EDCO’s Tech Industry Coordinator Teri Hockett on workforce challenges in Bend and the importance of diversity in tech.
Teri Hockett spent much of her career recruiting for tech, helping companies find talent and helping talented people find job opportunities. Now she’s using her experience and expertise to strengthen Bend’s tech community. Hockett moved to Bend after winding down her own recruiting firm, What’s for Work, which aimed to specifically help women transitioning back into tech careers after raising families.
After taking a year off, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work as the tech industry coordinator for Economic Development of Central Oregon (EDCO). She’s since repositioned to be the Central Oregon director for the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO), a statewide nonprofit supporting the technology companies. We caught up with Hockett to learn more about her work, her passion for supporting women in tech and her hopes for our business community.
First, what brought you Bend?
After thirty years in the Bay Area, raising our two daughters and launching our respective companies, we were ready for the beauty and serenity of Bend. We love the mountains and we wanted a small town. Boulder had always been on our short list, but it’s not the same Boulder it was thirty years ago. Also, our youngest daughter is at the University of Oregon, so we were coming up to Oregon to visit. You’ve been involved in the tech industry for a long time.
What challenges do you see here?
Primarily the workforce pipeline. Bend employers have long been able to rely on the fact that they live in this great place—that was enough to recruit people. They haven’t had to offer nationally competitive wages or benefits. Now that’s changed. With remote workforces, you’re competing for talent with employers all over the world. Our companies have definitely recognized that and have made some really great hires. But recruiting is still tough.
Speaking of workforce development, can you discuss your STEAM initiative?
TAO STEAM is an effort to help grow the pipeline of women in science, technology, engineering, art and math careers. Most of the tech company executives here want to see more women applying for jobs. That work starts long before you ever see a job posting. We need to see ourselves in those positions and then see the path. Our STEAM events in Bend are giving young girls and women the opportunity to do that.
You’ve helped expand TAO’s presence in Central Oregon. Why is it important for TAO to have someone here?
The first day I started, Skip Newberry, the TAO executive director, took me over to meet the current TAO advisory board members in Bend. They said right away, “We don’t want to do everything that TAO in Portland is doing.” Central Oregon has its own unique community and needs. They were really focused on workforce development, which was a natural fit for my experience with career development. Tech has become an integral part of all business, so we’re helping companies here figure out how to grow the pipeline of potential talent.
What resources does Central Oregon need to help encourage more women in STEAM?
We’d love to have a diversity inclusion program at OSU-Cascades—that’s something that is already underway. TAO STEAM launched a formalized mentorship program specifically for women interested in STEAM careers in October. And then it’s about working with the youth, such as getting more girls into coding and encouraging the state of Oregon to offer high school credits for computer science courses and coding education.
What do you hope that Bend’s tech community looks like in five years?
I’d like diversity and inclusion to no longer be hot topics—because we’ve made them a non-issue. I’d like equal pay to not be a tough conversation that we have to have. For the tech community in general, I think that OSU’s Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship has the chance to help entrepreneurs and companies know that they can come here and start their businesses with all these resources available to them. If you look at the broader business landscape, I think we can be a destination place, known for being an open-arms, inclusive community with opportunities in outdoor, biosciences, technology and more.