Advancing San Diego, employers identify highest regional talent needs

Now in its sixth round, Advancing San Diego (ASD) addresses skilled talent shortages and increases diversity in high-growth, high-demand jobs. A program of EDC and key community partners, ASD leads employer collaboratives that recognize local training programs most effectively preparing San Diegans for quality jobs; pairing students of those programs with local employers for paid internships; and strengthening community partnerships to power San Diego’s talent pipeline of tomorrow. 

To help students build meaningful careers in local, high-demand jobs in key industries, ASD welcomed its Business and Manufacturing cohorts this year, pairing 48 student interns with 25 small companies, of which 19 were woman-, person of color-, veteran-, or disabled-owned. All of the 48 student interns were considered priority students, meaning they identified with a historically under-resourced population, are a first generation or community college student, or currently live or went to high school in a low income neighborhood of San Diego. 

ASD is currently convening employers from the Healthcare industry and has recognized seven programs as Preferred Providers for their work in training Medical Assistants. Students from those programs will be placed in internships beginning in early 2022. See the full network of Preferred Providers here

Advancing San Diego by the numbers, 2021

48

student interns placed

25

small companies paired with high-demand talent

99

job applications submitted on Career Exploration Day

A core part of this work includes direct collaboration with industry. ASD convened six working groups made up of industry leaders from San Diego companies including Northrop Grumman, Rady Children’s Hospital, and Takeda, among others, who together shared the most-needed roles in their firms by sector. Each of their findings were summarized in the talent demand reports below:

These reports serve to inform curriculum for universities and education programs to develop our regional talent pipeline.

Learn more and get involved here, or contact us!

Taylor Dunne
Taylor Dunne

Manager, Talent Initiatives


2021: World Trade Center San Diego supports 50 businesses as region works toward recovery

15

companies supported

850

jobs supported

$10 M

net export increase, 2021

World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD), an affiliate of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), cultivates a pipeline of export-ready firms, maximizes foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities, and enhances San Diego’s global identity. A globally-connected economy creates quality jobs and makes the San Diego region more prosperous, competitive, and resilient – especially crucial amid COVID-19 and its aftershocks.

As we look toward 2022, here are four key ways WTCSD helped make San Diego a more globally competitive, resilient region:

1. MetroConnect V helps companies go global, awards fifth winner

2021 was an exciting year for WTCSD’s MetroConnect export accelerator program as the fifth cohort of incredible small to mid-sized San Diego companies wrapped up participation in the program.

These companies received $5,000 grants to bolster their export initiatives and international expansion efforts. Amid a pandemic, companies needed more digital support services than ever to help navigate growing e-commerce needs during the pandemic. To support, WTCSD held a Digital Trade Series, which assessed each client’s needs and arranged one-on-one counseling sessions with contracted e-commerce experts.

Over the course of the program, one company stood out – with MetroConnect’s support, satellite-based communications and fleet management company Blue Sky Network generated a 36 percent increase in monthly recurring revenue in Brazil, as well as its largest order to date. To support this growth, the company hired seven new full-time employees. Ultimately, WTCSD crowned Blue Sky Network MetroConnect V’s winner and awarded it a $25,000 grant toward its international expansion goals.

Over the past five years of MetroConnect, 80 companies collectively leveraged $890,000 in export grants, resulting in a $95 million net increase in exports from the San Diego region.

2. WTCSD debuts a regional trade and investment strategy for 2025

In 2015, San Diego Regional EDC’s release of “Go Global: San Diego’s Trade and Investment Initiative,” launched the World Trade Center in San Diego, bringing regional companies and stakeholders together with a global vision. Throughout 2020 and early 2021, WTC engaged many of the same partners, and new ones, in an effort to gauge how the region measured up to it, more than five years later. This 2021 update analyzed the state of exports, foreign investment and VC, as well as the extraordinary impact of COVID. Through rigorous data analysis dozens of interviews with public and private-sector leaders, WTC synthesized a set of five key priorities the region should focus on over the next five years. Find out what they are here. Key findings include:

  • 2020 saw $3 billion in foreign investment into San Diego
  • 73 percent of investment into San Diego is in Life Sciences
  • San Diego exports $22 billion in goods each year
  • San Diego is a top 10 services exporter among U.S. metros

Heading into 2022, we expect to see FDI investment portfolios return to the same levels seen in 2019.

