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The Austin High-Tech Workforce: A Manager’s Delight

15 months ago, I made the inconceivable move from the Bay Area to Austin. After 20 years in the Bay Area and four high-tech companies in which I led executive positions, my life and career were set with no intentions to move elsewhere.  Ultimately, our decision to relocate to Austin was motivated by family.  With two very young children and two careers, the Bay Area had become less appealing over time: it was too congested, too stressful, and too demanding to remain enjoyable. This decision was made easy when an offer from SailPoint came along, a thought leader in its category – in a few words: a marketer’s dream.

Within a few weeks, I settled into my new city, home and job and very quickly found myself very happy.  Austin is a great city with lots of appeal. My children’s daycare is all about making it easy for working parents, my colleagues here welcomed me right in and the job was already proving to be fulfilling. All of these things were keeping me in the ‘honeymoon’ phase when we first landed in Austin. My Californian friends were astonished at how happy I sounded when they’d call me to check in.

After a few months, I started analyzing what was contributing to my high spirits. I began to observe how my days were going and what was causing such a happy ‘spring’ in my step, so to speak.  And then, it hit me.  It was my team, my colleagues, and their teams.  Not only have I found Austin professionals to be extremely good (the kind of good we fight over in the Bay area), but they are also truly happy people who are eager to do more, learn more and progress in their career.

There are many of my former employees who still live and work in the Bay Area, and so many of them I’ve felt honored to work with, don’t get me wrong. In fact, some have followed me in my new adventure without relocating. However, I couldn’t help but look at the difference between the culture of two high-tech cities and how it impacts the workforce.

  • In Austin, funding tends to be less certain and employees here are committed to their team, to ride it out through the good or the bad, without complaint. Ultimately, even if the worst happens and they wind up without a job, they know that, at the very least, they will have acquired great experience for their next gig.  That mindset says it all.
  • There are no stars. Some folks make it and move to their next companies, many do not.  But it is hard to distinguish the former from the latter. There is no bragging, no showing off, just friendly interactions, if not friendships.
  • There are also no divas.  In Austin, but for sure at SailPoint, there is a de facto ‘no jerk’ policy. It does not matter how good you are, if you are going to make life miserable for others, you won’t be part of any team for long.
  • People are just happier. Less stress (though traffic can be bad here too!), less financial strains – housing is affordable-, and a culture of support and neighborhood helps employees, whether junior or senior, feel whole in their lives and then again in their jobs.

It always mesmerizes me in the mornings as I walk into our office and am greeted by my team to see the smiles, energy and enthusiasm for what the day will bring.  I had team members telling me ‘how excited they were to be able to learn new things’ after I started pushing forward with a new marketing strategy and hoping ‘they would not screw up’. I’ve found this so refreshing and so uplifting that I truly believe it has made me a better manager.

In fact, when we received word last week that we ranked fourth on Glassdoor’s annual list of best companies to work in the country, it didn’t surprise me at all.

And yes, I do miss the Bay Area and all it has to offer, its hustle and bustle, its brilliant workforce and innovation mindset.  But Austin – and SailPoint — are forces to be reckoned with, and I am glad I’ve been able to experience it first-hand. As I sit here at home at the end of a weekend writing these thoughts, I realize I cannot wait to go to work tomorrow and for that, I am so very grateful.

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