By Brandon Boynton, CEO, Vemity
It’s no surprise that with world-renowned universities in Indiana such as Purdue, IU, Notre Dame and more, we are producing incredible talent right here in the Midwest. The real question is, how do we attract Indiana talent to Indiana companies?
In an attempt to further understand these graduates, I reached out to 66 juniors and seniors majoring in computer science at IU, IUPUI or Purdue.
Let’s break down these results and how they may affect a candidate’s propensity to work in Indianapolis versus San Francisco, as an example.
Ratio of salary to cost of living: This ranked as our No. 1 response by far, almost doubling the second-highest option. When it comes to cost-of-living ratio, it’s pretty difficult to beat Indiana. The average base salary for a software engineer in Indianapolis is $115,000, compared to $137,000 in San Francisco. However, the cost of living in Indianapolis falls at just 91 percent of the national average, while San Francisco’s cost of living is 128 percent of the average. In other words, the relative salaries, or purchasing power by location, comes out to be $126,000 in Indy and $107,000 in San Francisco. It’s fair to say that Indianapolis takes the win on cost-of-living ratio.
Office space and culture: Silicon Valley is widely known to be the leader of innovation-inducing company culture and office comfort. Companies like Google are famous for their employee office benefits. But the rest of the country has picked up on the fact that employees do in fact enjoy comfort. Working at Vemity, I have had an opportunity to visit dozens of tech companies in Indianapolis and have yet to see a stereotypical “corporate” office. Most of the offices I visit boast hammocks, standing desks, snack supplies and much more.
Not only has Indianapolis progressed in office culture and comfort, but many companies in San Francisco have moved backward, realizing that open-office designs cause countless distractions and severely impact productivity. In the end, one could argue that both Indy and San Francisco have a competitive office culture attraction.
Chance to climb the ladder: As the third-most-common response, it’s clear to see that college graduates entering the workforce are eager to make a name for themselves and want to work for a company where vertical movement is possible. Considering our two examples, let’s break down the potential opportunities for employees.
In San Francisco, we see many, many small startups working to disrupt a market, typically with a unique technology. Beyond that, we see many very large corporations, but not a lot of companies in the middle. In Indy, we see a number of startups, many medium-sized scale-up companies, and a handful of notably large companies like Salesforce and Genesis. In the startup world, being an early hire is a risky endeavor. In the event that the company takes off, the employee not only has a better chance of maintaining a high-level position, but employee options can yield great returns. But very, very few startups reach a successful exit. Comparatively, medium-sized tech companies, as are prevalent in Indy, offer a greater potential than in “mega-corps” to move upward if the employee proves their worth. Without as much competition in the workplace, a lesser employee can gain a managerial or executive position even if they wouldn’t be hired into an entry-level position at a company like Google. Finally, with mega-companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, the potential for upward mobility exists, but certainly not to the extent that it does in other companies. Many say that moving up the ladder is nearly impossible.
All things considered, the opportunity to move up the ladder is likely comparable in both locations.
Great product: This response was left, in large part, to the individual’s interpretation. To many people I spoke with, it meant “popularity of product”; to others it meant “impact of product.” In the end, it seemed to be interpreted to mean “Would I be proud to work on their product?” While the Midwest, including Indianapolis, is home to many great products that have a significant impact on the world, the vast majority are behind-the-scenes B2B products. It’s difficult to argue with the notoriety of many of the products built and maintained in Silicon Valley. This response can almost certainly be awarded to San Francisco.
Where Will They Go?
While composing this piece, I reached out to the surveyed students once more with a final question. Where do you plan to live after graduation? I wasn’t originally going to ask this question, as life has a way of throwing curveballs into otherwise solid plans. However, after breaking down the responses I have discussed here, I saw that they balanced fairly well. This proved to be an intriguing question worth asking.
The results certainly surprised me. The options were simple: the student’s current locale, to the state, to the region, to the rest of the world. With “Elsewhere” as an option, it would be reasonable to predict it as the overwhelming winner. However, the smallest region came in neck-and-neck with the largest.
As I see it, there are two primary reasons why Indiana maintained about 50 percent of the students. Perhaps students who establish their life and career while at a university become loyal and attached to the state — maybe so much so that they disregard any previous or current desire to relocate. Alternatively, maybe Indiana and the Midwest truly are competing with the traditional “tech hubs” as far as employment attraction is concerned.
While many other factors have not been discussed in this essay, employer attraction within the surveyed sample seems to be independent of geographical location. While every location has positives and negatives relative to others, it appears that competition is growing among cities and regions in a way that we have not seen in recent history.
In the future, I plan to dive more into this topic using additional census data and alumni data from universities. There is much more to explore here, and I invite you to leave your feedback in the comments section below.