If you build it, they will come, but no one will be there.

Tonight I attended the FlagShipKansas kickoff event. I went in with high hopes. I was excited about the changes that could potentially come to the tech community. I was excited to attend an event full of people equally as passionate as I am, talk about how to help the tech community, how to educate the next generation, and how to bring positive change to not only Wichita- but Kansas as well. To be a part of a group that knew the struggles that there were, and invite and talk about how we could overcome them together. What I attended instead was a bad car sales pitch that left me feeling like this group of people really did not care about us, the tech community. They cared about, surprise surprise, companies.

Maybe I have a jaded view point, and I can admit that. I mean, hearing a board of mostly middle age white men from rich, well off companies, telling me how their changes are going to make my life better has never gone wrong, right? That when serious questions about tech pay, education programs, and improving local legislation was swept under a generic, “We aren’t focusing on that because we need to get money and get tech companies to move here” was the only response and/or solution they could give. That they couldn’t even give a recognition that yes, these are issues, and we know they are important to you, and we promise to work on them. Nope, it was all just, we must get companies.

And let’s not talk about the statistics they gave. Yes, they sound amazing and awesome, when you don’t have the accompanying data to go with it. When you look that Kansas had the highest tech growth increase in the country. That sounds awesome, right?! But when we were already below average to begin with, that just means we are catching up. It’s like saying that after it rains in the desert, it has a higher water consumption than the rain forest. Ya, because the rain forest is already super wet, the desert getting rain means that the animals get to barely live another day. That isn’t something to gloat about. And the fact that tech workers make more than non-tech workers? So, we are glad other people are underpaid, and thus, we should be glad we are getting paid better than those other workers should make us happy? None of this gives me warm, fuzzy feelings, sorry guys.

The bottom line is that unless you can convince current companies to pay tech workers what they are worth, having more companies here isn’t going to change anything. If the average pay for a developer here is only $50,000, you aren’t going to convince a new company to move here to pay a worker $90,000. What’s going to happen, is they will move here, try to underpay us like everyone else, and we will just work remote jobs for companies not in Kansas that will pay us more. Unless you change the current mindset, nothing will change. Why should it? When you have young, desperate people looking for jobs, they will accept the low paying job, to get the experience to get a higher paying job elsewhere. And companies just trying to make a profit, won’t care. They will just higher another batch of fresh CS majors looking for anything someone will throw at them.

So my thoughts are this. While I really, really, REALLY hope this tech council does good and positive things come from it, my expectations are low. What was advertised as a kickoff event was just a sales pitch for money. How they handled questions tonight made it really feel like they aren’t willing to listen to the community that is already here. In truth, it felt like they made jabs at it, and didn’t even have their facts right about. (Yes, I did say I was jaded) And overall, the first impression they have made isn’t inspiring for the tech community at all. But hey, I guess we will have more tech companies here to complain there is no talent…willing to accept their low wages.

1 thought on “If you build it, they will come, but no one will be there.”

  1. To attract top technology companies that actually will pay, they’ll need a compelling reason to show up with money. That takes investment by the State, County, municipality, and existing tech talent.

    By investment, I mean time and effort as much as money.

    This post deserves a much longer and well-written reply than I am up for on a smartphone keyboard. It also would make a great discussion for a joint show in the near future. I will put together some bullet points for discussion if you want to schedule a time to record. We could post the result to your channel this time.

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