3. Export Small Business Development Center (SBDC) supports export and COVID-relief projects

Beyond MetroConnect, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at WTCSD provided 35 export-ready small companies with the support needed to navigate international goals, including exports, manufacturing support, and more.

In addition to expansion support, the Export Specialty Center continued to offer COVID-19 recovery resources at no cost, helping San Diego companies like Funki Adventures apply to Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) 2nd Draw, Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, and City and County small business grants.

Finally, the Global Readiness Program saw a partnership between WTCSD and the University of San Diego help local small to mid-sized businesses secure STEP grants to grow the regional export pipeline.

4. WTCSD serves as a key source of market intelligence

WTCSD conducted a series of business surveys to better inform decision making of regional partners and affiliates. These included:

Corporate Travel Survey:

  • Survey of 12 large businesses and two non-profits in the region to better understand travel and budgets forecasts for the year ahead. This information was critical for the retention of existing service out of SAN and for the attraction of future direct flights. It found:
    • 79 percent of respondents are willing to pay a premium to fly on a San Diego nonstop route versus flying out from Tijuana or Los Angeles
    • 56 percent of respondents expressed a desire for nonstop service to Mexico City and Sao Paulo

EDC Changing Business Landscape Survey:

  • Survey of more than 100 business in the San Diego region, aimed at informing long-term development priorities, across business areas. It found:
    • 14 percent of respondents currently import and/or export out of the Port of San Diego
    • 24 percent of those surveyed would be interested in using the Port of San Diego if they provided service to the types of goods they ship

READ THE FULL REPORT

Interested in growing your business internationally?

World Trade Center San Diego works directly with companies – free of charge – to help them expand internationally and grow in San Diego. Whether your small company is interested in learning about exporting and international growth, or your small or medium-sized company is ready to export and grow internationally, World Trade Center San Diego is here to help.

Ready to export? Apply to MetroConnect VI by December 17.

Want to know more about WTCSD? Click here to receive our monthly Global Brief Newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

Need digital talent for your San Diego business? Tijuana can help

Need digital talent? Look 20 minutes south of San Diego.

When your San Diego business needs to expand during one of the toughest battles for digital talent, where do you look? 

Consider Tijuana, Mexico. Our binational region, which includes San Diego County, Imperial County, and the Mexican State of Baja California, is home to more than 7.1 million people – and specializes in high-value goods and services.

San Diego and Tijuana jointly host some of the world’s strongest innovation clusters, including the world’s largest medical device cluster (Trade and Competitiveness in North America, 2018), due in part to significant foreign direct investment from global firms that often co-locate on both sides of the border. Firms like Thermo Fisher Scientific are already leveraging all our binational region has to offer, including specialized production processes and highly-skilled workers. 

Who should consider leveraging cross-border talent?

Companies that are:

  • Considering outsourcing talent outside of San Diego
  • Currently outsourcing talent but looking to build a geographically closer team
  • Cost-conscious but looking to expand
  • Small to mid-sized and struggling to compete in the battle for talent.

can all benefit from leveraging talent in both San Diego and Tijuana.

Why consider cross-border talent? 

Tijuana’s proximity to San Diego makes it a strong strategic choice for talent and business partnership, and is an even better one in the midst of COVID-19.

First, compared to working with talent around the world, there can be fewer limitations when your company leverages talent in Tijuana – whether visa-related or otherwise. For regional innovation companies like those in the life sciences cluster, too, the ability to transport samples between San Diego and Tijuana teams is much simpler and quicker than other international options.

And when it comes to culture and oversight, Tijuana is just 20 minutes south of San Diego, allowing management to provide more direct support via easy day trips to Tijuana teams and offices. Because Tijuana is in the same time zone as San Diego, teams can enjoy easier collaboration and culture-building every day – whether or not companies remain remote or consider returning to on-site work

Who can help me?

If leveraging Tijuana talent can help your company but you’re not sure where to begin, there are a number of programs and partners that may be able to support or help fund your cross-border talent search.

  • If your company is based in San Diego and looking for general or tech talent, contact World Trade Center San Diego to get started.
  • If your company is based in Tijuana and looking for tech talent, contact ITJuana to get started.
  • If your company is based in Tijuana and looking for general or tech talent, contact Tijuana EDC to get started.

