Capturing the imagination of future tech workers
Fellow entrepreneurs and CEOs show surprise when they hear tech company Dyn is based in New Hampshire. They say the talent, ideas and investor money are in Silicon Valley, New York or Cambridge. As Dyn’s CEO responsible for the long-term health of the company, my priority is talent. Our ability in New Hampshire to develop talent will determine our success in the future economy.While the 20th century economy hinged on factors of production and capital, today’s knowledge economy is focused on labor. New Hampshire’s population, and that of the New England region generally, is highly educated relative to the nation. The state’s per capita ranking reflects the quality of our workforce and creates competitive advantages.Educational investment has a long payback period — one that “ripens” over time. It can take years for today’s students to reach their peak earning potential and to have those earnings strengthen our local economy. Dyn began in a college dorm room, and 10 years later has grown to 150 employees and a global reach. Our commitment to the future of this state only deepens with time.New Hampshire has many advantages to draw young families into the state. However, New Hampshire’s historic in-migration of educated adults has ebbed in recent years.The challenge facing me and my peers is to interest young people who are already in New Hampshire in a career in a high-tech industry and show them the possibilities that exist right in their backyards.A key way we do this is through internships – developing the workforce of tomorrow. This summer alone, Dyn will employ 25 interns, most of them students from New Hampshire’s community colleges, who will see first-hand the opportunities in high tech in New Hampshire.Providing internships has paid off for the students and for Dyn. One reason for our shared success is the emphasis New Hampshire’s community colleges place on real-world learning.Students are job-ready and steeped in hands-on experience.The Community College System of New Hampshire and the University System of New Hampshire recently signed a commitment to double the number of graduates in science, technology, engineering and math. We can’t wait to hire them. And if we develop that talent locally, it increases our productivity and lowers our recruiting costs.However, while the college systems are doing an admirable job, the pipeline of young people interested in technology careers needs to expand. Students need to be reached at a younger age and in ways that capture their imagination. Fifteen-year-olds are not enticed by job projections and economic reports. They want to do what is fun and appealing today.Mentoring and offering internships are two ways to accomplish that. Efforts like Dean Kamen’s FIRST robotics competition are perfectly pitched to engage students’ creativity and productive reasoning. Whatever creates exposure to the excitement of a dynamic enterprise, the challenge of solving problems, the thrill of building can ignite a spark in young people that can carry them into a career. Dyn’s own chief technology officer began cabling and setting up servers when he was 16 years old. He was mentored, and helped along the way, and saw the possibilities of a career in technology.We have a chance to show young students the exciting applications of math and science to the gadgets and systems that are part of their daily lives. When they can associate a positive real-world experience with these subjects, there is a better chance they’ll be motivated to sustain their interest in math and science as they approach college age.I ask and encourage my tech company colleagues to hire college interns, or provide on-site experiences to a high school student for a few hours a week after school. The tiniest of sparks can light a fire that burns a lifetime.While math and science are largely based on formulas and probability, only by taking a chance on our future workforce can we ensure the talent we need will exist in New Hampshire in future decades.Jeremy Hitchcock, founder and CEO of Manchester-based Dyn Inc., is also a board member of the New Hampshire High Tech Council.