Ernie Hsiung’s advice for technology talent

Ernie Hsiung moved his technology work to Miami from San Francisco, but he didn’t do it for his career. He did it for his partner’s. At the time, there wasn’t much to make a Bay Area developer, who’d worked in Yahoo’s R&D lab and at startups like Ning, feel at home in Miami’s technology community — because there wasn’t much of one.

Hsiung met his partner while visiting Miami on vacation, and they started dating long-distance. “I’m from a place where people are inherently cognizant of what’s going on and who their city commissioner is.”

That culture drove Hsiung’s desire to get involved. He cofounded Code for Miami, bringing together locals with an interest in technology, who work together to build open-source tools and data that help people interact with government more effectively. “When I came here, everyone was like, ‘We can’t change anything. Don’t worry, it’s a Latin thing.’ Half the reason I ended up sticking with Code for Miami is to see if there’s a way we can change that. It was me trying to understand how this city works.”

As a developer with more than a decade of experience, Hsiung sees a lot of room for Miami’s community to grow and get more serious about technology talent. While new projects like coding schools have promise for training junior technology employees, he said, they don’t solve the entire challenge.

Today, Hsiung is a Code for America fellow for Miami-Dade County and organizer of the Miami Front End Developers Meetup. We caught up with him to talk about what it’s like to build technology in Miami, his advice for young developers, and what needs to happen to build a mature tech industry.

On moving to Miami

I would come here and say, this is a nice place but I would never move here. I’m a techie, there’s no tech here, why would I do this?” he says. But when his partner got a grant to open an independent cinema in Miami, he made the move.

I got the biggest culture shock. The people are different, the industries are different. For all the tech there is now in Miami, there was less of that three years ago. It got to a point where I said, “If I’m still not happy here in a year, I’m going to go back.”

My partner ended up calling me out. I would complain about not finding developer groups, and he said, “Look. If you don’t see any, just shut up and start one.” So I did.

Building a real tech industry in Miami

What Miami hasn’t figured out yet that other cities have more of is that whole ecosystem. Miami doesn’t lack for programmers; what there isn’t a lot of is density.

The tech industry in general is known for being open, but in Miami, people feel a little closed in. Hopefully that spirit of openness can still happen. Here’s what I want to see: less about the business side. More about the tech and developer side.

I want to see more about project and product management. I want to have folks understand that there’s so many levels to coding besides the six weeks you learn in coding school. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, there’s just so much more about development. You learn so much about builds and architecture and user interfaces — even how to manage people building those things.

Disclosure: Hsiung’s cofounder, Rebekah Monson, is a cofounder of The New Tropic