The region that’s home to many of the world’s largest technology companies and accounts for about one third of all the venture capital investments in the United States is, of course, California’s Silicon Valley.
Washington is on its way to becoming the Silicon Sound with more high-paying high-tech jobs than it can fill.
“At a time when people across the country recognize the Silicon Valley, this area really has become the Silicon Sound. Tech companies have been growing, they’re springing up and the truth is we’re now creating more jobs than we can sell,” says Brad Smith, executive vice president and general counsel for Microsoft.
“This is true at Microsoft and it’s actually true across the entire tech sector.”
Although Boeing recently announced the company is cutting 1,500 tech jobs, there’s a hiring boom for most tech-related companies in Washington.
“Today there are over 25,000 tech jobs that have now been open for more than 90 days,” Smith says. “This is expected to double over the next four years, and if you add the multiplier effect – all the other jobs that would be created if these jobs were filled and added to our economy – we’re talking about 160,000 new jobs we can create in this state over the next four years.”
Washington added 2,100 tech jobs last year and has one of the highest concentrations of tech work in the country with about eight percent of the private sector involved with tech, according to a recent national survey from the TechAmerica Foundation.
These are big money jobs too.
The 191,000 tech workers in Washington earned an average of $110,200 last year. Wages for tech workers are 125 percent more than the average earned by other workers in the state.
Our state’s tech pay rivals California’s, where tech workers earn $123,900 on average and Massachusetts with an average tech salary of $116,000.
Starting salaries in the tech industry in the Seattle area are around $80,000.
Students who aren’t considering studying computer science are missing out on a huge opportunity, which is why Microsoft and Boeing are behind about 800 scholarships awarded to high school students Wednesday afternoon.
The two companies funded the first public-private endowment in the country for scholarships in the fields of science, tech, engineering, math and health care.
Microsoft and Boeing each pledged $25 million with the goal being to create a $1 billion endowment to provide scholarships for 25,000 students a year.
The high school seniors awarded scholarships all did well in math and science, but Smith says it’s a myth to think if you don’t have a natural gift for math you won’t make it in the computer industry.
“Learning computer science is like learning anything in life. You start small and before you run you take your first step,” he says.
“Most of the real leaders in our field started out by learning something really simple. I think what it takes is an interest, a passion, a desire to create something that will bring to life an experience for somebody else whether it’s on a smartphone or on a computer.”
So, if you’re reading this sitting at a keyboard – possibly in a dingy office with no natural light – is it too late for you to change careers? Smith says, no.
“To some degree these computers that we’ve grown up with seem so wiz bang at times that it may seem out of reach for people but it’s actually not,” Smith says. “If people want to start small and they’re excited and are prepared to work hard this future can be theirs as well.”
By LINDA THOMAS