There’s certainly no shortage of world-class tech firms in Happy Valley — but what about the tech talent? While companies such as AccuWeather and Minitab pull talent from competing locales like Silicon Valley, they and many other Happy Valley companies find that the area offers a wealth of talent all on its own.
This reality can be chalked up to Penn State’s heavy influence in Happy Valley, but it also attests to Happy Valley’s wealth of benefits, inspiring ecosystem and vibrant community for tech professionals specifically. Regional tech firms are filled with talented Penn State grads who’ve come to realize that Happy Valley is not only a great place to work, but also to live, play and raise a family.
But, don’t take it from us. See why some of Penn State’s best and brightest graduates have chosen to stick around in Happy Valley, versus finding new homes in any of the other top industry hubs around the globe.
Alex Anderson was so intent on following in the footsteps of his dad and his two sisters, he only applied to Penn State when considering colleges.
“I grew up in the small town of St. Marys, Pennsylvania, so I enjoyed a rural life. My family is a big priority for me, and I was very reluctant to make any life choices that would lead me to moving to a city or far away. The beauty of attending Penn State (among the many benefits) is that it was close to home and the location is rural like my hometown, but has even greater options for events and activities. There's always something to do around State College, and I fell in love with Penn State and with the area,” he said.
However, as Alex approached graduation from Penn State’s computer science program, he faced a dilemma. He wanted to be a software engineer for a tech company, but most are based in and around large cities.
"It's like a little piece of Silicon Valley right here in State College."
“A job in Silicon Valley was very attractive,” he said, “because companies there are known for good workplace culture and new and exciting technology, but I would have to move across the country. I was beginning to think I would have to sacrifice my desires for location in order to achieve my dream career.”
While Alex was looking for internship opportunities, he came across an opportunity he calls “unexpected.”
Happy Valley-based Videon Central was looking for software engineering interns for the summer. “As I looked into Videon, I discovered they are a small company working in exciting media technology like DVD and Blu-ray. Turns out they have a friendly, active and ‘bring your dog to work’ culture. It's like a little piece of Silicon Valley right here in State College. It was exactly the company I was looking for, in exactly the location I wanted to live in,” Alex said.
Alex graduated in 2014 and now works at Videon full-time. “Fast-forward to today, and I have remained at Videon and now work there as a senior software engineer. As the technology and the industry moves, Videon has moved along with it, and we are currently working with the latest media technology, like live streaming. I am very happy with where my career has taken me, and even happier to be living in an area I fell in love with,” he said.
Jenna Greaser has been working at Happy Valley’s Actuated Medical since she graduated from Penn State with a biomedical engineering degree in 2013. As a staff engineer at the medical device company, which was founded by two Penn State alums, Jenna translates ideas for devices or parts into designs using 3-D modeling software. She creates prototypes that then are manufactured into finished products. Most recently, she designed a tool for endoscopies that gives clinicians better visibility during procedures.
“When I was graduating, I reached out to the Engineering Career Research Center for help in job searching,” Jenna said. “They matched me for an informational interview with another Penn State alumnus already working at Actuated Medical. She thought it might be a good fit and I ended up with a formal interview.”
Although Jenna knew there were opportunities available at other companies, she liked the idea of having a role in a tech company where she could obtain more frontline, hands-on experience.
“The community helps Penn State maintain its stimulating academic environment, cultivating talented minds and hearts to make a difference in the world. Keeping some talent here ensures that tradition of excellence continues,”
“I love the size of the company, because I get to learn from so many experiences and I truly love what I’m doing,” she said. “I think there are more learning opportunities available to me, like working directly with our machine shop on creating new products.”
Jenna also likes that Happy Valley offers her a strong sense of community and nearby opportunities for activities. “I don’t have an hourlong commute and there are things to do right here like Penn State sporting events and outdoor recreation,” she said. “My family is only a few hours away, which is also nice.”
Jenna’s advice for upcoming engineering grads is to visit the Engineering Career Research Center and ask for companies with other Penn State alumni connections. “Having a Penn State connection definitely helps you get in the door.”
Actuated Medical co-founder Maureen Mulvihill agrees that Penn State ties are great stepping stones and that it’s important to nurture the university’s top talent into thriving local tech companies. “The community helps Penn State maintain its stimulating academic environment, cultivating talented minds and hearts to make a difference in the world. Keeping some talent here ensures that tradition of excellence continues,” she said.