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Brenda Jones is a woman with a passion for keeping talent in Ann Arbor. After she and several members of her team were laid off from a local SaaS marketing company, Brenda took the lead in helping make sure those individuals stayed in this region, with jobs at a range of innovation-based businesses.

Brenda used Ann Arbor SPARK’s Job Portal to research career opportunities for her colleagues, and also employed tried and true networking to make headway in finding jobs for her team. She used space at Ann Arbor SPARK to convene those looking for work to collaborate, share what they were seeing in the market, and talk about best practices related to job searching and interviewing.


“Getting together at Ann Arbor SPARK helped keep morale within the team high, and helped keep all of us motivated to stick with the search,” she added. “We worked together to research positions, share references and connections, and follow-up with each other every couple days. Looking for work can be stressful, and knowing there’s a group of people rallying for you can make a huge difference.”

A few months after she and her team were laid off, Brenda heard about a second round of layoffs. “I had hired most of those people,” she said. “I knew about their technical skills and reached out to help. I knew startups in this region are always looking for talent, and I asked for resumes and put together a packet to share with those businesses that might be looking to hire.”

Brenda connected with Ann Arbor SPARK’s vice president of entrepreneurial services, Bill Mayer, who in turn shared her talent packet with the startups that are part of the SPARK Central Innovation Center community. Within 24 hours, those who were unemployed were overwhelmed with interest from the startups and several were hired by companies including Autonomous Safety.

In a further step to help startups, Bill connected Brenda to the SPARK Entrepreneur in Residence program. She’s been able to use her professional experience to help emerging businesses that are struggling through a specific challenge.

Brenda’s efforts to help her colleagues find work have paid off: Of the 27 people who have been laid off, 23 have accepted offers. “That doesn’t happen on its own – it happened because we have a system here that was created to address what happens when businesses inevitably close or conduct layoffs,” she said. “There are so many resources in this region now to help connect employers and talent. My advice to people looking for work is to use those resources.”

“Don’t be shy,” she added. “People want to help you. Go to events held by organizations that are actively working with businesses and job seekers, like Ann Arbor SPARK, Tech Brewery, and NEF Forum. Get out there!”