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Driving a digital innovation economy

Opportunities Ahead for Driving Tech Talent Development and Workforce Participation by Underrepresented Groups

To be perfectly honest, I am not your typical techie. In fact, I didn’t learn how to use a computer until college, around the same time Google was founded in 1998. By the time I got out of college as an English major and came to Indiana from China to pursue a graduate degree in liberal arts at Purdue University, the Internet bubble had burst in the U.S. and around the globe in markets with advanced/tech-enabled economies.

Still, I didn’t think much about tech. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what job options were available to me. It was a scary and confusing time. My parents didn’t come from well-to-do backgrounds. Everything they had, they earned through hard work and savings. Among the many lessons they taught me directly and indirectly, I’m most grateful for these three:

  1. The importance of doing things well, no matter big or small because you never know where the next interesting opportunity might be coming from;
  2. That success is better earned through hard work, whether that’s in school, at work, or in life; and
  3. (Last but not least) It’s a competitive world and we can all make it a better place by uplifting not just yourself, but also others around you.

In looking at the last 20 years of my life and career in Indiana, those bits of advice have shaped my career in many ways. When the world of finance opened its door, I walked into it without hesitation but knew I needed to learn more about business and finance and to continually hone my skills if I were to make a career in that field. I enrolled at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and earned a master’s degree in Business Administration.

When a summer internship led to an entrepreneurial opportunity to launch and build a top-notch venture development firm, I jumped in with both feet and helped launch Elevate Ventures for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. I dedicated myself to that work for 13 years, serving eight of those years as its Chief Investment Officer. That experience opened the door this year to the opportunity to do even more to help bring Indiana’s digital innovation economy to the next level as the President and CEO of TechPoint.

TechPoint is the industry-led growth initiative for Indiana’s technology companies and digital innovation economy. The team focuses on expanding the talent pipeline, enhancing connectivity, and elevating industry through activating the community and amplifying stories of success. In my Elevate Ventures role, I’d come to know the organization as one dedicated to its mission and one that had done much to grow the state’s tech sector.

The chance to lead TechPoint and further develop Indiana’s digital innovation was simply too good to pass on. It’s a competitive world, and we can all make it a better place by uplifting not just ourselves but also others around us, right?

The timing for this latest shift could not have been better.

Back in the early 2010s when the global economy was still recovering from the 2008-2009 financial crisis, capital availability was the primary limiting factor to economic growth, not just in entrepreneurial activities but also in Main Street industries. Prime examples of how extreme capital market risk aversion could impact high-performing high-growth tech companies can be seen in the attempts by ExactTarget’s (a marketing software company) attempts to go public between 2007 and 2012, which ended up in private capital raises. Fast forward a decade, both public and private markets have experienced one of the biggest bull markets in history. The Dow Jones Industrial Average composite value tripled from its lowest point since 2010. The Nasdaq, a closer proxy of tech industry growth composite, grew more than seven times in value.

Dow Jones Industrial Average
Nasdaq Composite

Private capital markets have exhibited similar trends measured by the growth in the number of private capital funds and amount of investable capital raised, which surpassed $1 trillion every year for the last five years. Such capital market exuberance belies investor confidence in the unprecedented market opportunities that are often created through cutting-edge technologies that revolutionize entire industries. The way we eat (food delivery), shop (e-commerce), learn (digitized curriculum) and work (remote or hybrid collaboration) today is vastly different from 10 years ago. Such investor confidence also leads to abundance in capital availability as demonstrated below – more than $3 trillion in private capital globally were looking for investment opportunities in 2022.

Having spent the last 13 years in venture investing in Indiana where more than 75 percent of venture investments were in tech, I know one thing for sure – capital follows quality deal flow, and the most important component of quality deal is people.

That is to say, capital follows talent, not the other way around. This is particularly true today when capital is abundant, and there is a talent shortage that is a shared pain point across sectors, company size and workforce roles. Which talent is most in demand? Those who are technologically adept. In the entrepreneurial world, these tech-skilled workers include those who develop and use technology as well as those who sell tech-oriented products and services.

Today’s economy is, and the economy of the future will be driven by digital innovation. Harnessing digital innovation is one of the biggest opportunities ahead for Indiana as a state.

We have the chance to use digital innovation to outpace productivity and grow key industries like life sciences, advanced manufacturing and agriculture. We also have the chance to become a global leader in providing digital products and services by continuing to support and creating many more Hoosier-founded digital innovation startups and scaleups.”

To succeed in these areas, we must create more skilled talent.

There has never been a better time to pursue a career in tech, whether you are a business major interested in marketing roles in corporate settings or a coding academy graduate eager to get your hands dirty in a startup environment. More importantly, there has also never been a better time for underrepresented groups to get into tech.

On average in Indiana, three out of every four tech jobs are unfilled. Companies across all sectors are desperate to fill these roles so they can focus on producing, creating and improving their daily operations. It’s imperative that we tap into the apparent opportunity that lies in the representation gap in the tech industry to help individuals find their best pathway to a tech career and to succeed along it.

Going back to my career journey – my path is testament to the fact that anyone in an underrepresented group can make their way into fulfilling careers in our digital innovation economy – a couple of decades ago, I was part of that underrepresented group of people who did not see themselves in a tech career.

Organizations like TechPoint are working with employers to make it easier for talented people to fill unfilled roles. We can’t succeed in this if we don’t increase the number of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and women within the tech workforce.

We invite you all to join us in helping build a vibrant innovation economy of the future.

A native of China, Ting Gootee earned her Master of Business Administration from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, Ind. after earning a Master of Arts degree from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. She earned her undergraduate degree from Peking University in Beijing.

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