Avoiding brain drain among Illinois’s tech community


Talk to anyone in the tech community around Chicago and they’ll never fail to mention to you that many of the country’s biggest tech companies were founded by people who at least went to school in Illinois, or who are from here: heavy hitters like Oracle’s Larry Ellison, YouTube (now Google’s) Steve Chen, or PayPal co-founder Max Levchin. Of course, they left and hit it big in Silicon Valley – not in Chicago.  The Illinois Technology Association is trying to change that with their first ever Fall Challenge, where they matchmake top tech students throughout the state with employers who are also based here.

Students across Illinois competed to be here by taking a computer science test – you didn’t have to be officially studying computer tech or engineering, by the way, just have those skills. The top 40 are here in Chicago, Thursday and Friday, to take another exam and to interview with local employers. The highest-scoring student gets gets $5,000 – and everyone gets a chance to be recruited. UPDATE: According to @itabuzz, University of Chicago student Michael Lusignan won.

Next week I’ll be reporting on the role of immigrant entrepreneurs in the Midwestern economy, and how cities like Detroit and Cleveland are trying to attract and retain high-skilled immigrants like these students. In the meantime, it’s a starting effort here in Chicago to avoid brain drain. What are your communities doing?

2 Replies to “Avoiding brain drain among Illinois’s tech community”

  1. Recruitment is an interesting goal. Then again, if the idea is to encourage brilliant people to come up with brilliant business ideas, there's no guarantee that recruiting them into an existing company will accomplish that.

  2. The sooner Chicago stops comparing itself and competing with other 'tech hub' cities, the sooner it will discover its true identity and a more integrated 'scene' will emerge. Right now there are many pockets of cool people doing cool stuff, but not enough interconnectivity between the disparate groups for the scene to gel.

Leave a Reply