‘Silicon Slopes’ tech companies want innovative BYU students

The 2015 winners of the Adobe Analytics Challenge stand with the reward check in the “Silicon Slopes” of Lehi, Utah. (Adobe)

Tech companies within the “Silicon Slopes” of Utah Valley often reach out to BYU students with competitions and other methods to recruit some of BYU’s finest talent.

Nate Smith, senior manager of product marketing for Adobe Analytics, is running the 2016 Adobe Analytics Challenge for universities all around America. Smith believes even though the winners receive $50,000, the most important perk of the competition may be the many conversations with hiring managers from Adobe. This competition is how Smith started his career at Adobe.

“I was part of (BYU’s) winning team in 2010 and subsequently accepted an offer and now I run product marketing globally for Adobe Analytics, so the competition is definitely near and dear to my heart,” Smith said.

The competition started in 2005 when Omniture, an analytics company bought out by Adobe, wanted to attract and recruit new talent to help the company grow. The Analytics Challenge, now run by Adobe, expanded to Utah-only schools in 2009 and then nationally in 2012.

“BYU has had great reputation and, frankly, has taken the trophy home more than any other school,” Smith said.

BYU has won the competition twice since the competition became national — once in 2012 and again in 2015.

Last year, Adobe had 940 people compete from 24 different schools. This year’s competition is for Sony Playstation.

Qualtrics via Instagram
Governor Herbert took the honorary first shot at the Qualtrics basketball court inside its new headquarters. (Instagram/@qualtrics)

“We are not only providing students access to industry-leading technology, we are also training them on the technology and then they get to engage with real world data with some of the biggest brands in the world to solve these data problems to prove out ROI and get customers to engage,” Smith said.

Smith believes this competition allows Adobe to find people great minds for future employment. Adobe isn’t the only tech company with this objective in the “Silicon Slopes.”

Provo-based data insights tech company Qualtrics was started in 2006 by then-BYU marketing professor Ryan Smith and his son, a BYU student at the time, in their Provo basement.

Qualtrics has kept its headquarters in Provo, even with its accelerated growth across the globe. The company just finished its new 151,000-square-foot headquarters in Provo last August.

Qualtrics’ Head of Global Insights Mike Maughan said the company loves being in Provo.

“It gives us great access to a wonderful place to live,” Maughan said. “We are close to BYU, Utah Valley University, the University of Utah and there are a lot of great students here. Also, we’re located in a spot where it’s easy for our employees to live, around here or even Park City.”

Maughan believes, generally speaking, the characteristics Qualitrics values aren’t just limited to BYU students but are in students from any major university.

“We are looking for entrepreneurial people,” he said. “People who work hard, have a high level of integrity and who are innovative and committed to making an impact rather than fitting in as a cog in a machine.”

NUVI celebrates it new headquarters facing the "Silicon Slopes" in Lehi, Utah.
NUVI celebrates the opening of its new headquarters facing the “Silicon Slopes” in Lehi, Utah. (NUVI via Instagram)

The strategic placement within BYU culture, however, is not by coincidence. Qualtrics is very involved with major universities in the area, including BYU.

“We host hack-a-thons, we sponsor several different clubs, like Women in Computer Science club, the ACM club,” Maughan said.

Just like Adobe and Qualtrics, many other established and up-and-coming Silicon Slopes tech companies recognize BYU’s value. Domo and NUVI, along with Qualtrics, regularly attend BYU’s Career Fairs.

Stuart Dean, NUVI’s executive vice president of business development, said he believes BYU’s job fairs and recruiting resources on campus have provided NUVI with highly-talented employees.

“(Job fairs) have been extremely valuable to attract top talent and (we) don’t see this strategy changing,” Dean said. “As a fairly new company now in just our fourth year, we are building a culture of competitive, goal-oriented employees who are looking for an opportunity. We anticipate BYU will continue to be a significant part of our recruiting strategy in years to come.”

Since its inception, NUVI has employed BYU students. Dean highlighted the qualities he valued from BYU graduates.

“BYU has provided graduates who have exceptional drive to succeed, outstanding work ethic, self-initiative and the maturity to overcome challenges in the workplace,” Dean said.

The term “Silicon Slopes” was created by Omniture founder and current Domo CEO Josh James to promote Utah’s growing tech industry.

“Silicon Slopes” includes the Metropolitan area of Salt Lake City, including Park City and even Provo.

Other major companies within the “Silicon Slopes” include Salesforce, MX, Workfront and SkyRocket Media, among many others.

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