As a young professional in his early thirties, I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico after working for years in the Austin, Texas startup scene. With a slightly surprised look on their face, many Burqueños ask me why I moved to the ABQ from ATX. Initially, my move was to get away from Austin. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fun city, but I grew tired of raising prices and egos. Also, the exodus of black people and liberalization of gun-wielding did not make feel happy or proud to be there.
When I was researching New Mexico online, I realized that it doesn’t really sell itself well to attract young tech professional like myself. The #NewMexicoTrue campaign both formally and informally tends to focus on highlighting touristy stuff such as local craft booze, green chile and the great outdoors. For millennials, those things are nice but they what I would consider “table stakes” in terms of attracting young talent to your city. It wasn’t until I lived in the Land of Enchantment that I began to understand more on why I continue to stay here after my first year.
Build Something Dope
Albuquerque is a great place for startup experimentation. As a tech organizer and developer advocate, I saw how I could help grow the tech sector and create new initiatives. Standing out in larger cities is difficult because there are so many people fighting for the same backing. Here in New Mexico, if you are driven and ambitious, there are people that will support you and want you here innovating. Without a doubt, your initiative will eventually grow beyond the State and will need to raise capital from out-of-state. Unlike the past history of tech companies such as Microsoft, having to move away from Albuquerque. There are many new tech companies (RS21, RiskSense, Xpansiv, MyLens to name a few) that are finding models to set up shop here in New Mexico. The New Mexican canvas allows us to stand out from all the noise of larger tech hubs.
For your 30s, not your 20s
The cheaper cost of living out here in ABQ has opened up opportunities for me. I never thought I would be able to invest into real estate or buy a home when I lived in ATX. New Mexico’s culture feels more collectivistic which I enjoy more as I mature in age. It feels less individualistic and rigid than boomtowns in Colorado and Texas. There are a lot of young families in their early thirties here ready to go to work as the young college graduates leave. They are joining transformative training programs in technology and entrepreneurship to find a way they can thrive here in New Mexico. On a personal note: I don’t think it is right to try to retain a twenty-something-year-olds here and not encourage them to go out and explore the world. Instead, I think we need to tell more stories about young tech talent and young families that have planted their roots here to stay.
A Brown Canvas
There are a lot of different shades of brown here. You can clearly see it in nature with our beautiful mountains and thought-provoking desert sunsets. You can see it in the intriguingly diverse architecture and shapes. You can see it in the people as New Mexico has cultural roots of indigenous Native American tribes and descendants of the “Old” Mexico, or what some people call “Spanish” descent. Diversity in Albuquerque is apparent, you can see it. When I host delegations from out-of-state or different countries, one of the first things that they notice and say out loud is that everything is brown. They really notice shapes and colors, finding the city with the brown canvas unique.
Albuquerque is Quirky
There are no giant signs that advertise “Keep it Weird” like there are in cities like Portland and Austin. Burque, as the locals call it, is just quirky in general. The city is an interesting mix of laid back collectivism combined with a leading edge scientific experimentation and innovation. Pretty much nothing is cookie cutter or straight edge here like many cities are becoming in the United States. You can see it in the infrastructure and urban planning. The roads, for example, are never straight, and the lanes are not always logical. You might see this as in-effective but for me, the quirkiness keeps me on my toes, I am always looking to create and innovate rather than becoming complacent and machine like. This quirkiness I believe is a big reason why we are starting to see a growing creative economy as Netflix decided to join hundreds of other creative tech companies in New Mexico.
I am very thankful to all the wonderful people and organizations that have helped me find a home here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Always happy to talk with young tech talent considering moving here. I know trying to understand this place online or just driving through doesn’t work, you have to know people. Happy to buy you a burrito and coffee.