Additional resources:

Interested in growing your business internationally?

World Trade Center San Diego, home of the Export Specialty Small Business Development Center (SBDC), works directly with companies – free of charge – to help them expand internationally and grow in San Diego. Whether your small company is interested in learning about exporting and international growth, or your small or medium-sized company is ready to export and grow internationally, World Trade Center San Diego is here to help.

Ready to export? Apply to MetroConnect VI by November 15.

Want to know more about WTCSD? Click here to receive our monthly Global Brief Newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

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Meet our Advancing San Diego Preferred Providers of Healthcare Talent

Meet the Preferred Providers of Healthcare Talent.

Fueled by Tech, Defense, and Life Science industries, San Diego’s innovation economy relies on a pipeline of diverse talent. However, local companies continue to cite access to quality talent as a persistent challenge–98 percent of firms in San Diego are small companies (<100 employees) that often lack time and resources to effectively compete for talent with their larger counterparts. Meanwhile, many San Diegans are disconnected from high-demand job opportunities in Healthcare, largely due to education requirements.

Made possible by JPMorgan Chase, Advancing San Diego is a demand-driven strategy to address talent shortages and remove barriers for small companies to access qualified workers. It is a collaborative effort between EDC, San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association, San Diego Workforce Partnership, City of San Diego, and United Way of San Diego.

Over the last six months, Advancing San Diego partners worked with a group of seven employers to develop a skills-based criteria for medical assistants. We asked that any education provider meeting that criteria apply for the Preferred Provider designation. An employer-led review panel then evaluated these applicants against the skills criteria to determine which programs should be designated as ‘Preferred Providers,’ recognized as those most effectively preparing individuals for jobs and internships as medical assistants.

EDC is excited to announce Preferred Providers of Healthcare Talent:

How small companies can get involved:

Advancing San Diego will cover the cost of internships for 30 students, sourced from the above Preferred Provider, at small clinics, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities in the region. Selected interns will be paid and have access to additional funds to support their success in the workplace. All students from Preferred Provider programs will be invited to participate in industry engagement opportunities such as career fairs and networking events. Healthcare internships will begin in early 2022.

How education programs can get involved:

Advancing San Diego will continue to designate Preferred Providers in a variety of high-demand fields. Preferred Provider criteria and applications are updated and reviewed on an annual basis. The Preferred Provider application schedule is as follows:

  • SOFTWARE: Revisited Spring 2021
  • ENGINEERING: Closed Summer 2020
  • BUSINESS: Closed Winter 2020
  • MANUFACTURING: Closed Spring 2021
  • HEALTHCARE: Closed Summer 2021 (announcement above)
  • LIFE SCIENCES: Upcoming Winter 2021

For more information, visit AdvancingSD.org.

A note from Mark…

Beauty in the breaking points

I was always a pretty good athlete as a kid. Good enough to hang with the older kids in my neighborhood. Good enough to make the teams that I wanted to make in high school. Good enough to play at the college level. Good enough. But looking back, I recognize just how much harder it would have been to be truly great at any of it.

These thoughts are top of mind for me every few years when the Olympic Games come back around and I find myself in awe of the world’s most elite athletes. To think of what it takes to be the best in the world at anything is pretty overwhelming. To imagine being able to reach that level within a particular/finite window of time, on the world’s largest stage, with your team and your country watching and counting on you, is almost impossible. And that is what makes it so amazing.

Every two/four years we not only see the world’s greatest athletes compete with one another, we also get to see a reflection of the world around them. And sometimes it isn’t pretty or easy to watch. We have seen athletes use their crowning moments on the podium to call attention to injustice and inequality—and we know that many of them have paid a price both personally and professionally. We have learned of athletes who are under such pressure to win and succeed that they are willing to use performance enhancing drugs to stay on top. We witness horrific injury and heartbreak. And this year, we learned that the pressure of it all can become too much for anyone—even the greatest of all time.

I am not sure that 20 years from now I will remember who won Olympic gold in 2021 in the long jump, or who started on the basketball or soccer teams—but I know I will remember Simone Biles.

So many people around us are carrying more on their shoulders than we will ever realize. The last 18 months have only added to those burdens and made life more complex for all of us.

