Gearing up to explore and celebrate the Silicon Shire
By Matt Sayre
You might be surprised to learn that the city that hosts the largest open house of tech companies in Oregon isn’t Portland. No, that title currently belongs to Portland’s cooler little brother, Eugene. (Little sister?) Every year since 2016, dozens of tech companies have joined together in downtown Eugene and collectively opened their doors to the public. They’ll be doing it again in October.
The Eugene Tech Tour provides the public a rare inside look at the companies that are driving one of the region’s fastest-growing industries. Tourists and job seekers alike will have a unique opportunity to see the operations first-hand and learn about some of the innovative products and technologies that are being developed locally.
But first, some planning
So what does it take to put on Oregon’s largest open house of tech companies? “Months of planning” says Lauren Neel, events manager for the Technology Association of Oregon. “The event itself only lasts a few hours, but takes months of planning and preparation to be successful,” she shares.
“Right now I’m also spending several hours a day reaching out to local tech companies who want to participate. Last year, nearly 40 companies were on the Eugene Tech Tour. This year our goal is 50 — and we’d like to get a giant crowd photo of everyone at the event kickoff,” notes Neel.
The timing couldn’t be better
The Eugene Tech Tour has historically been held on the third Thursday in September. This year, however, the event is being moved to October 3, with the aim of increasing student access — Lane Community College classes start September 20, and University of Oregon classes begin October 1.
Student awareness of the local tech industry is improving, but still has a long way to go before it can be considered successful. A recent survey conducted by the Technology Association of Oregon noted that just 32% of University of Oregon students are aware of the many employment opportunities at local tech firms.
More than a foot in the door
Nearly every company on the Eugene Tech Tour will have multiple job openings, and the tour opens doors to job seekers — literally.
Software consulting firm Concentric Sky has been on the Eugene tour since its inception. “We really enjoy Tech Tours,” says Jennifer Rae, operations director with the firm. “We get to show folks around and see them get excited about the things we do everyday. It’s also a nice self-reminder about how awesome the work is here at Concentric Sky.”
Concentric Sky accepts resumes at the event and has hired applicants they first met on past tours. The firm has a number of current job openings, including devops engineers, front-end developer, UI designer, and in accounting, software engineering, and project management.
UBCO, makers of an electric two-wheel-drive utility vehicle, will be looking to hire a marketing manager, inside sales, outside sales, and a controller, as well as people for customer support/service technician roles.
Pipeworks Studio, the largest video game studio in Oregon and headquartered in Eugene, has also just signed on to the tour. Pipeworks has more than half dozen openings, including: game designer, QA tester, C++ engineer, and associate producer.
Kristina Payne, executive director of Lane Workforce Partnership, and Eugene mayor Lucy Vinis are confirmed speakers at the opening ceremonies. “We live in a pretty special city where public officials are accessible — if you get on their calendar in advance,” says Neel.
In addition to speakers, local band Upstate Trio will perform during registration and check-in. “We are stoked to be a part of the Eugene Tech Tour, supporting the tech scene in the Silicon Shire” says Jay Waylett, lead guitarist for Upstate Trio. As it happens, Waylett also works as a supervisor for the Customer Experience Delivery Team at Symantec.
Events of this scale, hosted by nonprofits and with low admission prices, are typically not possible without the help of a community of volunteers. From opening ceremonies to the event’s after-party, volunteers help to ensure a smooth flow during the Tech Tour.
“We have many different volunteer roles, from setup to registration and check-in, to tour guides who help tourists find their way to the participating tech companies.” says Neel.
This year, the Tech Tour is sponsored by Lane Workforce Partnership, the City of Eugene, Lane County, and XS Media. Volunteer staff will come from a host of organizations, including IDX Broker and Symantec.
Cheers to the after-party
With the staff of each of the participating companies greeting tourists at their offices earlier in the evening, it isn’t until the after-party that tech industry employees get a chance to celebrate together. This year the event will be hosted at Level-Up arcade, sharing refreshments from Claim 52 Brewing. Everyone is welcome.