Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Revenge of the Nerds: Tech Firms Scour College Campuses for Talent
"On college campuses these days, the top nerds are getting a taste of what it's like to be star jocks.
"For Maxwell Hawkins, a computer science and art major at Carnegie Mellon University, the moment came in March. A technology recruiting firm sent him a letter by FedEx urging him to drop out of his junior year and take his talents to work for a start-up.
... "The technology boom has created an acute shortage of engineers and software developers. The industry has responded by taking a page from the playbook of professional sports: identify up and comers early, then roll out the red carpet to lock them up.
"With the social media frenzy in full swing, promising students are now wrestling with decisions about whether to stay in school or turn pro.
"The National Basketball Association has a rule called "one and done" that requires players entering the draft to be 19 or have completed their freshman year of college. But some prospective programmers aren't even making it that far.
"Sahil Lavingia was a freshman at the University of Southern California in 2010 when he got an email from Ben Silbermann, chief executive and co-founder of the fast-growing online scrapbook Pinterest. Mr. Silbermann was looking for help building a version of Pinterest for the iPhone and happened upon a data tracking app developed by the self-taught Mr. Lavingia.
"Figuring the young student "seemed like a go-getter," Mr. Silbermann drove up to Berkeley from Silicon Valley to meet Mr. Lavingia, who was coming to the Bay Area for the USC-Berkeley football game. A few days later, Mr. Lavingia had an offer in hand and took a leave from school to take the job.
"Some companies are grabbing talented programmers even before they reach college. Luke Weber taught himself how to design computer games in high school and became one of the most popular contributors to Roblox Corp., a company that lets its subscribers play games developed by its users.
"After graduating, he attended a Roblox conference last June and met the head of the company's marketing department, who asked him if he wanted to shoot some videos to teach people how to make games. The videos turned into a design job, and now Mr. Weber, who has postponed plans to go to college, works three days a week for the company producing games and virtual goods for $25 an hour.
"At 18, he is the youngest employee of the company."