By stepping away from the sport when she did, and by acknowledging that the pressure being put on our young Olympians in insurmountable moments, Simone Biles has no doubt modeled behavior that will help those who are approaching their own breaking points. And gold medals and floor exercises aside, it is within these actions and convictions where we find true greatness.

When I write these pieces, I normally have some way of wrapping my thoughts into the work of EDC or the state of the local economy around us. But this time I will simply end here—acknowledging and appreciating the vulnerability and humanity that I have witnessed once again in these Olympic Games, and in all of you over the last year and a half, and hoping that you have found meaningful moments of your own in a summer that has gone by far too quickly.

For all EDC news, events and updates, please continue to follow along with us on social media, blog, and more. We remain appreciative and thankful for all of you, and for the support that you continue to provide our team.

Continue to stay healthy and safe and we look forward to seeing you in person in the months ahead.

With respect and gratitude,

Mark Cafferty

Young Professional Spotlight: Alyssa Snow

Alyssa Snow, a CSU San Marcos and Link to San Diego alumna, is a cybersecurity professional currently working for Teradata. She has participated in two of EDC’s Advancing San Diego industry engagement events in 2021—most recently for a Women in STEM career panel. For Alyssa, participating in these events is meaningful because she remembers how it felt to sit on the opposite end of the room only a few years back, and finding her career path through EDC’s Link to San Diego event.

Read more about Alyssa’s experience below.

How did Link to San Diego launch your career?

In my third year of college at CSU San Marcos in 2018, I attended EDC’s “Link to San Diego: Cybersecurity” career panel and industry engagement event. This event propelled my career in cybersecurity. During the event, one panelist shared what it was like to work as a security engineer, which inspired me to learn more.

I approached the panelist, a representative from Teradata, and asked him how relevant specific projects of mine may be to practical security experience. After the event, I continued to keep in touch with the professional via LinkedIn and email. He sent me various links to resources that introduced security topics that I was interested in learning more about. Eventually, this individual introduced me to a few other employees from Teradata.

I will never forget this day. It meant so much to me that six security professionals took the time to have lunch with me a few weeks after the event and answer some questions regarding what it is like to work in the industry. By the end of the lunch, the Application Security team director asked me for my resume. He informed me that there were no internship opportunities for the security organization at that time, however, he would like to reach out if one were to become available.

Just a month after this lunch, a recruiter reached out to me and asked me if I would like to interview for an open internship position on that very team. I became one of the first-ever interns in the security organization at Teradata. I interned with the Application Security team for a year and a quarter, and was responsible for delivering automated solutions to scale product security across the organization. It was a remarkable experience that gave me direction in my career path.

Where are you now?

I now work at Teradata’s San Diego office as a full-time offensive security engineer. My team and I use adversary perspectives to help Teradata evaluate risks and identify process gaps to help improve the organization’s security posture. I love working in this industry because I am constantly facing new challenges that require creative solutions. I would not have had this experience if I had not attended “Link to San Diego: Cybersecurity” in 2018.


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For COVID-19 recovery resources and information: Visit this page, or see how we can help your company free of charge.

Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Tourmaline Wireless

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched this Spring in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98% of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students are closing out their Summer internship experiences, EDC is rolling out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the first cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with Paul Victorine, CTO and Co-Founder at Tourmaline Wireless, who hosted two ASD interns. A part of the inaugural cohort of host companies, Tourmaline Wireless is building the future of decentralized wireless telecommunications. The Oceanside-based company provides resilient, off-grid solutions based on mesh networks, 4G LTE, and Iridium satellite.

Why was your company founded, and what are your current points of focus? 

I started the company at the beginning of 2019, after having worked for a Tier-1 wireless operator for nearly 20 years. I jumped at the opportunity to start my own consulting business, leveraging an extensive background in deploying and optimizing cellular networks. Tourmaline is currently developing a new gateway product that will allow localized mesh networks to connect to geographically separated networks across the globe. This gateway will allow neighborhoods and communities affected by natural disasters to continue communicating with their loved ones. This allows for the sharing of hyper-local information and will support offline payment remittances in far-off corners of the world. It might even provide hikers along the Pacific Crest Trail a means of “checking-in” with friends and family at various mile markers. There are many use-cases we envision for the mesh gateway, and we are excited to see how our customers anticipate using the device too!

