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Ann Arbor Spark

January 16, 2019

Chicago Transplant Grows Roots in Ann Arbor Tech Culture

Nick Zolfo, Enterprise Account Development Representative at Duo SecurityAnn Arbor’s robust tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem extends beyond engineers, programmers, and designers to support teams like sales and marketing. Nick Zolfo, an enterprise account development representative at Duo Security, is just one of those helping amplify the products and services developed in the Ann Arbor region to customers throughout the world.

An Indiana native who arrived in Ann Arbor via Chicago, Nick sees a lot of appeal for those considering a move from the Windy City to Wolverine country. “Ann Arbor is like a Chicago neighborhood, with eclectic shopping, great dining, and lots of craft breweries all within a walkable distance. Ann Arbor offers a lot of the same experiences, just with more affordable parking and housing.”

Nick attended Indiana University and worked in the healthcare industry recruiting nurses for home care positions immediately after graduation. Realizing that it wasn’t the ideal career for him, Nick headed to Chicago where he got his first job in tech. “I was incredibly fortunate to move to Chicago during a time when the tech scene was budding,” said Nick. “When a friend encouraged me to take an entry-level sales job at his tech company, it appeared the stars were aligning.”

It was also in Chicago where he met his wife Emily who grew up just south of Ann Arbor in Milan. “My wife and I knew we wanted to be surrounded by family when it came time to start our own. The question was, did we want to go back to Indiana or Michigan? For me, it was really a no-brainer. I love the outdoor aspect of Michigan, and all that the state has to offer. Plus, with her family here, it just made sense.”

Nick also grew up familiar with Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. “My aunt and uncle have lived in Ann Arbor for more than 15 years now. When I was younger, they first introduced me to the tradition that is the University of Michigan.”

Once Nick and Emily decided to move to Michigan, the rest of the pieces fell into place pretty quickly. “A close childhood friend of Emily’s, who also was one of the first 50 employees at Duo, said there was opening in sales. As it turned out, it just happened to be the exact same role as the one I had in Chicago, so it worked out beautifully.”

While Nick was working in Chicago, he started meditating — a practice that has grown over the years. “Ann Arbor has a progressive mindset with an established acceptability of meditation, yoga, holistic medicine, and acupuncture. While my journey started in Chicago, I now carry it with me where ever I go.” Nick even produces a podcast, Catching Z’s: The Millennials Guide to Mindfulness, to help share his passion.

As Nick has grown professionally and spiritually in Ann Arbor, he’s gained some insights in how the tech cultures differ between Chicago and his new home. “The company I worked at in Chicago was foundationally a sales organization, and therefore really focused on the bottom line. In Ann Arbor, I’ve observed that a lot of the businesses are grown with an engineering perspective, are more focused on the product, and how it can bring positive change to a customer challenge. To me, this provides a better and more sustainable go-to-market strategy — and more greatly aligns with the Ann Arbor ethos.”