SANDUSKY - When 325 of the Midwest's top software designers get together to talk shop and polish their skills, one group of professionals is sure to follow: job recruiters.
"It is really difficult to hire software designers now," explained Jenny Kohr, a recruiter for online retailer Amazon.Com.
"That's why we're flying in four of our top technical people and a recruiter from Seattle to Ohio in the middle of winter." She hopes to hire two conference participants, and by noon yesterday had booked an interview with a prospective candidate.
The occasion was the CodeMash v126.96.36.199 conference held yesterday and today at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky.
The conference attracted big dogs like Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and IBM as well as some of the software design industry's leading lights.
Eighty percent of registrants are from Ohio and Michigan, many from the Ann Arbor and Columbus areas. This is the second year for the conference, which was launched by a group of friends over dinner.
They formed an Ohio nonprofit group to organize the event, which returned to the indoor water park resort for its second year. Attendance was up by more than 50 percent.
The main thrust of the conference, explained Jim Holmes, an organizer, is to link software designers who write in different programming languages including Java, .Net, Ruby, and PHP. Professional conferences typically focus on a single language, he said.
"The idea was to bring together different communities," said Mr. Holmes, a project engineer for Quick Solutions Inc., of Columbus. Like others at the conference, he was dressed casually. He wore a Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, and checkerboard slip-on canvas shoes. At 45, he was among older participants. Few appeared to be over 50.
Software designers don't have a lot of trouble finding work.
Recruitment firm executive Brian Skory, of Stout Systems in Ann Arbor, is trying to find designers for 15 positions in fields ranging from data-warehousing to automobile-automatic vehicle guidance. "Demand is great," he said.
Salaries typically start at $40,000 to $60,000 a year, Mr. Skory said. Top designers make $80,000 to $100,000. And project managers can make up to $140,000, he added.
Although game designers attract most attention, they are a tiny fraction of the industry, Mr. Skory said. Most positions involve more mundane tasks, such as developing software for hospitals, factories, and offices.
When Chris Marinos left the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in computer science recently, he had his choice of offers. He decided to stay in Ann Arbor and joined the local office of software consultant SRT Solutions. "It's a pretty solid job market," he said.
"The market is very hot," said Mark Ramm, a designer with Atlanta-based Optio Software who works from his home in Ann Arbor.
"If you're good, you have flexibility. You can work from home."
SitePen Inc., which employs conference participant Kevin Dangoor, is officially based in the Silicon Valley of California. But designers all work from their residences. "We're all over," the Ann Arbor man said. "We have virtual meetings. "
TechSmith Corp., Lansing, has hired about 40 software designers in the past two years and needs more. The firm recruits on college campuses as well as attending conferences like CodeMash, said Bill Scanlon, a software designer at the conference
Several conference participants told The Blade that they like their current jobs and aren't looking. But Ms. Kohr, of Amazon, hadn't given up hopes of persuading two people to join the firm in Seattle.
"Our hope is they get tired of shoveling snow," she quipped.
Contact Gary T. Pakulski at:
or 419-724-6 082.