Monday, April 23, 2001

The Cyber Scene in San Diego ~ by Lilia Phleger Benjamin

It finally happened. San Diego had its very own Pink Slip Party. Taking place at the Karl Strauss Brewery in Sorrento Valley on April 23rd, this first of its kind event for San Diego attracted hundreds of people in the high-tech industry. This incredibly crowded event was presented by CONNECT, a University of California San Diego (UCSD)-based provider of accelerated support services for high technology entrepreneurs in the San Diego area, the AeA, and the San Diego Tech Force The party was underwritten by Lee Hecht Harrison and Drake Beam Morin, both San Diego outplacement firms.

The path to the beautiful beer garden was marked by pink balloons, ensuring that no one lost their way to the event (or was it to help them find their way out afterwards?). At the door, those who had pre-registered were given a special name tag with a blank space following either "I am hiring ______," or "I am looking for a job as _________." By filling in the blanks, the mingling masses were able to beeline straight for their targets without wasting time or words. That focus was apparent as I walked around, listening in on impromptu interviews and quick question-and-answer sessions. This was an opportunity to meet with tech company HR representatives, employment outplacement firms and recruiters. Not one job seeker seemed prepared to let that opportunity go.

I spoke to Larry Rossi of Lee Hecht Harrison ( about the event and what it indicated for San Diego. While he agreed that things have slowed, he said that he feels strongly that the media has blown the trend out of proportion. "It makes a good story," he said, "but here in San Diego I don't think that it is as bad as it may seem."

Kevin Carroll, executive director of the San Diego division of the AeA, agreed. "Because we are a diverse economy with biotech, high-tech, telecom...I am optimistic that San Diego will continue to do well." Let's hope so!

Weaving my way to the delicious spread of appetizers, I rubbed shoulders (literally) with a handsome young man heading the other way. I asked him how he was faring, and he excitedly told me that he had arrived less than an hour ago with 15 copies of his resume, and they were all gone. A mechanical engineer by trade, he was very pleased with the companies and recruiters represented, and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, he was so good-looking that I forgot to ask his name, and once my attention strayed to the stuffed mushrooms there was no turning back.

At the buffet, I noshed with Leta Amick of The Search Network ( She had come looking for a person to fill an exciting audio-visual engineering job, and after an hour still had not found a qualified individual. But that didn't stop her from rating the event worthwhile, a comment I also heard from Sylvia Honeycutt of Qualtech Search ( Their search is for high-end software engineers who want a full-time position rather than contract work.

While many recruiters and outplacement firms were satisfied with taking resumes and a brief chat, Mark Murphy, president of Team ASA (, had arrived with the goal of filling two jobs that night. When I caught up with him he seemed pleased with the skill level of those he had interviewed, and judging by the amount of paperwork he was shuffling, he had a good selection of candidates.

After spending over an hour at San Diego's first Pink Slip Party, I decided it was time to head out to my next event of the evening, but not before saying hello to James Brody of Bexel Technologies. They, too, have seen business slow down. Nevertheless, Brody echoed the theme of the evening: San Diego, despite economic downturns, gas price hikes and rolling blackouts, is a pretty good place to be!

Until next time!