Technology and innovation are thriving in Birmingham, Alabama. We’re proud to call the Magic City our home and honored to be a part of this growing tech community.
Recently, our CEO and co-founder, Trent Kocurek, was named one of Birmingham’s Rising Stars of Technology & Innovation. The award, presented by the Birmingham Business Journal, recognizes key individuals who work in the technology or innovation fields in our community.
Here are Trent’s thoughts from the interview on how Birmingham can continue growing the tech community and how he gets involved in the tech community.
What role do you play in the world of innovation and technology in Birmingham?
I lead a company of passionate, intelligent, and experienced developers and technology-focused business people who are active in Birmingham’s tech community. On a daily basis, our team has the opportunity and pleasure to work with companies in many different industries to solve challenging problems in the web and mobile space. One of my roles at Airship is to occasionally meet with business leaders to consult with them on new technologies and business processes that relate to their specific industry trends.
I also participate in local outreach efforts to help teach our young people about technology and problem-solving. I’ve recently mentored students in a local development boot camp to give them a clear outlook on what to expect in the beginning of their journey.
In essence, I make it a priority to participate in local efforts that, hopefully, continue to grow Birmingham into a city that we are proud of and one that produces quality technology, as well as innovative people and companies.
What do you think is Birmingham’s biggest asset when it comes to its innovation and technology community?
I think one of the biggest assets Birmingham has when it comes to its innovation and technology scene is its proximity to amazing universities. UAB, Auburn University, University of Alabama, and Samford University, just to name a few, are all extremely close or within Birmingham. These institutions produce young, hungry talent that are perfect for start-ups and established companies to mold into professionals.
As long as we make it easy for graduates to find opportunities here in Birmingham, we will continue to have fresh ideas flowing into established companies and new start-ups entering the scene.
What ingredients does Birmingham need to take its innovation and technology scene to the next level?
There are a few key areas that could take Birmingham’s tech scene to the next level.
Hosting events that attract outside technologists. Events that engineers in Austin, San Francisco, or Seattle would buy a plane ticket for. Those like RailsConf, ElixirConf, PyCon, NodeConf, and similar, that are nationally marketed and widely popular for engineers and technology-focused individuals and companies.
We need some big wins that make headlines. Large exits or on-going companies that are making a big impact nationally.
We need more educational resources with little to no barrier to entry for those curious about the technology field. Company and/or university sponsored training events with low cost or free admission to allow for more people to get a feel for the industry without having to commit to large financial obligations. We have many meet-ups in town that would be perfect to facilitate this goal. For instance, BASE (Birmingham Alabama Software Enthusiasts) is one that I am most excited about.
Finally, we could use a more cohesive knowledge sharing ecosystem. I have the opportunity to work with many different companies in many different industries, and I am always surprised at how many times a similar problem arises across them. Many things can be learned from each of these companies, there isn’t a platform to discuss and share, yet.
How can Birmingham keep talented individuals like yourself in the metro area for the long term?
There are three main areas that Birmingham city leaders should continue to focus on to keep talented individuals in Birmingham, as well as attract new individuals from other cities and states:
1. Improvements to the city’s infrastructure in regards to parking and public transportation. One thing that is common among many attractive cities in the US is the ability to move about the city with more ease.
2. Parks and green spaces within the metro area and in close proximity to businesses is very important for citizens young and old. Having places for families and friends to enjoy the outdoors is great for mental and physical health, which are two areas that seem to be neglected most in the technology field.
3. Support for the arts and entertainment within the city. We have many great events in Birmingham, and it has been exciting to see more restaurants, breweries, and entertainment venues look to Birmingham to set up shop, but need to continue to support these efforts and fight harder to bring more to the city.
What can employers do to attract talented young professionals?
More and more young professionals are choosing organizations that allow for remote working, have an altruistic vision, and support a mission centered around helping improve other’s lives and communities. They are also looking for companies that show a solid track record of giving team members opportunities to cross-train into other positions, rather than simply giving larger salaries.
Implementing a remote-first culture must be fully supported from the top down for it to be successful and is probably the hardest of the three to implement. However, if done correctly, you will see your team become more passionate, loyal, and productive over time.