Before we get started, let me state that I am not expressing Citrix’s views. I’m just an employee that is stating things from my own perspective.
One of Citrix’s greatest long term challenges has been to attract and retain talent in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. From the earliest days, it has always taken extra work to convince people to move to Florida. This is especially true for college graduates. Places like the Silicon Valley are much more attractive since they offer a much wider base of technology companies and opportunities.
Even though South Florida offers a wonderful winter climate, and a beach-based culture, it just isn’t attractive enough for the average candidate. Microsoft has perhaps the most overcast weather around and yet it draws talent easily. Of course it does not hurt to be the most successful software company around with the biggest reputation.
Citrix was started in Florida because it was launched from talent coming from places like IBM Boca Raton. IBM left the site in 1995 and many of the people transferred to Austin, Texas. Between 1989 and 1995, Citrix quietly hired a number of engineers away from the OS/2 project. The point is that this talent base dried up. And, even with all of IBM’s success with hiring people for IBM Boca Raton, they still had trouble convincing people to move there.
Having lived there for eight years from 1989 to 1997, I have enough background to explain why South Florida is not the ideal environment for a high tech business.
- Schools – Historically, South Florida has not supported schools very well. This has been due to a large older population that does not want to pay taxes for schools. The older generation has a lot of clout in South Florida and they usually get what they want.
- Image – South Florida is viewed as being either a holiday destination or a retirement place. It is not seen as a place to live at. This one is hard to nail down but essentially most people don’t think about mixing business with pleasure.
- Support – Being a high tech company means that you expect some kind of support chain from other businesses or from the local government. Both of these are fairly weak in South Florida. There are very few companies that do advanced software there. Overall it seems like the government does not really understand or care.
- Isolation – Florida is not close to anything really except water and Georgia. A much more robust tech environment surrounds Atlanta, Georgia but even that location is too far away to be considered close to Florida.
- Climate – Even though winters are great, summers are not. Hot and humid with lots of storms. It is not bad with air conditioning but it can get old after awhile. South Florida has a very low elevation and has canals everywhere to drain areas that used to be swamp land. This is not as bad as it sounds but when the landfill is the highest point for miles around it tends to make you think that something is wrong.
- Population – Being young and single in South Florida is not the way to be. Well, it is good if you want to party and carry on but it is bad if you are thinking about dating and settling down. Florida is a place of extremes that tends to encourage the very young or the very old. There are people in the middle but they are typically not very happy with how things are.
- Hedonism – It is one of the few places on earth that encourages excess to this degree. Boca Raton is an amazing place but it also happens to be a place of incredible wealth. Perhaps it is not so bad to be rich but from my experience it tends to encourage other problems. I have seen a similar pattern in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. It is not good for kids to grow up in this kind of environment.
Recently there was an article in the Miami Herald that suggests that Citrix might be transferring jobs out of Florida. The article paints a picture that suggests Citrix is going to move. Internally this has been classified as a rumor that is not true.
Citrix will need to adapt to survive and sticking to one pattern that does not work well in all situations certainly does not make sense. Citrix will need to find talent to succeed. Without addressing the potential transition, it is clear that Citrix needs to go where the action is. I would seriously doubt that Citrix will abandon its efforts in South Florida. However, if it does have more success hiring somewhere else I would bet that it will take advantage of that new situation.
Citrix is an international company with offices scattered across the world. There are major offices for development in the UK, India, and Australia. There is development work going on in Japan. Even in America there is major work being undertaken in California and Massachusetts. The point is that the distribution of work has already happened. It would be unlikely that anything radical would take place in one swift move.
One last point. With remote workers, location becomes irrelevant. This is the future of working and Citrix has helped to make this possible. Technically I could report to any development office in the world and still get my work done. The closest Citrix office to me is 600 miles away. The technology I use doesn’t care about this and could easily cover all the way to Ft Lauderdale. I think we all take this for granted. But why?