Featured Change Agent

People actively promoting development and interest in technology for Nebraska

Megan McGown – Vice President of Economic Development & Marketing,
North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corporation


Q: Are you currently promoting any activities to build the state’s tech workforce?

A. “I participate on the State’s Talent Team, which doesn’t solely focus on tech talent, but does focus on growing our state through recruiting new residents and retaining existing residents for our workforce. We are working on rolling out a program that will help create a buzz about our great state from authentic voices. On the local level, as an economic developer, I am involved with talent recruitment and creating incentives, such as our new WORKNP.com relocation incentive program for relocating workers. We are always looking for ways to build the workforce in all industries.”

Q: What do you believe are one or two things the state should focus on to increase the technological talent in Nebraska?

A. “Nebraska has made huge leaps and bounds in the tech industry in recent years – the creation of the Silicon Prairie, several tech companies relocating or opening sites in Nebraska, in addition to local start-ups. What we need to do better is to flaunt that success. Simply stated, we need to learn to brag more. We need to become synonymous with tech – i.e. when people hear tech company we need Nebraska to come to mind. It takes a long time to become known for something, but by using technology and by leveraging the tech companies that are here along with their expertise we can spread the word about our great state.”

Q: How can businesses best strengthen their recruitment process for tech talent?

A. “Be present and top-of-mind to university career services, community colleges, even high school counselors. That may mean getting involved in volunteer boards, committees, and task forces, donating or volunteering at community events, etc.
Think outside the box in recruitment efforts. Use video, either on social media or via YouTube to showcase the unique (and fun) culture of the business. Offer interesting benefits. While health insurance is still a major plus, so are benefits such as event tickets, student loan repayment, remote work options, errand service for those busy days, etc.”

Q: What are some major challenges you have faced in promoting tech occupations or the technology industry?

A. “I work in a rural area of the state and while the community has a population of over 25,000, it is still quite a distance from the metro areas where most of the tech talent is located. I believe if we could get started and build density in tech careers and opportunities that it would only continue to grow.

Q: What are some goals you hope to achieve in your role over the next year related to technology growth?

A. “I’d love to recruit a tech company headquarters to our community or to see a Nebraska based tech company expand and add a satellite office to North Platte (such as Hudl). Again, if we can build density – more will come.”

Q: What do you think is the most significant barrier to further technological development in the state?

A.”I think the challenge is furthering the technological development in areas outside the metro region. Technology is a career area that should allow people to live where they choose and still have global access to customers, corporate headquarters, work teams, etc. However, the lack of available (and quality) broadband in rural areas presents a challenge as does the high cost of construction to enable a better quality of life atmosphere.”

Q: What do you believe is the best way to educate people about the versatility of tech careers?

A. “Get into the schools and in front of students at the elementary and middle school levels. We need to help educate them on the vast array of careers in the tech industry at an early age. Kids are growing up with mobile devices in their hands. They are not associating their skills and knowledge of technology with real life careers.”

Past: Brittnay Dawson

Brittnay Dawson – Director of Talent Development & Recruitment, Norfolk Area Chamber

Q: How are you actively promoting technology in your position?

A. “The world and workforce are rapidly changing, and if you are not willing to change with it then you will be left behind. As the program director for Norfolk Now, our local workforce initiative, I have been educating and implementing more technology into our marketing of our programs. We created an 8 week mentorship program that teaches high school and college students how to use different technology (professional equipment, smart phones, action cams, drone, sound equipment, tablets, and editing software) to create and tell a marketing story for clients. These are skills they can take with them to any place of business as they enter the workforce, and teaches them to embrace every day technology already around them. We also have an interactive online local job board on NorfolkNow.org capitalizing digital recruitment, and will be expanding this job board with other technology features and tracking over the next couple years.”

Q: What do you believe are one or two things the state should focus on to increase the technological talent in Nebraska?

A. “As both Gen Y and Gen X are growing up with technology, having tech positions available in the workplace a luxury, but considered an expectation. Students and job seekers alike are searching for careers that allow for innovation and opportunities to grow. With the use of technology, it also allows them to work remotely and have access to businesses/clients across the world. The state would benefit from creating more positions that allow remote access and flexible schedules, letting students taking positions or internships remotely or on site. It would also be beneficial to create an education program how small town businesses can implement more technology into their workplace, increasing both user and employee experience. Employees should always have access to learn and grow, and technology makes that a real possibility.”

Q: How can businesses best strengthen their recruitment process for tech talent?

A. “Businesses can strengthen their recruitment process by starting digital. Allowing job seekers to apply and interview remotely, and through their mobile devices is a huge incentive. Over 70% of users are researching and applying for positions through their smartphones, and having flexible/remote interviewing lets us reach potential job seekers from across the globe, not just those that happen to live in our geographical area or are actively looking for a position. Digital recruitment allows us to be more proactive with our talent search, enabling access to recruit and promote to the rising number of passive job seekers. When a business embraces technology, they put themselves back into control of putting the right job in front of the right (qualified) candidates.”

Q: What are some goals you hope to achieve in your role over the next year related to technology growth?

A. “Over the next couple years, we have the goal of refining our digital talent recruitment strategy. We have many incredible positions available in our community, and we want access to the very best applicants that not only possess the skills these positions require, but would also benefit highly relocating to a community like ours in terms of quality of life, or having that work-life integration. Our job board will continually be developed, eventually allowing job seekers and businesses to have more flexibility in their posting. Some concepts in the works include linking to social media accounts, posting images of the company showcasing work culture, and optional video resume uploads. When job seekers have a pleasant experience with the recruitment and hiring process, they are likely to encourage others to go through the same process. We want to increase awareness and accessibility to applying for these great positions.”

Q: What do you believe is the best way to educate people about the versatility of tech careers?

A. “The best way to educate people is the meet them where they are at. If people are viewing more digital content than ever before, then we want to get our message on those digital mediums. We have found the best way to do this is through engaging content, specifically video. Even though it is a technology world, people still like to connect with other people. Videos allow for version of human interaction, and put a personal touch on the marketing message. Sometimes even 30 seconds is all you need (and maybe all you get) to get your message across, but the trick is to give them the hook–if you can figure how to capture their attention, they most likely will do the research on their own to learn more. Providing visual and engaging content grabs their attention in a noisy digital world, and then you only have a few seconds to give them your “elevator pitch” to reel them in. Through these messages we can then showcase real people in real tech positions, and demonstrate the innovative ideas they get to implement on a daily basis, and how their work is making a real difference in the world–because they is what we all want, right? An opportunity to show the world what skills we are made of, and knowing that what we do truly matters.”