Hiring / NET/WORK / Professional development

The perks and challenges of recruiting tech talent to Philadelphia’s suburbs

It can be a harder sell for technologists who like to live in city centers. Here's how some suburban companies are making their case, from flexible schedules to urban-inspired offices.

Connections made at NET/WORK Suburbs 2019. (Photo by Paige Gross)

Reminder: The Greater Philadelphia region encompasses more than just the city — indeed, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties alone include about 4 million people altogether. And though nowadays it’s Center City where most of the tech meetup action happens, that wasn’t always the case.

On Thursday night, the team traveled to Deacom in Chesterbrook, where 19 companies and a slew of job hunters gathered for our NET/WORK Suburbs hiring event. There were headshots, resume reviews, in-person connections, and some tasty bites and drinks for job seekers across a range of skills.

Throughout the night and at our stakeholder meeting just before, where’s editorial team gathers business leaders and community members for conversation, we asked about operating a company in the Philly ‘burbs.

What are the advantages and challenges? And do they feel connected to the Greater Philadelphia tech and business community?

Emily Sullivan, a corporate recruiter at Burlington, said that selling Philly-based candidates on a South Jersey office can be challenging, but it’s an easy enough commute from Center City — just a half-hour drive — that many associates do live in the city.

While a car-centric commute might be a harder sell to some, a few folks said that technology has eased the transition or allowed for remote working opportunities.

Kelly Peters, Deacom’s public relations manager, said some of the ERP software company’s tech employees who do live in the city have started working an earlier schedule to beat some of the traffic on I-76 — say, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

And Bob Cooper, the chief innovation officer at Exton’s J.W. Pepper, said technology has greatly improved his commuting experience, as he now soaks up as many podcasts as possible and treats it as his learning time.

Power Home Remodeling has even made efforts to make its Chester office feel more urban with huge windows that overlook a water view — you don’t get that in Center City — and different cafe options, VP of Public Relations Michelle Bauer said.

Some employees drive out from the city while others rely on public transportation. “But when we’re recruiting talent from D.C. or New York, they really see the area as an opportunity for a less expensive city living opportunity,” Bauer said.

Paul Mathison, president of government affairs consultancy firm PJ Mathison, said that he feels there’s a disconnect between the tech community in the city and those who work or live in the suburbs.

That can be attributed to the natural phenomenon of the suburbs being more spread out, where it’s not as easy to gather and share ideas, he said. There were a few groups that facilitated more communication and gathering between the city and the suburbs, but Mathison said he’s seen them wane over the years.

For now, Matthison, who lives in Wayne, relies on downtown meetups for a sense of community: “I’m always kind of contemplating ways there could be more energy out here,” he said. “It’s not what it could be.”

These 19 companies were at NET/WORK (and yes, they’re still hiring):

Companies: CubeSmart / J.W. Pepper / Burlington / Energage / Vanguard / Power Home Remodeling / Pinnacle 21 / OnCourse Systems for Education / Deacom / Chariot Solutions / InstaMed / pjmathison
People: Emily Sullivan / Michelle Bauer / Brian James Kirk
Projects: NET/WORK

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