Why this former Box staffer ditched Silicon Valley for Philly - Technical.ly Philly

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Jun. 17, 2016 12:38 pm

Why this former Box staffer ditched Silicon Valley for Philly

South Jersey native Sarah Noderer is eager to build up the Philly tech scene.
Sarah Noderer.

Sarah Noderer.

(Courtesy photo)

One of the things I love about this job is its ability to make connections that impact the tech community in a positive way.

That’s why it was a good day at the office when I got an email from Sarah Noderer, a former Box manager who moved back to Philly, saying she wanted to help Techstars come here.

Noderer, 31, connected with Techstars’ Jenny Fielding and, although there was no immediate yield, an interesting connection was made, once again proving that Philly is not only capable of growing its own talent but convening national voices around this thing we call technology.

We caught up with the South Jersey native and Lehigh University alum. Here is Sarah Noderer’s Entrance Exam:

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What was it that drew you back to the Philly area?

After living in the Bay Area and London, eventually my husband and I started getting homesick for Philly. We missed our family, friends, and the unique Philly culture. When my husband landed a job here we decided to say farewell to London and return “home.”

What vibe have you gotten from the local tech scene so far?

In my short time back here, Philly feels like it’s at a tipping point. I think as people continue coming together, the excitement will build around the opportunity ahead of us, leading to more people relocating and/or staying here after graduation.

What did you see in Silicon Valley that you would like to see more of in Philly?

People move to Silicon Valley because of its robust startup culture. There are so many Silicon Valley success stories, which have created a plethora of job opportunities. I think Philly has the same assets as Silicon Valley (access to VC capital, tech incubators, a strong talent pool, solid connections with local universities), just on a smaller scale. If we continue to nurture these areas we will achieve a stronger, more successful startup ecosystem.

How do you think Philly is perceived in the national tech scene?

Nationally, people are finally starting to take notice of Philly as a great place to live and work with a small but rapidly growing tech scene. Philly is directly competing with cities like Austin, Washington, D.C., and Denver to attract future startups. The city has many advantages it can build on: a top-tier university system, large talent pool, and proximity to funding. If the city can make the right moves to cultivate its tech scene, I believe Philly’s best days are ahead of it.

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Sarah Noderer on vacation in Oman. (Courtesy photo)

Sarah Noderer on vacation in Oman. (Courtesy photo)

Since you’re entering the Philly tech scene at such a bustling time, what are you bringing to the table?

Philly’s current situation is analogous to Box’s situation five years ago — the tech scene here is growing rapidly and has large ambitions, but success is in no way guaranteed At the individual company level, I feel can provide mentorship and guidance to companies based on my previous experience. Second, I want to play a part in developing the overall Philly startup community. This includes advocating for a more startup-friendly environment. I’m starting to put down roots in Philly and am vested in the future success of the city’s tech scene.

What do you think startups can do to better market themselves?

I think getting more national and international exposure will be key for Philly startups. There are many meetups and networking events in Philly but if we can also get plugged into national groups, this is even better. Also, I don’t know the extent to which this is currently being done, but physically traveling to New York or San Francisco to recruit talent is going to be very important. I’m already trying to convince my non-Philly friends to move here; the more face-to-face time Philly companies get with candidates, the more talent we’ll be able to recruit.

Any Philly projects you’re excited about?

I’ve been following the tech scene’s initiative to have a bigger presence at SXSW next year, and I love that idea. The first-annual Timmy Awards hosted by Tech in Motion is another great example, as is the push for a Techstars accelerator here. WeWork’s recent launch here is also very important, as they have a strong network of advocacy and startup benefits that extend globally.

And what project do you personally want to tackle here?

Scale is my passion. I’ve decided I won’t pick a specific industry to target for my next career move. Rather, I’ll seek opportunities with companies or organizations that have a compelling mission, have hired a great team, and are ready to rapidly expand. At Box I lived through the challenges of scaling a business. We didn’t always make the right decisions but in the end we were successful and I learned a great deal. I want to apply these hard-learned lessons to startups in Philly and (hopefully) enable the same success I saw at Box.

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