Tell us about your experience building a small business in San Diego. What resources, services and/or organizations were most valuable in supporting Tourmaline’s growth?

Building a startup in San Diego has been a great experience overall! Valuable resources include following San Diego Regional EDC, Innovate78, and the City of Oceanside. There is a ton of talent here in San Diego – largely coming out of the many colleges and universities spread throughout the county. There is also a surprising amount of resources available here that help support small business. I’ve been really impressed with all the grants, loans, and positive encouragement broadcast daily from San Diego Regional EDC.

How has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?

As a result of COVID-19, we decided to go all-in and focus exclusively on new product development as our day-to-day consulting jobs (designing, installing, and optimizing cellular in-building equipment) were mostly sidelined due to COVID-19.

Tell us a little bit about your interns and the value they bring.

We are currently hosting two college interns through the ASD program, who you’ll hear from in another blog post. One intern is soon graduating from UC San Diego, with a BS in Computer Science. Our second intern will be starting her Junior year at NYU, as a transfer from Mesa College, also studying Computer Science. The internship experience was definitely a challenge given its fully remote format. Plus, it was our first time hosting interns, but it turned out to be a rewarding experience for all of us. They helped troubleshoot and improve our existing software codebase, adding new features and functionality. We were able to meet up in-person (socially distanced, of course) for a field day of wireless range testing at Balboa Park. It was a fun experience and I think it helped the interns better understand the capability of wireless mesh communications.

In your opinion, what is special about San Diego’s science and technology community, and the talent that drives it?

San Diego has historically been a technology-driven community, from the early days with the focus on military and defense (companies like General Dynamics) to the early 2000’s being a wireless hotbed (including Qualcomm, Nokia, etc). Now we are starting to see software really taking hold here, with companies like Apple opening offices and building out their local workforce. San Diego really is the perfect choice for STEAM students to select for college and then stay to launch their careers.

Visit Tourmaline Wireless on web and Instagram.

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

Advancing San Diego: What we’ve done in one year

EDC’s inclusive growth strategy is fueled by three key economic ingredients: skilled workers, quality jobs (particularly in small companies) and thriving households. Launched in 2019 with funding from JP Morgan Chase, Advancing San Diego is helping the region meet its inclusive growth goals by addressing skilled talent shortages and expanding access to quality job opportunities. Advancing San Diego partners, in lockstep with industry and education partners, recognize that each group has a role to play in developing and strengthening our local talent pool.

The challenge & the opportunity

Employers cite access to diverse, qualified talent as a top challenge within their business, relying on high-cost recruitment strategies to fill job openings. Meanwhile, San Diego is a diverse community with an education system that serves hundreds of thousands of San Diegans (10 community colleges, 5 universities, numerous non-traditional training programs). Black and Hispanic San Diegans make up more than half of our population, but are glaringly underrepresented in high-demand jobs.

Advancing San Diego introduces a collaborative, region-wide strategy to prepare San Diegans for high-demand jobs via our locally-serving education intuitions. While labor market data is improving, there is not a consistent approach for adapting education to meet industry expectations. With clear and consistent communication about skills, we collectively create an environment where San Diegans are trained for, and can access quality job opportunities, and employers can look to our local talent pool for their hiring needs.

Talent development amid a global pandemic

We felt the initial impacts of the pandemic across our entire economy. Unemployment in San Diego rose from 4.2% to 15% in a matter of months, with some industries experiencing a 50% decline in their workforce. Of the jobs impacted the most, many were already at risk of decline due to factors including automation and digitization. Further, the highest-risk jobs are disproportionately held by Black and Hispanic San Diegans.

Other industries, particularity innovation industries, took less of a hit as business held steady and employees had the option to work remotely. Jobs most insulated from the impacts of the pandemic are disproportionately held by white and Asian San Diegans.

Pre- and post-COVID-19, software developers continue to rank among the highest demand occupations in San Diego. In May, software developers were the second most advertised job in San Diego, with 3,000 postings. With numerous training options beyond a 4-year degree, software engineers can be trained relatively quickly at a much lower cost to the individual, and both training and jobs can be done from essentially anywhere with an internet connection. As such, Advancing San Diego started its work by informing education providers on skills requirements for software engineers, and is actively working with employers do the same for engineering and business professionals. 

