By Larry Mieldezis, Liaison Technologies
We recently caught up with Joe Hessling, a mapping analyst and 2012 Southern Illinois University (SIU) graduate, in our Managed Services hub in Carbondale, Illinois. Joe is one of several new hires we’ve made since beginning our rural sourcing initiative there in 2010. A native of Nashville, Illinois, an hour north of Carbondale, Joe joined Liaison in January part time while completing his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Within two months—before he graduated—he was promoted to full-time status.
Q: What made you want to stay in Carbondale?
Joe: I’m from southern Illinois and my parents and friends are here. Given the choice, I’d rather stay close to them. Being hired by Liaison was a great opportunity for me. Not many people get to work in their field of study while they’re still in school and also know that they’ll have a good job after graduation. After the first week on the job, it became apparent to me that not only was I getting to work in my hometown but I was getting to work for an established, multi-national company. Since the Carbondale office is still fairly new and growing, there’s the extra bonus of feeling like I’m working for a start-up that’s also very appealing to me.
Q: What other job opportunities in your field were available to you in the Carbondale area?
Joe: There were a few opportunities, but all of them were with small, local and regional companies that didn’t offer much potential for career growth. For example, there were a few jobs available with coal-mining companies, such as database administrator, but most of those also required a year or two of experience. Most of the employers also seemed somewhat hostile to recent grads, positioning their opportunities as a “sink or swim” situation. This is opposite of what I found at Liaison. They looked at my coursework and grades and got to know me. They wanted to make sure I had the education and the attitude to fit into a customer-focused organization, but they didn’t require specific work experience. Instead, they trained me from the ground up to be a competent mapping analyst. I feel extremely fortunate.
Q: If the opportunity to work at Liaison hadn’t happened, were you prepared to relocate to pursue a tech career?
Joe: Yes, I was prepared to go wherever the opportunity took me. Although, I’ll have to admit, it would have been with some reluctance.
Q: What are your career goals/aspirations?
Joe: Eventually, I’d like to move more into application development. Mapping is very interesting and I’m enjoying it and I couldn’t have asked for a better start than what Liaison has given me, but at some point I’d like to use my creativity to write programs.
We also spoke with Bonnie Kucharski, Liaison’s technical operations manager for the Carbondale facility. Born, raised and educated in Chicago, she’s a seasoned professional with over 15 years of experience working for technology companies. After graduating from DePaul University, she got her start working for US Robotics in Chicago and continued to work there after it was acquired by 3Com. Bonnie could have worked anywhere, but she and her husband decided to make a lifestyle change to create a better life for their three children by moving to a rural community. She chose Carbondale, too.
Q: With all of your experience and credentials, why did you choose to work in Liaison’s Carbondale office as opposed to the hustle and bustle of Chicago or some other major metropolitan area?
Bonnie: Southern Illinois is a beautiful area and a great place to raise a family. In many ways, it offers more than a large city can. Carbondale is a large enough community to provide the feel and benefits of a city, but it’s without the big city drama like traffic and crime. We like the area, the outdoor activities, the slower pace and the friendliness of the people who live here. Most importantly, our children have more opportunity to participate in sports and after-school activities than they did in Chicago and they’re growing up as part of a close-knit and safe community.
I am thrilled to be part of what Liaison is doing here. The opportunities we’re providing to this community are phenomenal. From a purely selfish perspective, if we’re successful here other companies can be successful here, and that could create jobs for my children. As a parent and a member of this community, I don’t want my children to have to move far away to find good paying jobs that fulfill their career goals. In my view, Liaison is a pioneer in rural sourcing. With our headquarters far away in Atlanta, the company took a big chance setting up an office of this importance in Carbondale. I’m excited to be part of this success and I hope what we’re accomplishing serves as a model for other companies that might consider opening a branch office here to take advantage of the tremendous employee pool coming out of SIU as well as the experienced local tech talent.
As Joe’s and Bonnie’s answers attest, rural sourcing is certainly good for Americans who want to work near their hometowns or move to smaller, less hectic communities. We think that on-shoring will become more prevalent as tech companies realize the benefits of using domestic technical talent in rural communities like Carbondale that are anchored by a technical college or university like SIU. Because of the lower cost of living in rural American communities, companies can offer competitive wages and benefits at a lower cost than they would have to in large metropolitan areas. They can also avoid the problems associated with outsourcing overseas, such as language and cultural barriers, regulatory compliance and security requirements, political instability and time zone differences.