Remote or flex work – the ability to work from home, outside a traditional 9-5 office setting, is one of the primary benefits sought after by tech workers today. Yet companies are slow to change their structure in order to incorporate remote work. While we wait for industries to shift, what can we do to connect tech talent with companies that need help and are willing to hire remote staff?
Projects and start-ups develop from an identified “pain” or need, which was the case for my Fellowship project. I had, ironically, lived in several large tech-centered cities previous to moving to rural Nebraska. When I decided to take the steps to finish a STEM degree and transition into a tech career as a web designer, it was almost a non-starter.
There are many wonderful programs that work to increase the number of women in tech through outreach to young learners. However, as Manon DeFelice writes recently in Forbes, “But how can we bring more women into tech today?” Her answer: “There’s one surefire way that tech companies can attract more women right now, and that is to create a culture of workplace flexibility.” Very few employers in the Omaha area were offering remote or flex work when I started looking for a full-time position as an entry-level employee. Yet tech companies in Omaha and across the nation are finding it harder to fill tech positions — despite having a low general rate of unemployment. These numbers often focus on large companies looking for staff, so if they are having a difficult time finding help, imagine the struggles of small businesses that may not have a need for full-time web designer.
BIG Focus on Small Business
I grew up surrounded by family and friends who worked for themselves — family ranches, construction businesses, retail store owners, artists, etc., so I understand the incredible amount of work that goes into being a small business owner. There are only so many hours in a small business owner’s day, and for those who have few or no employees, sometimes learning a new skill like designing a website is not possible. Finding a balance between the “teach a man to fish” ethos and the reality of the small business workload is key — how can we identify specific needs that can be filled by remote tech workers in an efficient manner? And how do we connect small businesses who may not know what to ask for tech-wise with local tech workers who can cater to their experiences and needs? These are the questions I found myself asking.
The overarching goals of my Women Innovators Fellowship project are to increase opportunities for local women working in tech, give small businesses access to the tech help they may not be able to find in their own communities, and increase local remote work access overall. Much of my work so far on this project has been honing in on where the project can have the most effect. My central goal is to launch a website, remoter.tech, that both showcases tech talent with an added emphasis on women in the Omaha and greater Midwest area, and connects small businesses with the tech services they need to take their businesses to the next level. Ultimately, I hope to increase opportunities for women like myself, living in rural areas, so that they can stay in their small-town communities and on their family farms, but have access to high-paying tech work.
If you are interested in the remoter.tech project, please contact April at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am looking for women tech workers in the Omaha area and Greater Midwest Region who are interested in being included as a “Remoter”, as well as small businesses looking for tech help.