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Ann Arbor Spark

October 13, 2020

Regional Focus: Working in Ann Arbor, Living in Livingston County

The Ann Arbor region fosters a growing tech ecosystem, one that attracts and supports innovative businesses and advanced manufacturing. That region includes Livingston County, an expansive community north of Ann Arbor. Of the nearly 200,000 residents that live there, 13,000 of Livingston County’s residents are employed by businesses in the Ann Arbor area — including area tech companies.

Shawn Planko, engineering manager for Duo Security, is one of those residents.

Working in Ann Arbor

Throughout Shawn’s 20-year career in tech, all of his employers have been in Ann Arbor. After graduating from Schoolcraft College with an associate degree, he pursued a degree in business management from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) while working full-time at ANS, a company that provided dial-up Internet services.

After earning his degree from EMU, Shawn joined Advanced Media Solutions, an Ann Arbor-based startup launched by former ANS colleagues.

In 2011, he started at Mobiata — an Ann Arbor-based, mobile app startup acquired by Expedia in 2010 — as the engineering manager. For the first time, Shawn was working in the downtown corridor at the centrally located office in Nickels Arcade near the University of Michigan campus. “Working in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, I got to really experience and gain an appreciation for the entire city.” In 2018, Ann Arbor SPARK invited Shawn to give an inspiring Tech Talk to a packed Michigan Theater audience.

In early 2020, Expedia announced corporate-wide layoffs and the closure of a number of offices including the one in Ann Arbor. “When we got the news, I immediately reached out to Duo Security co-founder Jon Oberheide and let him know that we had a lot of great employees who were going to be looking for work. Two days later, he and I were having coffee.”

During that time, Shawn also connected with Ann Arbor SPARK’s Jennifer Olmstead who immediately started working to retain our ecosystem’s talent. She reached out to all of the Expedia employees to offer support as well as notified hiring companies in the Ann Arbor region that a source of impressive talent was available.

While Shawn interviewed at companies throughout southeast Michigan, he ended up staying in Ann Arbor and accepting a position at Duo. “As it turned out, Duo was the right fit for me on many levels.”

Living in Livingston County

Back when Shawn was launching his career, he and his wife Kelly were also looking for their first home. “She was working in Novi, so we focused our search on South Lyon in Oakland County, a central location and an easy commute for us both.”

In 2014, when Shawn and Kelly were ready for a new home for their growing family, they deliberated moving to Ann Arbor. “There were a lot of things we took into consideration, including proximity to our family. In the end, we decided to look in Livingston County which was more centrally located to the life we had already established.”

They found their dream home in Hartland Township near Howell. “We found a house that was on an acre of land in a growing community with other young families. In a previous job, I had to commute to Los Angeles every other week. That experience really solidified my appreciation for the amenities we get living in the countryside.” Shawn’s commute remains around 30-minutes each way, depending on traffic. “I actually enjoy the drive home after work — it gives me time to decompress before spending time with my family.”