By DEAN DeCARLO //
As a 25-year-old millennial, I can distinctly remember a world without omnipresent electronic devices. Then my father brought home a white Compaq PC, preloaded with Windows 95. I was awed by its capabilities – and little did I know a dramatic digital revolution had begun.
By intermediate school, most of my Commack classrooms had smartboards. My fourth-grade website “The Weekly Video” used a “drag and drop” builder. It’s safe to say that by high school, with the iPhone changing the world again, the digital revolution was far from over – and opportunities for innovation and commerce were available to anyone with a computer.
When I graduated from the University of Albany in 2016, I moved my startup digital advertising agency Mission Disrupt down to Long Island, already a proven hotbed of digital talent – a key factor in Amazon’s recent expansion plans, with other tech giants now expanding operations in New York City and Brooklyn.
While this new interest is great for the job market, the unintended consequences include higher residential rents within the area and increased commute times – factors everyone can agree are bad for work-life balance and bottom-line productivity.
In an age of increased awareness of work-life balance, Long Island has become an attractive option. And to a large extent, it’s digital technology that’s fueling this transformation.
The digital revolution has truly made the world “flat,” allowing anyone, anywhere, to interact with anyone else. This is most apparent in Mission Disrupt’s client roster. Being a Long Island-based digital marketing agency, you might assume all of our clients are Long Island-based, but the majority of our clients are from elsewhere in the country – proppant companies in Texas, e-commerce companies in North Carolina, nonprofits in New Jersey.
They each needed skilled digital personnel to help them build out their digital experiences. And Long Island has no shortage of skilled digital personnel, due to our growing infrastructure and proximity to the city.
Leading universities like Stony Brook, Hofstra and others are training young students and seasoned digital executives who wish to stay closer to their Long Island homes. In this way, the digital revolution has truly evened the playing field for Long Island, and continuing to innovate Long Island’s digital space and fostering growth in this environment is the responsibility of both our business and community leaders.
Locating my business on Long Island was an easy decision – although, as a digital business owner, I realize that Long Island must compete with larger firms in bigger places, with cultural and other benefits that persuade skilled digital talent to move away. This is why our companies must emphasize digital growth, starting in 2019.
It starts with building an incredible culture. Companies like eGifter have shown that innovative co-working spaces can help attract top digital talent, which is why they operate out of LaunchPad Huntington. Vibrant downtowns like those in Huntington, Farmingdale and Patchogue keep employees engaged with cultural and entertainment options – one reason Mission Disrupt will be moving our headquarters to Huntington Village later this month.
Training is another important component in attracting and retaining digital talent. Building professional communities within Long Island is key, according to Tyler Schum, who runs Developer Deep Dives, which networks professionals, hobbyists and beginners to explore new and important software-development technologies. By engaging a network of skilled developers, participants can find assistance with many problems they encounter in their professional careers.
That mindset – sharing knowledge and growing together – is also being adopted by individual companies. Marketing Mind Share was built as a platform for Long Island-based executives to meet and share best digital practices, all as a way of promoting the regional business climate.
By leveraging our knowledge and working together, we can build a digital culture on Long Island on par with those in tech hubs like Brooklyn, Texas and even Silicon Valley. Digital technology has evened the playing field for businesses from around the world, and the differentiator on Long Island is our abundance of digital talent.
It’s time for the corporate community to foster this digital revolution and make Long Island a top region for working in the digital space. We should embrace the culture, encourage diversity and choose to support companies that emphasize and improve in-demand digital skillsets.
Dean DeCarlo is founder and president of Mission Disrupt, a full-service B2B/B2C digital agency based in Westbury and serving the world.