Door prizes including 2 Sidewalk passes and a chance to win a private group Pedal Tour for 14! Join Bham Now and friends at 5:30 – 7pm at Avondale Brewery, upstairs. It’s free!
From starting multiple companies to teaching, raising kids, and becoming the president and CEO of TechBirmingham, Jennifer Skjellum just might be superwoman. Join Bham Now’s next BOLD speaker event to hear her story!
Check out our interview with Ms. Skjellum here.
Tell me about your backstory and how you ended up in Birmingham.
I was born and raised in California, and I went to graduate school in Milwaukee. Then, I moved to Starkville, Mississippi. I took a teaching job, because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. While I was there, I met my husband. We ended up staying there for about ten years and we started a company together.
In 2003, we moved to Birmingham when my husband took a job at UAB as the Chair of Computer Science.
How did you get involved with TechBirmingham?
When I started RunTime Computing in 2009, I had less meetings and travel, so I had more time to look at Birmingham and see where I could give back.
I had been on the board of TechBirmingham since 2004, and I was a chair person in 2008. In 2011/2012, we were trying to figure out- it was all volunteer based- what the future of the organization was. It was at that point the board asked if I would step in as President and decide what the future of TechBirmingham should be.
What need does TechBirmingham meet in our city?
I think, at a high level, it helps create a platform for technologist and tech companies to exchange ideas. Plus, it gives those people a way to give back in an area they’re passionate about, such as at our kid’s coding camp.
Also, we serve as an evangelist for Birmingham. We do a lot of promotion outside of the region to let people know what is going on here, so that people can appreciate the tech community here.
What would you say are the greatest strengths and weaknesses of our city?
The weaknesses are what many cities have right now: high crime rates and job growth is mediocre compared to the national average. People look at those things when they are deciding where to move or start a company.
As far as the strengths, the opportunity to get involved is great here. If you are willing to reach out, you can find access to top-notch people and resources a lot easier than in a bigger city.
What advice would you give your college graduate self?
Try to put aside confidence issues, because you never know what you can achieve if you don’t hesitate.
Don’t hesitate, just go for it.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Birmingham?
It’s hard to pick! I eat lunch out quite a bit. I really had an El Barrio thing for a while. I try not to go to the same place all of the time, so maybe Pizitz Food Hall is my favorite right now.
What was the thought process behind Sloss Tech?
The idea was to get millennials, young professionals and even older professionals to look at Birmingham as a place to come work. We were doing some of that through social media, but wanted to do that in a more concentrated effort.
We talked to a lot of companies who struggled to get people to consider jobs in Birmingham, but once they got them here, then they had a pretty high success rate in hiring them. The idea was to create a site where we could promote companies, mostly through video, and facts about Birmingham to get people interested in applying for jobs.
How do you hope to see the vision of TechBirmingham move forward after you leave?
So, I announced I would be leaving TechBirmingham at the end of October, assuming the board can hire a good replacement.
The next leader will have to be someone who has fresh ideas about growing the organization. We’ve planted a lot of good seeds, with coding initiatives but we have the capacity to serve more people. And just to continue to grow this focus on Birmingham.
Without outside validation that Birmingham is a growing tech scene, the city won’t grow. The lifestyle- food, hangout, etc- is crucial, but in the end, it is really about jobs. People need to see the growing, vibrant tech community in this city
BOLD Speaker Series – it’s FREE!
If you want to hear more from Jennifer, or even get the chance to meet her, then come out to Bham Now’s next BOLD speaker series where she will be telling her personal story.
The event takes place Tuesday, August 22th from 5:30pm-7pm, upstairs in the Avondale Brewery. Come out, have a beer, and meet other members of the Birmingham community! Minors welcome.