The Advancing San Diego approach

Advancing San Diego is a demand-driven, outcomes based strategy for strengthening lines of communication between industry and education, and expanding access to talent for small companies.

  1. COMMUNICATION: employer working groups communicate hiring requirements for entry-level jobs, offer feedback to education providers on how to update & improve curriculum, and recognize “Preferred Providers” as delivering top-quality training for quality jobs. It’s through this process that employers also gain a better understanding of which local institutions they should be recruiting from.
    YEAR 1 PROGRESS: 30+ employers have actively engaged in working groups to communicate skills criteria, offer feedback on curricula, and grow the network of Preferred Provider programs. Following their participation in the working group, many employers express interest in hiring from a community college, university, or non-traditional training program where they had not previously recruited from.
    >> Skills Reports for Software Talent & Engineering Talent
  1. ADAPTATION: with better communication from industry, education programs can more effectively train talent that employers want to hire. Education programs are also recognized by employers for their ability to reach and serve a diverse student body.
    YEAR 1 PROGRESS: Employers have offered feedback to 21 education programs; 7 have been selected as Preferred Providers of software talent, and Preferred Providers of engineering talent will be announced in coming weeks. Multiple programs who were not selected are actively adapting programs for reconsideration as a Preferred Providers, which are evaluated annually.
    >> More information on Preferred Providers
  1. ACCESS: Small companies (<100 employees) often do not have the time or resources to effectively recruit top talent. At no cost to them, small companies can host paid interns from Preferred Provider programs as part of Advancing San Diego. These companies receive training for building successful remote teams, access to a software platform for managing remote interns, and interns are eligible for $500 in products or services that support their internship success. The internship program prioritizes students who are first generation college students, community college students, or residents of San Diego’s low income communities.
    YEAR 1 PROGRESS: 22 small companies from a variety of industries are hosting ASD interns remotely this summer. A second cohort of companies is currently being recruited to meet interest in this program from students, many of whom are experiencing heightened anxiety due to job-market uncertainty.
    >> The average size of companies in this cohort is 12 employees, and 54% of host companies identify as either minority, woman, disabled, veteran, or immigrant-owned.
    >> ASD has placed +40 software engineering interns from community college, university, and non-traditional education backgrounds. 100% of interns are either first-gen college students, community college students, veterans, or residents of San Diego’s low income communities.

What’s next?

Advancing San Diego was designed as a cyclical process that is responsive to the ever-changing needs of the economy. Our priority remains to better prepare the local talent pool for the jobs our economy needs, and provide better access to talent for small companies. Even once shelter-in-place guidelines are lifted, we will continue to offer paid remote work experiences as one way to remove geographic and scheduling barriers for students and companies.

However, we realize that not all jobs can be done remotely. While we will continue to focus on high-demand job areas such as software, we will lean into jobs that are economically resilient, good-paying jobs that are accessible via shorter-term training and have cross-cutting industry need. We believe this approach will increase our ability to support those most impacted by the pandemic on a path to economic stability.

For more updates on Advancing San Diego, visit the program page.

Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Welfie

The Advancing San Diego Internship Program launched this spring and students are now beginning their summer internship experiences in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While students’ experiences are in their early stages, we’re launching this blog series to highlight the exciting local companies that are hosting interns in the program’s first round of internships.

We sat down with Steve Moyo, CEO at Welfie. Part of the inaugural cohort of host companies, Welfie, which stands for a ‘wellness selfie’, provides a snapshot of one’s health and delivers personalized content, products and services to meet individuals’ health needs – all while connecting users with people and professionals who care.

Tell us about you and your story.

I am a Zulu. I was born in Zambia and grew up in Canada. I moved to the US for medical school where I met a wonderful woman from Michigan. After I finished my Internal Medicine residency at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore I moved here to San Diego, for said woman. I founded Welfie as an extension of what I am most passionate about: promoting heart health and using content to tell stories. Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S., and much like COVID-19, it has profoundly impacted the various communities that I am connected to, from healthcare workers to communities of color. Welfie is excited to be helping communities, universities, colleges and businesses, solve the immediate problem of how to “Get Back To Campus, Safely” with our symptom screening app and high quality PPE. But our long term focus is much bigger than just COVID-19, we sit primed to address important issues of our time, which include heart health, mental health and racial health disparities. We are starting here, in San Diego, focusing on local schools, businesses and communities and we call on any San Diego community leaders to contact us to collaborate.

