Remote work allows more Nebraskans to live local, work coastal
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic upended the way millions of Americans work. But how has the shift to remote work seen in some industries affected the Midwest? For three local tech workers, it’s provided the opportunity for them to work for coastal startups and tech companies while remaining in Omaha. Researchers such as…
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic upended the way millions of Americans work.
But how has the shift to remote work seen in some industries affected the Midwest? For three local tech workers, it’s provided the opportunity for them to work for coastal startups and tech companies while remaining in Omaha.
Researchers such as Josie Schafer, Ph.D., director of UNO’s Center for Public Affairs Research, continue to analyze how the changes brought by the pandemic have affected the local economy.
Schafer said certain industry classifications, such as finance and insurance, and professional, scientific and technical services, prove much easier to transition online; about 75% of Nebraska workers in those industries went remote almost immediately back in March 2020.
In Nebraska, the professional, scientific and technical services industry category, which includes tech workers, represented an estimated 8.7% of the state’s workforce, or around 88,000 individuals, according to the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 one-year estimates.
Omaha software engineering manager Amanda Martinez had previously worked remotely earlier in her career. It was dismal, she said.
“Since that experience was ‘pre-Zoom,’ it was just me talking into a speaker phone all day,” Martinez said. “It was great I was able to keep my job and go remote at the time, but talking to a phone all day was terrible.”
Martinez worked at Flywheel/WP Engine at the start of the pandemic. She managed three teams and said no two days were ever alike in her 18 months with the website hosting company.
In November 2020, she started a job as an engineering manager at Chromatic, a software company. The startup has 13 employees and is fully remote, Martinez said.
“What we call our home is San Francisco, but only one person lives there,” she said. “We are a company all over the globe.”
Martinez said she believes that there remains some bias towards hiring people from the East and West Coasts of the U.S., even at companies that have gone fully remote.
“It’s all about what companies you have worked for in the past,” she said. “Bigger companies, like Netflix or Amazon, (are desirable), which before the ‘quarantine times’ weren’t available for people in the Midwest.”
As someone who is looking to make several hires, Martinez said she’s researching how remote-first companies are offering benefits to make the deal seem more attractive, everything from stipends to upgrade a home office situation or mental health benefits.
“We have a lot of untapped talent here,” Martinez said. “People go to the coasts and forget about us, and I think that’s not to their advantage. So I’ll try to use that to my advantage as much as possible.”
Rese Wynn also made a jump to a West-Coast-based technology company during the pandemic.
After starting at Flywheel as a design intern, Wynn spent two-and-a-half years as a designer at the web hosting company, an opportunity he described as a fun, wonderful learning experience.
When he was deciding to make his next career move, he applied to Webflow. Webflow, a no-code platform for web design and development, is based in San Francisco and has around 200 employees. His position is fully remote, yet he feels the company has done a great job building their company culture and values into the remote employee side of the company.
Working remotely definitely has its perks, Wynn said, saying it’s a lot different. If you have a bad day, at the office, you still have to be “on,” he said. With remote work, it’s different.
“It allows you opportunities to work more efficiently at a pace that is comfortable for you,” he said. “It doesn’t feel so performative.”
He’s currently a brand designer at Webflow.
Wynn said his time at Flywheel/WP Engine helped build his confidence in his skills to want to try something new. Plus, the six-plus months of remote work he experienced at the beginning of the pandemic gave him insight as to if he would want to do that full-time.
“A lot of the time, the Midwest will get overlooked, but some of the people I’ve learned from and taken inspiration from….their talent is incredible,” Wynn said. “I don’t think they get as much credit as they should.”
Check out Part Two in our look at the impact of remote work on Nebraskans and local economies.
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