By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
In one of his routines, the late comedian George Carlin coined the term “vuja de,” a little play on words that means just the opposite of the French expression déjà vu.
Instead of “I’m in a place I’ve never been, but it feels like I’ve been here before,” vuja de means “I’m in a place I know very well, but it feels entirely unfamiliar.”
Vuja de is a good fit for the way that Pat FitzGerald describes his experience of today’s Oklahoma. Pat and his wife both grew up in Oklahoma, lived all over from Michigan to California, and then moved back when their children enrolled in college here. Pat was a senior executive at Apple, Walt Disney, Citibank and Go Forward Inc., then formed his own consulting business in California.
His perspective on Oklahoma is eye-opening. Pat believes Oklahoma has the potential to compete as a top next-technology corridor. He cites the infrastructure of our research institutions, as well as the farsighted advances that Oklahoma City and Tulsa continue to make, reinventing and revitalizing themselves, expanding opportunities and amenities for young adults.
Pat envisions enormous possibilities, especially given the cost pressures on companies and families on either coast, compared to the cost and quality of living in Oklahoma.
“I see a completely different place than where I grew up,” he said. “Oklahoma still has all the nuances of a small town — the comfort, the kindness, the relationships. People here are still fantastic, but things have changed. There are opportunities in Oklahoma that if they had been here before, I wouldn’t have left. Whether you want to be in health care or aerospace, engineering or a tech start up, you can do it. If you had told me 10 years ago that we would have considered Oklahoma as a retirement destination, I would have bet that never would have happened.”
He also calls out gaps.
“There is a huge need in this country for digital coding. The cycle is evolving quickly,” Pat said. “There is more work than we have resources. If Oklahoma can supply a pipeline of talent, the advantages of living here will attract and draw companies from outside.”
Pat is helping Oklahoma become proactive. He’s been instrumental in bringing a training company to Oklahoma that delivers an intense 14-week digital coding curriculum. The idea is to provide a path to bring people out of the service economy into higher paying jobs, positioning them to help themselves and to provide much needed high-tech skills.
“It’s an unbelievable model,” Pat said. “We are changing lives. The average salary is $72K and the placement rate is 90 percent plus.” His confidence comes in the data and statistics from classes across the country and the real need and desire of companies in Oklahoma for these key emerging positions and skills.
Imagine fresh possibilities with fresh eyes. Vuja de. The feeling of being in the same, but a very unfamiliar, place.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
DID YOU KNOW? About 1 in every 20 open job postings in the U.S. job market relates to software development/engineering.