NH Business: Remote working reaches the metaverse

·5 min read

Jul. 24—KENDRA BOSTICK has traveled around the world so it's not surprising the employees of the tech startup she co-founded are scattered around the country and Canada.

Kikori, which we featured in last Sunday's column, has developed software for experiential learning. It works with a web development team in India, and its seven employees work remotely from New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, Florida, New York, Vancouver and Wisconsin, where cofounder Bryn Lottig lives.

"She is stationed there whereas I'm still doing a bit of moving around, trying to find my home in life," says Bostick, a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire who lives in Dover.

Finding your home in life is no longer an absolute career requirement.

While some companies continue to resist remote working — a manager of an accounting firm recently lamented to me that his team's production has suffered since they've been away from the office — employers are learning to accept heavy demand for remote and hybrid work options.

For some firms, they simply have no choice. That same accounting firm lost one of its partners when the company refused his request to let him work out of state.

"We have clients who are losing employees who have been there for years because they enjoy the remote and don't want to go back on site," said Meg Struthers, senior account executive at Market Street Talent, an information technology recruiter based in Portsmouth. "It's about retaining the people you already have, not just attracting new people."

Market Street Talent, which was founded in 2008, went fully remote during the pandemic and has no plans to change that.

"Most of us are close. We did just hire our first person in Florida, so our first person who is not close enough to make it in for meetings," she said. "We just realized it's not going away."

The first question most of her recruiting prospects ask is whether there is a remote option, said Struthers who has had to re-educate clients about what to expect when they are hunting for workers.

"I have to share with them the trials of finding the people that they want in the small location that they want for the prices that they want. Whereas if you want X, Y, Z, it would be a lot easier if you could open it up (to) remote," she said during an interview after a recent Tech Women Power Breakfast sponsored by the New Hampshire Tech Alliance.

"You'll be able to find these people easier who have the skills, who maybe are living in a lower cost of living area who are fine with the budget you are trying to set. So it's a delicate balance," she said.

Into the metaverse

While awaiting a connecting flight with my wife in Baltimore recently, we met Vincent Sharps, executive vice president and chief business officer of Mindgrub. The web and app development company, which offers such services as multichannel marketing and systems integration, is based in Maryland but now has employees working in 39 states, including Massachusetts.

Sharps was on his way to a conference in Arizona, and, like us, was killing time at an airport bar. We talked about the evolution of the company from a local to national player — thanks in large part to the rise of remote working technology.

Mindgrub is working on moving its headquarters to the metaverse, not the alternative universe of Marvel superhero films but a digital home on the internet that uses virtual technology and augmented reality to create a sense of place.

We continued the conversation later over Zoom, which seems old-fashioned compared to the idea of meeting as a digital avatar in the metaverse.

"We're kind of diving into that now. And in the next weeks we're going to start having regular meetings there as we've been building it out," Sharps said. "We're really spreading our culture nationally. It's the buzzword of the day in tech."

The company's transition from a local to national player is evident from the logos of clients posted on its website. Regional customers like the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Maryland Insurance are featured alongside consumer brands like Yamaha and Under Armour.

"We went from 80 percent of our workforce local to Maryland and D.C. to three years later post-disruption more than 50 percent of our workforce being national," Sharps said.

Early in the pandemic, Sharps opened an office for Mindgrub in Charlotte, N.C.

"That's also another market that's heavy with a lot of tech and creative talent that also is seeing an impact on this kind of recruiting nationwide," Sharps said. "A lot of people that you meet there are transplants from just about everywhere. It's such a transient city. So you see a lot of that going on there as well, with people who live there who actually work for companies all over the country."

Lucky for New Hampshire, the Granite State offers a great quality of life. But the competition for talent now is from everywhere — including the metaverse.

Mike Cote is senior editor for news and business. Contact him at mcote@unionleader.com or (603) 206-7724.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not represent the views and opinions of the sponsor, its members and affiliates.