ITPalooza puts spotlight on tech hiring, education

The exhibit area at the ITPalooza technology event Thursday at Nova Southeastern University featured 78 exhibitors. About 2,000 people attended the all-day event of exhibits, workshops and panel discussions, a hiring fair, hackathon and party.
The exhibit area at the ITPalooza technology event Thursday at Nova Southeastern University featured 78 exhibitors. About 2,000 people attended the all-day event of exhibits, workshops and panel discussions, a hiring fair, hackathon and party. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

To hear South Florida’s technology companies tell it, job opportunities are aplenty heading into 2015. Just listen to a few of the 30 companies that participated in a hiring fair at the massive ITPalooza annual event at Nova Southeastern University in Davie on Thursday.

E-Builder in Plantation needs software developers, business analysts and sales. The 120-employee company plans to hire roughly 40 people in 2015, said Maggie Caesar, the events coordinator for the construction-management software company.

Motionpoint, a website translation company in Coconut Creek, was looking to hire about a half dozen technologists, mainly Java developers, on Thursday. The company has about 200 people now, mostly local hires, said Eugenio Alvarez, director of development. “We prefer local people; they have a stickiness,” he said.

Modernizing Medicine, a four-year-old Boca Raton-based electronic medical records software company, has 220 employees now but plans to add 100 jobs in 2015, said Karen Moyer, senior corporate recruiter for the company. On Thursday, the company was looking for Java developers, automated testers, support specialist and scrum masters.

Fort Lauderdale-based Citrix, which has doubled its global workforce in the past five years to more than 10,000, was looking for talent in all areas. “We’re hiring in every department,” said Kerryann Brown, corporate recruiting lead for the company, who estimated that the company was looking to hire about 200 people in the South Florida location. What’s her pitch? “Our culture is, bar none, the best. It’s very entrepreneurial.”

Alex Funkhouser, owner of SherlockTalent, a tech-focused staffing firm, said that in addition to software developers — the good ones will always get jobs, he said — he is also seeing a lot of demand for interactive marketing and technology management, even senior level CIO, CTO and VP of IT jobs.

“It’s a very good sign for the economy when the senior level people are wanting to make a move. They are in demand — these are good times,” said Funkhouser, who also co-founded ITPalooza in 2012 and is one of its key organizers.

In addition to the hiring fair, Thursday’s ITPalooza included a lively exhibit area with 78 companies and organizations, several tracks of workshops and sessions featuring about 60 speakers on topics such as cloud computing, sales strategies, social media strategies, Bitcoin, business intelligence, cloud computing, web development and capital raising, and a hackathon, where teams worked on apps for charities. The all-day event was at NSU’s Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences.

Local technology groups, including the South Florida Technology Alliance, the iCoast CIO Council and The South Florida Interactive Marketing Association, collaborated to produce the mega-event that ended with a holiday party in the evening. About 2,000 people attended; it was free with the donation of two unwrapped toys for charity.

While jobs were plentiful, some employers said they have difficulty filling them locally. “South Florida is a net exporter of our top talent,” said Dan Cane, CEO of Modernizing Medicine. That’s an issue that the nonprofit iCoast CIO Council is undertaking.

“Unemployment in the tech sector is really at zero. What we are trying to do by working with our universities is to retain the talent that is already here,” said Charles Grau, vice president of IT for United Data Technologies and president of the CIO Council, which has a number of programs in the works that bring IT leaders together to better understand and collaborate on key challenges in their industry.

James Parrish, associate professor of Information Systems at NSU’s Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences, believes that talent is a top challenge in technology today. A recent survey he conducted for the SFTA said two of the top concerns expressed were that there is not enough tech talent coming out of the universities and that it is difficult to attract IT professionals to the area.

His take? While he believes there aren’t enough graduates coming out of technology programs, he also thinks there is a disconnect between what employers say they need and what they need. The list of requirements on those job descriptions can be daunting, and sometimes two jobs — or three — are better than one, he said. “Stop looking for someone who can do it all.”

Junior Morris of Margate wasn’t having any trouble finding companies hungry for talent as he was walking the aisles and talking to recruiters at the hiring fair on Thursday. He recently completed certifications and was looking for an IT help desk position. Just a few minutes into the job fair, he had already given out all his résumés.

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