Enterprise Tech Pros Find Opportunity in Charlotte

Charlotte, N.C., is the second-largest banking center in the United States, ranking only behind New York City, according to the University of North Carolina. That’s led to the establishment of both headquarters and satellite offices for a number of enterprise-level tech companies, including Aramark Healthcare Technologies, HP Enterprise Services, Cisco and Microsoft. Leaders in other industries—such as Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, Lowe’s and Novant Health—have set up shop there, as well.

Charlotte has been a commercial hub since the 1970s, when North Carolina National Bank’s President Hugh McColl embarked on a series of acquisitions and mergers that resulted in today’s Bank of America. Another local bank, Wachovia, went on an acquisition spree of its own until its purchase by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo in 2008.

Big players still dominate the Charlotte market when it comes to tech jobs. According to the Charlotte Chamber, 11 percent of the area’s 44,000 tech pros work in a corporate headquarters, and 10 percent in financial services firms. Roughly a third work in “core high-tech” companies, some of them large and established, some of them startups.

Enterprises Attract High-Level Talent

“From a recruiting perspective, I believe the concentration of financial companies in Charlotte has attracted high-caliber technical talent to the area, particularly talent with deep expertise in banking applications,” said Lara Gardner, technical group employment Manager for BB&T, an East Coast bank headquartered in Raleigh, N.C.

At the same time, she noted, “With several large companies being headquartered in Charlotte, there’s a need for all types of enterprise technical skills, including IT infrastructure, risk, security and project management.” The Charlotte Chamber says the city is home to 22 percent more information security analysts than the national average, as well as 16 percent more research analysts and 14 percent more computer systems analysts.

Although Gardner believes that Charlotte’s enterprise employers need “almost all technical skills,” tech pros with application development skills (as well as related abilities) are doing particularly well. That said, she sees those who understand financial institutions and how they work as having an edge when it comes to job-hunting, given the city’s population of banks and other financial firms. But keep in mind that corporate headquarters, whatever their industry, also run a wide range of financial software systems.

“Professionals [who] have the skills and desire to build and maintain large enterprise applications and systems that allow our customers to meet their financial goals is key,” said Jason Griffin, talent acquisition leader for enterprise technology at Wells Fargo’s Charlotte facility. “We also look for experience in startups, consulting and large enterprise areas of application development, engineering, cybersecurity, data and technology risk.”

And don’t forget the company’s scale, Griffin added: “We provide the opportunity to build products, services and other solutions that will be used by customers and have an impact on the industry.”

Other executives see a demand for tech pros who are experts in back-end technologies such as business intelligence, Big Data, automation and reporting. Project managers, business analysts and architects are always needed to design solutions, manage projects, document business requirements and manage change.

Working for a bank, it’s no surprise that Gardner’s team is “pretty excited” about the area’s current tech talent pool, which includes a heavy dose of financial sector expertise. And while the presence of other sectors in the region can’t be denied, she believes “the growth of FinTech talent will be a focus in the future.”

Startups as a Candidate Pool

Most of the city’s established companies encourage the growth of Charlotte’s startup community. “The talent developed in some of these new ventures will lift the industry overall,” Gardner said. Rather than worry about losing employees to promising new companies, she sees startups as “a great place to find candidates.”

Griffin agrees that the growing startup scene is a plus for the city: “Higher demand for talent pushes all employers to focus on their value proposition that resonates and is more of a draw for technology professionals.”

Besides a lower cost of living and other quality-of-life factors, pursuing a technology career in Charlotte has another advantage, according to Gardner: skilled tech professionals can be “a big fish in a small pond.” And, she noted, there’s a tendency for even larger local companies “to offer more of a work-life balance than you might find in some of the bigger cities like New York or Chicago.”