Kroger Tech team, left to right, Steve McWhorter, Craig Brown, Ben DePew, Jacob Heintz, Denise Haskamp, and Jeremy Cox <span class='image-credits'>Gary Kessler</span>

Cincy's Got Tech Talent: It’s Official, CincyisIT

 

 

One of the nation’s top employers is teaming up with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber to attract IT talent to the region with a new website and more.

While one branch of the Kroger Company operates the brick and mortar stores, Kroger Technology manages the in-house technology, everything from Research and Development to Point of Sale systems, web design, and real time analytics.

With e-commerce on the rise, tech careers for large retail companies like Kroger continue to multiply to meet the demand. But nationally speaking, the Midwest still has a hard time competing with tech hubs like California’s Silicon Valley. So when Kroger Technology’s HR Manager, Denise Haskamp, found out about the Chamber’s new goal of attracting tech talent to the region, she was immediately on-board as a sponsor and partner.

The CincyisIT.com website is the first concrete project to come from this partnership between Kroger Tech and the Chamber. The site is now officially “Powered by Kroger Technology.”

Information Technology careers are diverse and plentiful as the tech industry continues to grow. With a new partnership between the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and Kroger Technology, the region is gaining ground in the race for recruiting talent in the competitive world of Information Technology.

Putting Cincinnati on the IT map

For both large and small businesses, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber is one of the community’s greatest allies. The Chamber’s mission is “to grow the vibrancy and economic prosperity of our region.” For over 175 years, it has supported the business community in many ways. Today, they represent 4,000 member organizations and their 300,000 employees.

One of the newer goals of the Chamber is to attract and retain talent for the regional economy. They work within higher education to graduate professionals into the business community while also attracting external talent and supporting them once they are here.

Danielle Wilson, Talent Attraction Impact Leader, Cincinnati USA Regional ChamberDanielle Wilson is a part of this new “attraction” initiative at the Chamber and is tasked, specifically, with attracting newcomers and helping them acclimate to their new personal and professional life in the region.

“We cannot stop trying to attract talent once they’re here,” she says, “so we have a strategy to also connect newcomers and make sure they feel welcome and well-connected.”

The Chamber’s first official attraction initiative was the Hello Cincinnati Ambassadors who generate awareness of all the region has to offer new and/or young professionals. Wilson’s next project is designed specifically for the tech industry: the website CincyisIT.com.

This focus on tech talent is strategic. Wilson says that while the tech industry expands nationwide, Cincinnati stays under the radar. But IT careers are plentiful and still increasing. And while large employers like Kroger Technology--the tech branch of The Kroger Company--may have the name recognition to attract talent nationwide, not all of Cincinnati’s tech careers can get that attention. For example, Cincinnati has a strong design and startup community that is often powered by new and innovative technologies. Educational institutions--of which Cincinnati has many--are also large employers of IT professionals.

CincyisIT.com highlights the region’s livability, professional meetup and social opportunities, as well as local job openings and trainings. It connects potential candidates to career and development opportunities in the region. It also helps new and existing professionals acclimate to life and culture in Cincinnati. It is, basically, a web-based resource center for local IT professionals and those considering a move to the region.

The Chamber worked with a local developer to create the CincyisIT.com site. Since then, Kroger Technology has jumped on as a sponsor and partner to help further optimize and maintain it.

Partnering with a local tech giant

Cincinnati is home to a host of large employers working to attract new talent to the region. The Kroger Company, the region’s leading employer, employs more than 20,000 alone. The University of Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital together employee over 40,000 more. And at each of these companies, in addition to specialized careers in medicine or finance, for example, there are many professionals working in tech-based careers that keep the companies in operation.

Kroger Technology is one of the region’s tech giants working to attract new talent. The company has 1700-1800 employees across the country, many of them located in suburban Blue Ash and, in June of 2018, Kroger Technology was named as one of Computerworld’s 100 Best Places to Work in IT.

Juli Luebbe, User Experience Designer, Kroger Digital, a branch of Kroger TechJuli Luebbe is one of the Kroger Technology employees working on cincyisIT.com. She works at Kroger Digital--a branch of Kroger Tech--that deals with customer-facing market technology like online shopping platforms. She is a User Experience Designer, which is the digital evolution of a career that has always existed in retail. Luebbe works on Kroger’s online ClickList.

“My job as a User Experience Designer is to understand our customers, what they want, what drives them, why they go into the store vs shopping online. I try to understand how we can meet their needs and give them a good experience shopping with us.”

She and a few other employees took on the CincyisIT.com project as extra work, on top of their other work responsibilities. She likes the idea of helping promote tech careers in Cincinnati.

“My role is to help with the blueprint design for the website. That will include making sure we understand how people want to use the site. What do users want? What do they need to know when they’re making a decision to relocate? Is it the city? The job? It it both? How can we make sure they can find what they need on the site?”

Using insights and data from the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, she will shape the layout of the site and prioritize content. Then, in addition to helping optimize the website platform itself, the Kroger Technology team will be providing data analytics and current information about job opportunities. Together, Kroger Digital and the Chamber will also travel to recruitment and technology events around the country to attract talent from outside the region.

Attracting new talent for a mutual benefit

With so many industry competitors recruiting from the same pool of talent, it may seem counterproductive to work together to attract new employees. But Haskamp says this is one of the best things she can do for both her company and for the region.

Denise Haskamp, Kroger Technology HR Manager“We’re not just a retailer. We [Kroger Technology] are a technology company that happens to sell groceries.”

She continues, “There is a shortage of tech talent out there and we’re trying to find the best of the best. So we’re trying to create an environment where people want to come and work.”

Knowing that they are competing less with each other and more with other regions for new talent, influential companies like Kroger Technology can (and do) work together to make the region a strong competitor.

There is a mutual benefit, Haskamp says, to strengthening attraction to the region as a whole.

“It’s really not about us anymore,” she says, “It’s more about making Cincinnati the place that people want to come. We want to help Cincinnati become a technology destination.”

So while Kroger Technology continues to improve their own work culture to satisfy employees and keep new talent coming through the door, it’s not enough to go it alone. They are committed to partnering with the Chamber and other regional employers to make a name for Cincinnati in the IT world.

Wilson thinks the CincyisIT.com website and the Chamber’s larger partnership with Kroger Technology is certain to give the region’s tech industry a boost.

She says, “I hope that this website offers all tech talent a chance to see that Cincinnati has great opportunities for all levels of techies. You don’t need to leave the region to get a great job or new training. It’s all right here.”

Read more articles by Liz McEwan.

Liz McEwan is a proud wife, mama, urbanite, musician and blogger. Follow her at The Walking Green and on twitter at @thewalkinggreen.
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