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Ann Arbor tech community has strong commitment to retaining talent

February 19, 2018 Regional Updates
Wind turbines and drone

While we love to share the many inspiring success stories that occur in the Ann Arbor region, the reality is that from time-to-time, a company may experience a set-back. And as excruciating as it may be for the company leadership, occasionally the only way for the organization to survive is to scale back its team members.

That is what happened to Chris Schneider and Nick Donohue, two local web application developers who along with some other colleagues found themselves unexpectedly unemployed in late December 2017.

The good news is that due to Ann Arbor’s substantial and well-connected tech community, they weren’t in that situation for very long. “After we had been notified, the company’s leaders sent an email to their contacts, including SPARK, explaining the situation and recommending us as great hires,” said Schneider. “SPARK then notified its network and as word got out, the responses were immediate and almost overwhelming.”

“I actually found out about the layoffs the night before I was heading to Mexico for a vacation,” said Donohue. “I was fending off so many emails, I had to set up an autoreply.”

One of the first companies to reach out to both Schneider and Donohue was SkySpecs, an Ann Arbor robotics company that provides an autonomous drone-based solution for inspecting wind turbines. “I got the email on a Friday night,” said Tom Brady, SkySpecs founder and CTO. “We were preparing to announce a successful round of funding which was going to lead to a hiring surge. I immediately recognized this as an opportunity of a lifetime and had to reach out to these people.”

Schneider and Donohue both accepted positions at SkySpecs while others from their former employer have landed elsewhere in the region. They credit the quick and considerate thinking of their former employer as well as the strong network of tech companies in the region.

What makes Ann Arbor desirable to top talent?
Both Schneider and Donohue moved to Ann Arbor from outside the region. “When I was in school, I almost quit programming for a while,” said Schneider. “Then I moved here and discovered this is how it’s supposed to be.”

“When SkySpecs first launched, I was told time and time again that we needed to go to Silicon Valley,” said Brady. “A major argument for that was because of this misconception that talent attraction would be challenging. Contrary to that, we’ve been very fortunate finding great people who fit our culture.”

According to Schneider, “I’ve learned a lot here and it feels like it would be selfish to take that knowledge and leave. There are meet-ups here and it’s rewarding to give back to those, supporting the same community that supported you.”

Donohue added, “Ann Arbor has a great mix of values. The area really resonated with me and I’m happy here.”

SkySpecs was a 2014 Accelerate Michigan grand prize winner and awarded Best Technology/Innovation of the Year 2017 at the ninth annual Wind O+M Dallas. In 2015, the company raised $3.0 million in a Series A funding round and $8.0 million in 2017 during Series B financing.