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Another Crisis – Another Silver Lining

The Charleston Digital Corridor was launched in 2001 with three basic objectives – 1) raise per-capita wages, 2) deepen economic diversity and, 3) stimulate higher-wage job opportunities. Of these three, perhaps the most important is economic diversification. Why? Because economic diversity translates into economic resilience.

Twenty years and three recessions later, the Charleston region is the most economically resilient it has ever been. In an apt analogy, it has been somewhat vaccinated to better weather economic downturns, thanks in large part to the region's growing tech community. This is not to minimize or ignore the dent some industries and workers, i.e. hospitality, took during the past year. However, the health and resilience of the tech industry served to somewhat mitigate the overall impact.

Charleston's tech industry, comprised of approximately 500 companies, continues to grow at a steady and consistent pace and ironically, from my experience, many of Charleston's tech companies actually see job and income growth in the midst of challenging times such as we had. This is partly due to the elevated demand that occurs during such times for software and tech services aimed at aiding businesses in all industries increase the efficiency of their operations.

Another factor in the growth and resilience of Charleston's tech economy can be attributed to several macro employment trends I have observed which have actually been underway for many years but indeed appear to accelerate during times of crisis, in this case COVID-19. Here are three:

* Hiring remote
The need for qualified and skilled talent is constant. Companies seek and hire professionals irrespective of their geographic location. Charleston's growing talent pool, combined with an increasing number of quality job openings, livability and reasonable cost of living is directly responsible for the growth of the region's tech industry.

* Satellite offices
The relocation of senior company executives to Charleston for family or quality of life reasons end up forming satellite offices and then build up teams of high-performing local professionals engaged in strategic projects or services for the parent company.

* Distributed workforce
Companies are increasingly making the strategic decision to decentralize their operations and move or create teams or even whole departments in other locations to help ensure business continuity, improve customer relations/service and reduce turnover.

In the last few weeks, I have fielded calls from tech entrepreneurs currently based in New York, Seattle, Connecticut and Ohio, all of whom are in the process of relocating their businesses to Charleston. Thankfully, with the development of the Charleston Tech Center, and in conjunction with our partnerships with the City of Charleston, Charleston County and SC Department of Commerce, the Charleston Digital Corridor is well positioned to welcome these new businesses to our tech community.

I'm very pleased and gratified by the continuing success and growth of our member companies, and the tech community as a whole, even in periods of economic strife. So yes, I call that a real silver lining. The entrepreneurs win, the Charleston region wins and the fundamental merit of the Charleston Digital Corridor's original mission is again reaffirmed.

LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Dorsey Carves Out Niche In CRM Software Space

Sikes Dorsey is Chief Operating Officer and Managing Partner of Cloud on Tap, a certified Salesforce integration company based in Charleston. Focusing primarily on healthcare and financial services, Cloud on Tap helps customers optimize their use of Salesforce platforms, empowering them to reach their full potential. Cloud on Tap saw impressive growth in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, by leveraging their extensive knowledge and background to assist the healthcare industry.

This series is brought to you by Charleston County Economic Development.

Growing up, Sikes Dorsey called Pelham, Georgia, home. The small, one-red-light-town in southwest Georgia afforded him a childhood full of adventure. Dorsey spent most of his days outdoors, hunting and fishing just beyond his own backyard. It was in high school that he landed his first job working for the Pelham Journal, the local newspaper.

"I wrote the 'Sideline Slants with Sikes Dorsey' column," he said. "I was the fearless forecaster. I covered all the sports events in the area. I had amazing opportunities to sit in press boxes at the Georgia vs. Alabama games in the Jordan Hare Stadium. It was a blast!"

He credits those days with laying the foundation for his understanding of people and "what makes the world go 'round." They taught him to be nimble, flexible, and open-minded in order to be successful while working with others.

Dorsey found his way to Charleston, S.C., through his first job working for corporate America. In December of 1998, he brought his wife down to this beach town in an attempt to convince her to leave their life in Atlanta behind. Somehow, even in the thick of Charleston fog, he prevailed, and his family moved in 1999. Now a resident for over twenty years, Dorsey considers Charleston home.

"Charleston is intoxicating," said Dorsey. "Once it gets in your blood, you can't imagine leaving. It's the smell of pluff mud, the people, the vibes, the town. It's just unbelievable."

It was that same infatuation with the city that kept him from moving when corporate America called again. In fact, when they asked Dorsey to move his family back to Atlanta, he said, "My wife not only said no, she said hell no!" After working a few jobs, he founded Cloud on Tap in 2012. By working exclusively with Salesforce, Dorsey and his team have established themselves as experts in guiding customers to maximize their investment in the platform. Their holistic approach has landed them over 900 successful projects, with more to come in the future.

Dorsey sat down with the Charleston Digital Corridor to discuss his company's work, growth, and future.

How did you get into the tech industry?

I was in the engineering department at my first job out of college, so I experienced industrial automation firsthand and the impact technology had on the companies. When I started back in the mid-eighties, everything was electromechanical. We were the distributor for Allen Bradley, an industrial automation platform, so I worked with different companies as they implemented automation on the plant floor. We helped design those systems. That's where I learned how to use critical thinking to successfully address a problem.

In your own words, what is Cloud on Tap?

We're a Salesforce implementation partner. We help our customers onboard Salesforce tools to improve their business processes to become more efficient and manage their sales pipeline to close more deals. After starting with a broad industry focus within Salesforce, including manufacturing, distribution, medical, and financial, we now focus on healthcare and financial services.

Do you consider yourself entrepreneurial?

