(Photo by Flickr user michelgagnon, used under a Creative Commons license)
In 2013, Malcolm Gladwell ruffled feathers when, in his bestselling book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” he suggested that when it comes to joining a university or a company, not only is bigger and more prestigious not necessarily better — it pretty much sucks the life out of people.
Instead, he claimed, the “big-fish-small-pond effect” can make people healthier, more confident and more successful.
It wasn’t written about Delaware, which is rarely known for prestige and never known for size — but it could have been. The big-fish-small-pond effect is one of Delaware’s biggest assets. Any way you slice it, Delaware is a small pond, albeit one with some huge fish, from JPMorganChase to Perdue.
Of course, the asset of being a small pond doesn’t hold much value without good-paying jobs. And today, a lot of that value hangs on how many of those jobs are in tech fields.
We talk about Delaware’s growing tech community, but how big is it really?
The Milken Institute ranked Delaware at #7 in its 2018 State Technology and Science Index — a single spot below Washington state and higher than states with more high-tech reputations like Virginia, North Carolina and New York. So right there, we’re on the playing field.
We’ve pulled some job data for Delaware, as well as for our Technical.ly sibling markets of Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C., to get a real idea of the local tech community’s size. Whether you’re looking to get hired or looking for talent, it’s useful to take an overall look at the jobs data.
Let’s look at total tech jobs: In all, Delaware had 17,560 people in computer and mathematical occupations as of May 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most were in IT-related fields, including 4,640 software developers, 1,130 computer programmers and 2,950 computer systems analysts.
Delaware’s top job postings in the IT field were Java developer and and software development engineer by a wide margin, according to IT industry association CompTIA and job market analytics firm Burning Glass.
While the main focus here is on IT, the sciences, growing Delaware industries that include biotech and agtech, employ 5,360 people in the state, including 100 soil and plant scientists, 150 biochemists/biophysicists, and 330 medical scientists.
So where do we stack up?
Per a recent CompTIA/Burning Glass report, of the cities in our immediate proximity, Wilmington’s number of IT job postings in 2018, about 12,000, are dwarfed by D.C.’s 188,500 openings in 2018, and Philly’s 70,000 openings — a difference that is to be expected, considering both are major hubs and Wilmington is a small city (one that is, technically, part of Greater Philadelphia).
Baltimore, which is about a third of the size of Philadelphia, has a population eight times bigger than Wilmington’s 71,000 — its 600,000 is closer to (but still bigger than) the half-million-plus population of New Castle County, where many of the state’s tech jobs live.
In other words, we’re a significantly smaller pond than neighboring markets. But when you take size into account, Delaware is competitive: In FY18, there were over 2,100 emerging tech jobs — aka jobs in innovative developing technologies that are expected to grow over the next decade — which is a 40 percent increase over FY17, compared to 7,700 in Philadelphia (which saw a 67 percent increase) and just under 4,000 in Baltimore (which saw a 34 percent increase).
IT listings are holding fairly steady but actually saw a 4 percent drop in FY2018, while surrounding markets saw increases of 20 to 40 percent in IT. Why have the numbers stagnated? That’s not for the raw data to say, but Delaware isn’t short on jobs for tech talent.
“If anything, there is a tech talent shortage,” said Greg Plum, marketing manager for Wilmington IT staffing firm Brandywine Technology.
As a category, these jobs are among the highest paying, with an average tech job pay of $100,838, according to data compiled by AgileCraft. It’s not quite up there with the highest average, as San Jose, Calif., at $132,371 — but then cost-of-living is substantially lower in Delaware than Silicon Valley.
Where’s an opportunity? Fintech, medtech and agtech
A lot of Delaware’s big tech companies aren’t traditional in the sense that they are, well, traditional corporations. The big banks like Capital One and JPMorganChase are Delaware’s biggest tech companies, even if they’re not commonly seen that way. Christiana Care is the state’s biggest employer, including its cutting edge Health & Technology Innovation Center. And, with DowDuPont’s new Corteva Agriscience poised to take its place as a major employer in Delaware, agtech continues to be a growing tech sector.
CSC, which provides corporate and financial services to businesses, is another traditional company turned tech company — and a major job seeker in Delaware.
Maureen Padgett, CSC’s VP of technology, says that the company is growing at a pace faster than the state’s talent pool growth — and that programs such as Zip Code Wilmington help to fill the gaps.
“There aren’t currently enough trained technical people to keep up with our growth, but we are seeing an emergence of graduates from technical boot camps and certification courses,” she said. “When CSC looks for talent, we consider people who have matriculated through traditional college and university programs, and also from these other sources.”
Like many companies, CSC offers employees opportunities to grow and evolve.
“It’s important for those in technology to keep current on trends, as employers need change to happen quickly, and technology workers are the people behind the scenes setting and keeping the pace of innovation,” said Padgett, who recommends people going into computer science also consider learning skills like test engineering and rapid application development, application monitoring and site reliability engineering.
As for attracting talent to Delaware, Padgett says it hasn’t been an challenge for CSC, and she speaks from personal experience:
“I left New York City to join CSC after 25 years working in various senior technology roles and I have never regretted it.”
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