A well attended information technology event Wednesday morning is evidence that Wilmington’s tech community is expanding, said Thomas Janicki, the Gordon Hurlbert/Duke Energy Distinguished Professor of Information Systems at University of North Carolina Wilmington.
The breakfast panel program, organized by Janicki and others at UNCW and held at CastleBranch’s tekMountain space, drew 71 IT professionals and students.
“Five years ago, we would have struggled to get 35 people here,” Janicki said, adding that increasing attendance at the Wilmington IT Breakfast Series is a result of collaborative relationships within the area’s entrepreneurial community - notably between tekMountain and UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Janicki, who coordinates the corporate advisory board for UNCW’s Computer Science and Information Systems (CSIS) programs and organizes the annual Wilmington IT Exchange and Conference, said that the Wilmington IT Breakfast Series grew out of the desire of area IT professionals to connect with each other.
Wednesday’s program focused on ways that IT professionals and teams can keep their skills sharp in the rapidly changing high-tech world. The panel, moderated by Kelli Davis, chief information officer at CastleBranch, consisted of Jeff Beard, director of engineering at Tri Tech Software Systems; Scott Hamrick, IT leader for Fuels & Services at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy; and Nathan Snell, senior vice president of product development at nCino.
Another encouraging sign for the growth of a high-tech community in Wilmington is the increasing stature of IT programs at UNCW, Janicki said, pointing out that outside funding allowed several CSIS majors to attend Wednesday’s breakfast.
“Five years ago, we had 12 employers represented at UNCW’s IT Career Day; this year we had 34, and 250 tech students participated,” Janicki said. “Some of those companies are from Charlotte and Raleigh. They are learning that UNCW is becoming a great technical school.”
Janicki said that he will soon be taking 50 students to the Research Triangle Park to visit three firms up there.
“We used to do that once a year, but several firms who wanted us to visit were upset because they were left out, so we’re now going twice a year,” he said. “On graduation day this year, 72 percent of UNCW tech students already had a job lined up, and another 15 percent were going to graduate school. There is a demand for our graduates.”