How was your experience building a small business/startup in San Diego?

San Diego has been a great place to start a company. There are countless individuals, consultants, companies and organizations that have been essential to getting us where we are today. We are proud members of The Brink, San Diego Venture Group (now Connect), and part of the third cohort at Connect All Jacobs Center. The San Diego Angels Conference has been immensely influential as well as San Diego Startup Week. These are just a few of the organizations that have helped us grow rapidly and find our way in the entrepreneurial start up world.

How has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?

Welfie offers a one-stop-shop for universities, colleges and businesses to “Get Back To Campus, Safely.” We developed a simple 3-point plan:

  • Prepare – Welfie has launched a COVID-19 symptom screening app to help community leaders prepare to return. Screen employees and students daily for symptoms and fever. And create a culture of trust, care and accountability.
  • Prevent – We have a high quality PPE store backed by an FDA/NIOSH certified supply chain where you can get PPE in bulk and subscribe to the Welfie Care Package – PPE delivered to your door monthly.
  • Protect – we are developing real time data analytics and insights that will allow community leaders and individuals to assess their risk, and make the right decisions for their communities, families and themselves.The decision to pivot was easy. We had to do something. Identifying the right thing to do and where we felt we could have the greatest impact, quickly was the key. We ultimately decided to stick to our wheelhouse, education, engagement and empowering people to make the right decisions. So while I used to say ‘pivot’, I now prefer to say expanded. Welfie is a community health platform that has been focused on prevention. We started our journey focused on heart health, and have expanded to COVID-19.

How did you find out about Advancing San Diego and how has your experience been so far?

Credit goes to the local San Diego network. It was one of those weeks where mentors and advisors were all pointing me in the right direction and Advancing San Diego came up in numerous conversations. One key part of the community health platform we are building centers around health influencers, doctors, fitness coaches, perhaps even your mom. Our current software development interns are focused on building the essential features that a health influencer would need, from chat to a social health feed and including video hosting capabilities.

What is special about San Diego’s science and technology community, and the talent that drives it?

I think honesty and humility are two keywords that define the community here. People honestly want to see each other succeed. There is a great energy that San Diego is on the cusp of becoming an even stronger science and tech hub. And, that instead of exporting talent we are importing, cultivating and nurturing people and companies right here. The humility of San Diego’s leaders in science and technology to remain open to connection, mentorship and collaboration with local startups has been unique.

What words of advice would you give to the San Diego community to more effectively support entrepreneurs?

Perhaps it is the musician in me speaking but I would love to continue to see more collaboration. I think, specifically, in the area where Welfie is focused, digital health. There is a ‘stronger together’ narrative for startups to be able to succeed in the current environment. So intra-industry collaboration plus collaborating across industry as well I think can only enhance opportunity, success and is just fun.

Contact Info:

Learn more:

 

‘Still Hiring’ list connects local job seekers to new opportunities

Over the past few weeks, it’s fair to say that our world (and community) have been turned upside down. Given the current circumstances, we know there are many San Diego job seekers on the market. And while things are changing rapidly, we are still getting calls from companies that are hiring and VCs that are still looking to invest.

The solution:

Over the last week, EDC’s San Diego: Life. Changing. program partnered with Startup San Diego and Connect to help our local job seekers connect with all of the San Diego tech and life sciences companies that are still hiring.

The result: a growing, “live” list of more than 25 companies that are still looking for innovative San Diegans to fill open positions. The list is updated almost daily with new companies and to ensure the most current news, company representatives themselves submit hiring information. With open opportunities at tech giants like Qualcomm, life sciences teams like BD, and even nonprofits and startups, we’re hopeful our community will quickly find exciting new positions working on homegrown innovations.

Click here or scroll down to see the live list of San Diego companies that are hiring. And if your company is still hiring, we encourage your team to use this form to provide our San Diego community with additional details. It takes under a minute to pay it forward – and help someone in our community find their next opportunity.

We’re in this together, San Diego. #SDtogether

Hiring in San Diego: