French firm Capgemini hopes to draw Columbia’s tech-savvy finest to its BullStreet home
Nov 09, 2018 09:40AM
● By Nicole Satian
Photo by Burton Fowles
By Anne Creed
People may think they know why global tech giant Capgemini came to Columbia, but they would probably be wrong.
After Capgemini’s acquisition of TCube Solutions, Sam and Sandy McGuckin’s insurance technology company that grew up through the University of South Carolina Technology Incubator, it seemed a given that TCube was the reason why the $15 billion French firm chose Columbia for its expansion. But the truth is that Columbia was already on the shortlist for Capgemini’s next expansion before the company bought TCube.
“We wanted a city that had a young population that was fueled by a flagship university like USC,” says Paul Naquin, Capgemini’s executive vice president of operations for North America. “We wanted a big airport, a favorable cost of living, IT wages where there wouldn’t be a lot of competition for talent, and we wanted to have a good relationship with local officials.
“Columbia was on our shortlist on its own merit. When the TCube acquisition happened at the last minute, it tilted the scales,” Naquin says.
Capgemini expects to have 500 employees at their new BullStreet District offices. These employees will be hired in phases, and hiring has proceeded quickly, slowed only by the time it takes to complete space to put them in.
Capgemini is a 200,000-employee, 50-year-old company based in Paris. “One-hundred thousand people are in India, and we do a lot of our development work offshore,” Naquin says. “With changing dynamics in the marketplace and changing skill requirements, we decided to look into doing more development options onshore, closer to our clients." Columbia is Capgemini's first Advanced Technology and Development Center; a second is now located in Chicago.
“Our goal is to put our most leading-edge technology in Columbia. Things like digital manufacturing, intelligent automation, cloud migration, Salesforce.com,” Naquin says.
Capgemini will also put a security operations center in Columbia. “We will monitor client networks 24/7 for uptime and cybersecurity,” Naquin adds. “It is the first security center that we know of in Columbia.”
Attracted to Columbia’s Workforce
One of the things that attracted Capgemini to Columbia was the workforce. “We don’t sell assets. We don’t sell hardware. We are a service provider. We sell people,” Naquin says. “We are really in the relationship business.”
That means that the people they hire need to not only have technical skills, but also to have good people skills.
“We are going to be deliberate about the people we put in the center,” he says. “The way we win deals and the way we maintain clients is our people. No offense to the people in the Northeast or the West Coast, but there is a Southern charm and friendliness [in Columbia] that you don’t see everywhere else, and we want our clients to experience that. It has the potential to help us.”
Capgemini was also attracted to Columbia’s workforce because of the willingness of USC and other institutions to work with them to create coursework that will prepare graduates to work in a changing field.
One of the challenges that all technology companies face is that they develop talent only to have it hired away to another company in another city. Columbia’s workforce is attractive to them because people in Columbia tend to like to stay here and are loyal to the area.
“We are looking for employees and students who want to stay in Columbia and put down roots here. We want people who want to be a part of the community,” he says.
Additionally, Capgemini was attracted to Columbia because of Fort Jackson and other nearby military facilities. “We also want to draw from the military bases, [hiring] people who are coming out of military life and their spouses,” says Naquin. He says Capgemini has already begun working with Ft. Jackson and Ft. Gordon because those potential employees “already have a lot of cybersecurity expertise.”
A Workspace That Encourages Employees to Stay
Capgemini chose to locate in the BullStreet District because “it’s a really great place,” Naquin says. “We’ve met with Bob and Robert Hughes (the developers) and they’ve got a vision. The campus needs some care, but we believe (in) what the Hughes guys are doing.
“We know we are on the front end, and we believe that the critical mass will get there,” he says. The location is also highly desirable, only a mile from campus and the State House.
Capgemini believes that the BullStreet District will appeal to its employees. “There is a ‘coolness’ factor. The space we have built is deliberate and purposeful. It is meant to generate teaming and creativity. For the people we are trying to hire, we want it to be fun,” Naquin says.
“There might be a dog there. You can wear shorts and sit in bean bag chairs. We want it to be a fun place where people want to hang out and stay. Where it’s fun to watch baseball or go to happy hour,” says Naquin. “It’s not going to be a place where you clock in and out.”
Bringing More Exposure to Columbia
Capgemini’s clients are in fields including life sciences, utilities, consumer products, entertainment, and media technology.
“The good news is that the state and the city will have a regular cadence of Fortune 500 managers coming to Columbia,” he says. They’ll be staying in the city’s hotels, eating in the restaurants, and going to baseball games and other entertainment venues.
Naquin says, “I tell the mayor and whoever will listen that you’re going to get more than the initial jobs (Capgemini) brings to the table.”