Santa Cruz Tech Beat

Companies

Q&A: Heather Heads Out

By Sara Isenberg
Founder, Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, Santa Cruz Tech Beat

January 2, 2018 — Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz Works Executive Director, Heather Putnam, has announced that she is stepping down and moving on to another job. Her influence on the organization has been substantial during her time at SCW. Here’s the scoop:

SCTB: You’re leaving SCW. What’s next on your horizon?

HP: I will be joining the team at a local company called SureHarvest.

SCTB: What will you be doing at SureHarvest?

HP: I am the new Client Engagement Manager at SureHarvest. Their clients include organizations like the Almond Board of California and the California Strawberry Commission. My job will be to work with clients to identify their needs around sustainability metrics, implement metrics tracking tools with the team, track and analyze the metrics data, and work with clients to identify opportunities to improve their sustainability metrics at the farm level and other levels.

SCTB: What have your 3-4 highlights been while you’ve been at SCW?

HP: Overall in the year and a half I have been leading Santa Cruz Works, the biggest change I have seen is how people talk about the Santa Cruz tech ecosystem. When I started, I heard a lot of people telling me that startups can’t make it in Santa Cruz, that there simply was no ecosystem here. I never hear that anymore. People seem excited by all the activity, and more importantly, entrepreneurs feel like this is a good place to start their companies and make a go of it. I was so privileged to be part of that change, along with other ecosystem drivers in our community, like Santa Cruz Tech Beat, Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup, the City of Santa Cruz Economic Development (EDO), and the slew of growing startups really adding energy and jobs to our community. We all have a role in this thing we are building. The achievement I am most proud of is the launch and growth of Santa Cruz Accelerates, our startup accelerator program. We built it from the ground up, created a model that works for Santa Cruz, and have been able to work with nine awesome startups since June 2017. Thanks to the support of UCSC and the City of Santa Cruz EDO, as well as the six volunteer executive mentors and over 25 mentors at large donating their time to the accelerator, we have been able to help these companies reach milestones. Some are getting funded right now, and others are getting their products to market in the first quarter of this year. It really has been a community effort, and I think that says something about how special Santa Cruz tech is.

SCTB: What challenges does the Santa Cruz tech community face in the coming few years?

HP: The most obvious challenge the tech community is facing right now is workforce housing. As companies like Looker and Amazon grow here, their workers will have a hard time finding housing. A second challenge is the workforce skills gap here in the County of Santa Cruz. I know anecdotally that our local educational institutions have some big opportunities to create training programs for workers to be hired directly into our growing tech companies. There is a need for specific skills here that are not being produced locally. If they do not do this, these companies will need to look elsewhere for their talent or import it.  So short-term boot camps and certificates could do a lot to move workers with the right skills directly into tech jobs here in the County. Commercial space will probably also become a challenge in the next few years as our startups grow and others get launched.

SCTB: What is SCW board’s plans for new leadership at SCW and the Accelerator?

HP: The SCW Board is exploring currently different options for new leadership to take SCW to the next level this year. Anyone interested should reach out to Bob Cagle, Chair of the Board of Directors.

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