Dec. 08--FORT LAUDERDALE -- Two top South Florida executives gave some savvy career advice Thursday at IT Palooza, an annual gathering of technology professionals at The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward Convention Center.
And tech workers would be smart to listen. Tom Conophy is chief technology officer at AutoNation, the nation's largest auto dealer, based in Fort Lauderdale. Daniel Cane has built one of the most successful startups in South Florida, Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine.
Conophy advised workers to always be adding "something new" to their resume. As a supervisor, "you need to encourage people to do more than they think they can," he told the audience.
One example he used was leading AutoNation's tech team recently in building a platform to catalog and route parts to stores. They had a short time to do it, but just five developers accomplished the feat, he said. Selling auto parts is one key to AutoNation's new strategy of focusing on used car sales, parts and repairs.
He said employers also have to pay their talent well and provide the right tools, as well as offering whatever workers value, such as casual dress. "If you don't provide kale, 10 demerits," Conophy joked.
But most important, "you want to give them an interesting agenda," said Conophy, who joined AutoNation last year from Massachusetts-based Staples.
He also urged local technology companies to become involved with local universities to nurture talent.
One company that has done just that, recruiting many students from Florida Atlantic University, is Modernizing Medicine, a medical records and data company whose headquarters is adjacent to the Boca Raton campus.
Cane, who co-founded Modernizing Medicine with dermatologist Michael Sherling, told a student worrying about getting a job after graduation that there's no need "to go anywhere" to find employment. He said the IT Palooza event is proof, featuring dozens of local technology companies including Modernizing Medicine that are hiring new talent.
He said Modernizing Medicine has grown and attracted talent in part because of its engagement with the community. "It's attending events like IT Palooza, speaking at universities, engaging directly with deans and career counselors," Cane said.
But Modernizing Medicine isn't just interested in hiring people who have tech skills.
Cane said his company, which employs more than 650 people, hires for culture as well. "Are they driven by the noble cause of modernizing medicine, or are they looking for a job? We want people who are both. They're kind, they're hard-working," he said.
Modernizing Medicine is about half way through hiring an additional 800 workers, a campaign announced earlier this year. Management plans to open a second Boca Raton office by next summer. Modernizing Medicine has had a banner year, including a $231 million investment from the equity firm Warburg Pincus.
The company's i-Pad delivered system is used by more than 10,000 specialist physicians who focus on gastroenterology, orthopedics and ophthalmology.
Modernizing Medicine's expansion made it eligible for $6 million in economic incentives from the state and local government, based on its $15 million investment and verified creation of 838 new positions. The jobs are wide-ranging, with an average annual salary of $55,000.
Health-care technology and privacy was Cane's topic at IT Palooza, where he moderated a panel of speakers from local hospitals, universities and businesses. They talked about patient protection in the technology world, and how new technology including machine learning or artificial intelligence, could soon make an impact.
Tammy Kennedy, president of South Florida Technology Alliance, a 17-year-old organization, said each IT Palooza participant takes away a different "nugget." The annual conference also lays the groundwork for collaboration and innovation, she said.
The event draws IT professionals, students and others from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties who care about investing in South Florida as a tech sector. "It's important to work together for the greater good," she said.
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