Illinois Tech Hub

This article was created by a Technology Services student employee. Our student employees attend, engage, and report on campus events that feature technology. Students provide a unique perspective on how innovations in technology affect campus life.

By Sara Abdeljalil, Economics '18

The first thing you think of when you hear San Francisco is Facebook, Google, Paypal, etc. San Francisco is known to the world as a tech hub, and that’s thanks to all the mega players that have headquartered themselves in the area. Recently, however, the tide has been shifting, and there has been a noticeable shift in where companies have been locating themselves. One particular place is one close to home--Chicago.

Chicago is an up and coming player in the tech world for a number of reasons. It’s a major city, and it offers a lot of talent and innovations for companies looking to settle down. A report posted by KPMG lists Chicago as a contender to be an international hub thanks to factors such as its infrastructure and talent.

The talent in Chicago is what’s pushing it to become a major player, and that’s thanks to the talent located in Illinois, specifically here in Urbana-Champaign.

The University of Illinois is known for its amazing engineering school, which ranks among the top programs in the country. Employers are accustomed to finding the talented Illinois students, which is why so many companies recruit here.

Aaron LeMay, a campus recruiter for Conversant, LLC (a digital marketing company), talked a little bit about the skills that Illinois students possess. When asked if he believed that Illinois students possessed better skills than other students, he replied,

“Being a Big Ten school says a lot about the students and the talent that comes from the University of Illinois. The skills and experiences that many of the students and alumni come in with has really helped them succeed in their roles here at Conversant and prepared them for taking on challenges outside of University walls.”

As Aaron mentioned, it’s the skills that the students possess that help them succeed. One way for students to pick up skills that employers are searching for is through Lynda. Lynda is an online learning service offered through the University. Students that allows students learn online in areas that they’re interested in; anything from Photoshop to coding. The best part is it’s completely free for University of Illinois students.

Another important thing that Aaron touched on was the proximity of the University to Chicago. “With the University so close to our headquarters here in Chicago, it has given us a chance to find and retain outstanding talent here in Illinois allowing us greater innovations and efficiencies in our business” he added.

Kaitlin Lowey, a campus recruiter for Enova International, Inc., said that, “From talks with our recruiting team, I know we see really talented engineers come from U of I. The school has done a great job of teaching a wide variety of languages and encouraging students to take their passion for engineering beyond the classroom and apply it to their own projects.”

It’s clear that recruiters from various companies are all in consensus that the University of Illinois provides top notch employees. The sentiment is so held in some of these companies that places like Conversant have painted an entire floor in their Chicago office orange and blue!

Even if you aren’t majoring in engineering, there are still plenty of opportunities to start your career at one of the various Chicago tech companies. I, for example, am an Econ major with a Business minor, and I accepted a position with Conversant as a Business Apprentice. These companies have roles that are not limited to technology, but the opportunities to learn and grow are endless.

All in all, it’s safe to say that Chicago’s tech industry is doing well, and will only continue to grow in the coming years. As students at the University of Illinois, it’s comforting to know that there will be so many job opportunities nearby, and that our University is preparing us with the computer, technology, and social skills we need to excel in these companies.