Yeah, definitely. I think "entrepreneurial" is a spirit that you have. It comes naturally. It takes a little bit of risk-taker, a little bit of a vision, and, at the end of the day, you have to be willing to roll the dice and see what happens.

How would you define the culture you've built at Cloud on Tap?

Our company as a whole is a family. I know that word is probably overused when you talk about business culture, but we genuinely support each other, personally and professionally. Our culture is very laid back. Work hard, play hard is kind of our motto. I think we do a really good job of taking care of business, but we also enjoy going out and having fun, whether it's playing frisbee golf at Park Circle or getting together for happy hours.

How has COVID-19 affected your organization?

For starters, we all worked remote. It was pretty easy for us to make the shift from the office to home, but we miss everybody. We miss our time together. We're doing our best to maintain the organization's interpersonal relationships while having a virtual workforce, recognizing that COVID will pass.

We're trying to be very conscious about it. That way, when we go back into the office, we won't miss a beat. And once the Charleston Tech Center opens, we'll able to walk to all the great restaurants like Edmund's Oast, Home Team, Lewis BBQ, or Taco Boy for team lunches.

The pandemic did three things – it forced us to improve our communication, think outside the box, and operate more efficiently. That said, we haven't missed a beat. We were already prepared for growth, and we had an understanding of the healthcare market. We were able to quickly take advantage of all these new opportunities that were presented, unfortunately, as a result of COVID. Going into 2021, we see a strong year still supporting the healthcare and financial markets.

What do you base your management style on?

My philosophy is: If you don't try it, you're not going to make mistakes to learn from. I try to be very forgiving. People are going to mess up. That's just the nature of the beast. When things go south, we tackle the problem, address it, resolve it, and move on. But more importantly, we learn from that prior experience.

I had the best first boss. His philosophy was always, "don't sweat the small stuff." He was so willing to train me, to teach me things, so I aim to be calm and understanding. Overall, I try to treat people the way I want to be treated, and it seems to have worked out so far.

What are the biggest obstacles you've faced from when you started to where you are today?

Talent is always a challenge. Now we're in a much better place because the Digital Corridor has done a great job of nurturing the tech industry in Charleston and drawing talent to the community. We needed people that understood Salesforce, and we had trouble finding that here. We had to bring employees in and start from scratch. The talent landscape continues to improve.

Speaking of talent, what do you look for in potential employees?

When I interview somebody, I know whether I have the potential to hire them within the first five minutes because I'm looking for two things – a positive attitude and a willingness to learn. If they show these characteristics, we can polish them into successful employees.

What advice would you give new graduates coming to work for you?

The first thing I'd tell them is to keep an open mind. You can't have tunnel vision when it comes to your career. Number two is to be humble and listen. Humility will take you a long way, and listening will take you even further.

Who has had the most significant influence on your life?

God. And I really wish I'd have known him a lot sooner in my life. I've learned to appreciate everything He's done for my family and for me. I am blessed beyond belief.

God is my number one hero, and A1 is my wife - Mother Miriam, as we call her. Without her, I wouldn't be here today. She is just a wonderful woman, and she knows how to keep me grounded. She's just awesome.

What do you, what do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love just being outdoors. I love playing golf, fishing, hunting, and going to the mountains. I like doing whatever I can to enjoy the beauty of the Lowcountry. In Charleston, it's all easily accessible. You can hop in your car and be out on Sullivan's Island, walking the beach, in five minutes. Whether it's a beautiful sunrise or sunset, it's just nice here.

What has the Charleston Digital Corridor done to support you?

I'm excited about initiatives like the Digital Corridor, where the focus is balanced between attracting new companies to Charleston while maintaining long-term support for companies like mine. I think it's in a really, really good place right now. We can't wait to move into our office at the Charleston Tech Center!

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Blackbaud Spotlight

We are pleased to spotlight Blackbaud, whose main goal is driving impact for social good organizations.

  • Company Founded - 1981
  • Chief Executive - Mike Gianoni
  • Total number of employees - 3400+
  • Fun fact - 89% of Blackbaud employees either volunteered or served on a nonprofit board over the past year
  • Blackbaud Career Opportunities

Vikor Scientific Announces Strategic Investment in Quantgene, Inc.

Vikor Scientific, a leading, molecular diagnostics company with a rapidly expanding nationwide footprint, has announced a strategic investment in Quantgene Inc. to accelerate the commercialization of Quantgene's flagship product, SerenityTM. Serenity provides world-leading accuracy in precision genomics and AI-enabled personalized preventative care.

Quantgene's Serenity combines advanced next-generation sequencing with proprietary cloud and AI technology to uncover deeper and more meaningful health insights earlier. Serenity will launch with four core components of health protection.  Read more:

Charleston Digital Corridor Ready To Put Down Roots In New Morrison Drive Building

The Charleston Digital Corridor has seen a lot of new growth since its start in 2001. As technology progresses rapidly and the Lowcountry's population continues to explode, stars may be aligning for the tech sector to continue its upward growth in Charleston.

Even compared to Charleston's larger hospitality and medical sectors, Corridor Director Ernest Andrade said the nonprofit holds its own and, in some ways, comes out on top. Read more:

OhioLINK Brings Its Electronic Book Center Into The 21st Century

OhioLINK, Ohio's statewide academic library consortium, has partnered with BiblioBoard to implement a major update to its electronic book platform. Released December 30th, the modernized Electronic Book Center (EBC) provides an improved user experience, including digital accessibility, and mobile compatibility. BiblioBoard technology supports user-friendly browsing, searching, list-making, note-taking, bookmarking, online reading, and downloading of e-books and e-chapters on a variety of devices. Read more: 

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