It’s a great time to be a software developer in Michigan

I’d had this feeling for a while that developers are in high demand in Michigan.  Earlier this week, I had confirmation on that during a meeting with some folks at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

The MEDC, by working with growing firms, has learned that software development skills are in great demand in Michigan. They recently opened a state wide jobs portal, based on a version run by Ann Arbor SPARK over the last few years. After being open for a few weeks, over half of the jobs posted are software development, or IT jobs. There are 16 different (somewhat overlapping) categories, and still more than half of the jobs are IT and software jobs.

There are several reasons why software companies are migrating to Michigan. All of them are about the talent pool. Smart companies know that the manufacturing sector makes extensive use of technology, especially software. The auto companies have an especially strong background in leveraging software in all areas of their business. That gives the region more software developers than anywhere else outside of silicon valley. Several years ago, we began using the term “Lakeshoring” to describe bringing software development work to the Great Lake state. Companies are responding.  Systems in Motion opened an office in Ann Arbor and has hired by the hundreds. GalaxE Solutions has opened an office in downtown Detroit and is hiring at a pace that has ourperformed their own projections. Google has opened an office in Ann Arbor. Compuware has been a long time fixture in the Detroit area. QuickenLoans, while classified as a financial company, employs a large software development team.

But it’s not just large companies.  Ann Arbor alone has more than 100 software startups or second stage companies (like SRT Solutions). Grand Rapids also has a thriving software community.

The Software Community needs to answer this challenge

The software community needs to continue to ensure that we have the people that can step into these new jobs as they are created. We also need to demonstrate to those companies looking at Michigan that there is a wealth of talent ready to help them succeed. Luckily, we’re already doing much of work. We just need to keep doing the work, publicize it more, and attract more new members.

The obvious first task is to talk up the user groups. Many SRT developers, including me, have spoken to developer groups in Detroit, Southfield, Ann Arbor, Flint, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City. We’ve talked to students at Michigan, Michigan State, and Michigan Tech.  If you’re here, find a group that interests you and start participating. You’ll learn the skills you need for your next career challenge. If you’re already attending a group, tell your friends. I recommend every developer should find a group to attend. That’s especially true if your considering a job change. Every meeting I’ve attended includes job announcements. You’ll learn more about software development, meet friends, and learn about new opportunities.

We need to promote our regional conferences more. We’ve got GiveCamps, Day of .NET events, CodeCamps, CloudDevDays, The Kalamazoo X Conference, and more that I’ve probably missed. We need to continue inviting new developers to these events, and make it easier for people that want to update their skills to attend.  We need to publicize these events to state leaders that are in the business of attracting companies to the area. I’ve been here a long time, and I know how strong and vibrant our development community is. We need to get that information in the hands of the economic development teams attracting companies to our area.

Finally, we need to do more to encourage the next generation of software developers to consider a career in Michigan. Get involved with one of the universities. Ask to be a guest lecturer to students in Computer Science or Software Engineering. Tell them about the opportunities, and the vibrant software community here. Get them to investigate opportunities here in addition on both coasts.

The software industry has already been an important driver in Michigan’s economic renaissance. It can continue to enjoy that role if the software developer community helps to do more to promote itself and our location. What other ideas can you come up with? If you have ideas, follow up with me on twitter. Let’s show the world how strong our software development ecosystem is.

Created: 6/23/2011 6:02:45 PM

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