-million dollar high school football programs. We should have magnet schools for programming like we do for health careers. We need to make high-tech in San Antonio from kindergarten through college our top priority.

It’s possible.  Let’s get more programmers out there building a brilliant future for San Antonio.

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