What do you see as the top tech trends emerging in 2021 in the Triangle?

I definitely think you will see changes in the workplace—not just in tech companies. Tech will help inform what that change might look like for lots of offices—ranging from figuring out how to have a lot fewer doors that require you to touch [people] as you walk through the building, [to] having spaces that are more flexible within your office space, rather than fixed offices and fixed walls. But it’s not necessarily a case that [companies] will reduce their footprint. They may need the same office space, because people need to be spaced out more. In the past, we were all about densification—cubicles next to each other, people kind of packed in on a per-square-foot basis just to be efficient— and now we’re going the other direction.

The Triangle has been a growing tech market, with people moving here from places like the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Do you see that trend continuing?

Absolutely. We already saw a lot of that. The Triangle in North Carolina had ranked pretty high on the national surveys of where people were moving to, and a survey that recently came out had four North Carolina cities on the top 20 of where people are moving to from elsewhere, [including] Raleigh and Charlotte. There’s a lot of press these days about [how] now companies understand that a lot more of their workforce can work remotely than maybe had been the case before. The need to physically be in a Boston, or San Francisco, or you name it—it’s just not as strong. And if you can live where you want to, why not? And so now, the mantra of economic development, in many cases, is: Let’s advertise how wonderful it is to live here and attract people who are talented and skilled.

If you had one prediction for the tech scene here in 2021, what would it be?

I think the demand for talent will continue to increase. We’re fortunate to have some pretty good resources in this region. The higher education system is strong; we have a strong economy that draws in existing talent. People who already have achieved some degree of professional success [in] tech elsewhere want to come here. And then we have a really strong network of community colleges that help educate and upskill existing workers without having to go back and get a college degree.

Automation certainly will also become much more prevalent. We were already on that path, but anything you can do to automate and streamline processes in this new era of distributed workforce becomes even more important. We’re well-positioned, with IBM and others that are leaders globally [in terms of] predictive analytics—analytics that allow decisions to be made on how to operate more efficiently, what lines of work to get into, what kinds of efficiencies can drive internal operations, as well as how [to] better identify customers and engage those customers. More and more and more, we’re seeing discussions around that.

To learn more about the Triangle’s tech scene, check out NC TECH Association’s 2021 Outlook for Tech virtual conference on Wednesday, January 27.

Follow Interim Managing Editor Leigh Tauss on Twitter or send an email to ltauss@indyweek.com

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