Over the last couple of months I have noticed something disheartening: Companies from Silicon Valley, Austin, New York, Boston, and Dallas have contacted me and actively tried to recruit me – not because I have applied for a job, but because they have followed my social media channels and the innovation projects I am working on.

Sadly, not one company from San Antonio has reached out to to me.

San Antonio is suffering from brain drain, but that’s not because we don’t have jobs for qualified people or an amazing city that is a joy to live in. It’s because we have too many companies that fear creatives and innovators, and too many companies with broken recruiting practices.

Companies can easily discern some of my shortcomings on social media; I don’t fancy myself the best writer, for example. But some choose to see beyond those flaws, identify the unique talents I have to offer, and take a chance on me.

Rather than seeing one flaw and immediately writing someone off, companies in other cities seem to desperately want people like me. They actively pursue such people and do what it takes to get that talent.

Some in San Antonio, on the other hand, seem to think that if people don’t apply directly, they aren’t good enough. Too many local recruiters don’t know what to look for on résumés: If applicants don’t list the exact skills or prior job titles on executives’ checklist, recruiters conclude they are not the right person for the job. Or employers require college degrees that in certain areas, including technology, not only make little sense but even disqualify some of the best innovators.

Innovative companies don’t just look for skills or education. They also look for potential and personalities that would be a great fit for the company, and they allow people to grow into the job and culture.

San Antonio is home to brilliant and wonderful people, and it breaks my heart to see top talent or unrecognized talent leave because local companies don’t see what’s in front of them or are not willing to let people grow.

I love our city and the people in it. We need to stop saying we don’t have the talent here, because it’s not true. We should focus less on recruiting people from elsewhere and more on elevating the people in our own city. We need to learn how to recognize the talented people we have and work to keep them here by showing them that we value them and by giving them the resources to realize their potential.

Geekdom helped pave the way for me and so many in the tech community by providing resources and connections we couldn’t obtain on our own.

More recently, I have been spending much of my time at Port San Antonio. With the vision of new President and CEO Jim Perschbach and the support of its board, my collaborator Dale Bracey and I finally have the means to create an innovation campus at the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology that we have been working on for years.

That venture is not about making a bunch of money off investing in or growing huge startups or about building a brand. It’s about giving the talented people in our city the opportunity to realize their potential and show the rest of the world what we as a city have to offer.

This rendering shows a front view of the new technology center that will house the expanded San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology. Credit: Courtesy / UTSA – Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research

Like Geekdom, we are doing that by giving people access to tools and resources and establishing an environment that fosters creatives and innovators. David Monroe, who founded the museum at the Port, has been instrumental in making this happen by implementing his visionary ideas for STEM in San Antonio. He saw the potential in Dale and me and brought us into everything he has been working on so tirelessly, allowing us to grow our visions to accelerate this city. He knows my flaws but chose to focus on my strengths, and that’s exactly the mentality we need to spread.

Our initiatives at the Port in no way aim to take away from all the wonderful things happening downtown or in other tech hubs across the city. Our goal is to focus on things that aren’t being done elsewhere and collaborate with others so we all grow together instead of competing with one another. A cohesive tech ecosystem would also lure other companies to our city – not because of financial incentives but because of the talent pool we have here.

San Antonio is an amazing city full of gifted people, so let’s stop waiting for the talent we have to come to us and start pursuing them. That’s not to say we should stop recruiting people from other cities, but utilizing the 80/20 rule – spending 20 percent of our efforts looking for outside talent and 80 percent on our local talent – could help us break old habits that haven’t served us.

Drue Placette

Drue Placette is the executive director for the San Antonio Museum of Science & Technology at Port San Antonio. He is a veteran technologist with 20 years of in-depth experience in the IT industry.

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