Oregon Tech Companies Heavy on Humanity

Amy Wilks is an editor, content manager, and professional writer who creates and manages online content for small businesses across the nation. When she is not attached to her computer she can be found in front of an easel, adding chapters to her new book, or spending quality time with her husband and seven children. She takes pride in providing encouragement, support and inspiration to the people in her community and has dedicated her life to making a difference in the lives of others.

Automation is taking the United States by storm, displacing millions of workers and forcing them to try their luck with new careers. Some of the largest tech companies in Oregon, however, are sticking to their roots and searching for something that robots simply cannot provide: humanity.

Although “working yourself right out of a job” is a phrase that workers in the technology industry know all too well, experts in the field, including tech recruiters, educators, and executives claim that smarter machines will not result in a smaller tech workforce anytime soon. In fact, it is projected that Oregon’s technology workforce will increase by at least a whopping 7,000 jobs- or 32%- over the next six years.

While the speed of innovation could possibly be faster than the speed of light, and automation is creating seismic shifts as smarter machines take over an increasing array of tasks, workers are learning to adapt more quickly. Software positions that required repetitive skills and basic coding- skills that were in high demand just a few years ago, for instance, are now becoming eliminated as robots step in, and human tech workers are reevaluating what they can bring to the table beyond hard tech skills that are so easily replaced.

As automation and innovation continue to advance, new positions are being created and new talents are being sought. For job seekers who are interested in a career in technology, and those who are already working in the industry, tailoring their talents, knowledge and skills to the demands of tomorrow is key. Expertise in artificial intelligence, data science, user experience and other emerging technologies as well as soft skills like communication, empathy and awareness of the impact on society are already in high demand.

Tech Companies in Oregon and Beyond Are Keeping it Real

According to Alexis Fink, who is the director of talent management at Intel Corp., “We look for folks with incredible drive and curiosity and deep passion for problem solving.” Oregon’s largest employer, Intel employs more than 20,000 workers in the state and fills approximately 1,000 positions every year.

And Anmol Chaddha, who is the research director of the Equitable Future Lab at the Institute for the Future in the Bay Area, claims that “People who can help make sense of technology will be key.”

Kirsten Smith, with Program and Policy Insight- a Portland-based research firm, states that “Technology is obviously evolving more quickly than curriculums can evolve.” She understands the difficulties involved with keeping up with advancements in technology and the needs of tech companies.

PSU/PDX Cooperative Education Program Provides a Steady Stream of Qualified Tech Workers

Portland State University is no stranger to the ever evolving world of technology. The university has continuously provided Oregon tech companies with qualified graduates since 2012 despite required changes to the curriculum. Since the program launched approximately six years ago with just 15 students and only six tech companies, about 130 students have participated in PCEP, working about 20 hours a week and gaining hands-on experience at two or more of 16 area partner companies like Act-On software, Viewpoint, Tripwire, CDK Global, and The Standard.

During the two-year internships which pay about $20 per hour, students cycle through various jobs and learn tricks of the trade as they become equipped with an extensive professional network. There are typically 32 internships for each program cycle. According to Warren Harrison, the chair of the computer science department at PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, “Experience as an intern, especially in a program like PCEP provides students with an important market differentiator.”

Approximately 75% of PCEP interns begin their careers with PCEP partner companies after graduation

According to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which was released earlier this year, “Employer surveys consistently show that employers are asking for graduates with more than deep technical expertise or familiarity with a particular technology. They are looking for well-rounded individuals with a holistic education who can take on complex problems and understanding the needs, desires and motivations of others.”

Technology jobs are some of the highest paid positions in Oregon, with the average Information Technology Manager salary in Portland soaring to about $129,173. And a wide range of high-profile technology companies are headquartered in the city and nearby communities. By investing in programs that are specifically designed to produce a highly-skilled technology workforce, the entire state, from the small business and the entrepreneur to the large corporations, will reap the benefits.

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