Audrey Russo

By Audrey Russo, President and CEO, Pittsburgh Technology Council

At every Tech 50 Awards, I give the opening remarks to kick off the evening.

This year’s speech was different from previous years as I’ve been feeling the emphatic need to talk about people/talent across the innovation and tech-based economy. Some of you have heard or read my rants, as well as passion on talent. Many in attendance asked me to provide a written recap of my Tech 50 address. With this being our Tech 50 issue of TEQ, here’s a synopsis:

To say that I am thrilled to be here with you tonight is an understatement. If this is the first time that you have attended Tech 50 you are in store for a powerful evening…Today, all of you here know that Pittsburgh has re-emerged on the global scene as a technology powerhouse.

Our work is far, far from complete. On the one hand, our talent pool with great thanks and awe to our research universities, has become a magnet for advanced R&D facilities and has helped us to attract and retain some of the world’s most exciting ventures. However, our pool of skilled people is not growing fast enough. Not a day goes by that I do not hear the frustration of getting the right people to work on their teams. And by the way, you – the founders and leaders – want it all. You want entry level employees with advanced skills and the ability to learn new ones rapidly. You want candidates who have heard of our story in Pittsburgh and are ready to build their futures here. You want highly skilled, diverse candidates with years of experience. You want it all and you should want it all. We have to retain talent, but we also have to develop talent, and we have to start working right now to build a captivating brand that represents this city’s true story about technology and innovation. Not just reserving chairs in our neighborhood streets….

To be sure, there is a role for everyone in this work, our policy leaders must focus on building great schools and neighborhoods and improving mobility throughout the region. Travel absolutely must work seamlessly that allows the world to reach us, and us to reach the world. This. Is. The. Time. For. Us. Pittsburgh. This is the time for the tech community to unite and to craft a better, stronger path. Tonight, I’m soliciting the leadership and support of every person in this room to help in a few small, but pivotal ways.

First, help us prepare the youth of this region for the future of work. In two large events that are nearly the size of this evening’s program, we host nearly 1,000 teachers and students as part of our annual STEM summit and our Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference. Our region’s teachers are amongst the best in the nation, and they recognize the importance of connecting classroom lessons with real-world applications and real-world STEM professionals. From the business perspective, I cannot tell you how overwhelming the interest is in supporting these teachers.

The Council is excited to announce that we will be hiring a dedicated team member to help build bridges between educators, students and the technology community. We will be looking for professionals that are right here in this audience to work with us, to visit classrooms and to spend time with educators to connect their curriculum to STEM-related career opportunities. We’ll also be facilitating field trips for students to visit some exciting businesses. I hope I can count on you joining us in this work.

And next, keeping with the theme of developing the next generation of STEM professionals, I hope you will work with us and our partners to develop new skills within your existing employee base. In just this room, we have some amazing and innovative organizations that are focused on upskilling your team. So even as we work on developing the future pipeline of workers, it’s clear we must do a better job attracting new talent to Pittsburgh. The companies in this room are already leading. Looking at our population trends, it’s hard to imagine a growing city without the technology sector in Pittsburgh. As we look to accelerate our success in talent attraction, we know that all of us must work together to win.

So now I have one favor to ask of you. If you interview someone who has a desire or even an open mind toward making Pittsburgh their home and you find that they aren’t necessarily the best fit for your own company, help them find a good fit here in our city across all of the companies that are just in the room tonight. What are we doing to assist with this? We’re launching a special network of in-house recruiting professionals from within our member companies. The purpose of this network is to win talent together. We plan to move beyond the talent shuffle and to combine their recruiting efforts to grow the pool of new Pittsburghers. Are you in? If you care and want to join this network, reach out to us. We want to be held accountable to drive growth.

Last, help us welcome new Pittsburghers to this city. We already know that Pittsburgh’s one of the best places to live, but newcomers often struggle to break in, to break into networks. People who return, have families of their own – we are often accused of being insular. If you have an employee or meet any new Pittsburgher, please open up your networks to help engage them, their spouses, their partners, their family members, into our community. To win talent together, this is an imperative piece of our collective responsibility to this city.

In my role at the Tech Council, this quest for talent consumes me. There are few things more satisfying in my role then helping companies find ways to integrate their new colleagues into our city. At the Tech Council, we’re ready to assist and scale. Who else but an association can help you with this? With your active support, and if our elected officials turn towards talent and people as our most powerful economic engine, we can change the trajectory of this city. The cities that can develop, retain and attract diverse talent, experienced talent, people who build companies and people to join existing ones, they will be the victors. Who’s up for joining us in this fight?

Thank you for listening to that rant and know that I’m passionate about it. We cannot do this work alone. Can I count on you?