As the CEO and president of TechPoint, Ting Gootee is sure about one thing: Tech workers and digital innovation are key to the growth of Indiana’s economy — especially in advanced sectors such as agriculture, life sciences, manufacturing, and logistics.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in computer and information technology jobs will grow 15% over the next decade, faster than the average for all other occupations. That increase equates to an additional 682,800 new jobs in coding, web and software development, computer science, cybersecurity and other areas.
Gootee, who was named last year to lead TechPoint, wants Indiana to keep pace with that growth by adding 41,000 tech workers by 2030.
TechPoint, a nonprofit focused on promoting tech in Indiana, already has worker placement programs. But, Gootee said the pandemic heightened the need to supply tech workers across the sector and to other industries.
“The reason I was attracted to this one opportunity,” she said, “is to work on bigger issues like that — in addition to capital.”
Gootee, 43, is the first woman to lead TechPoint in its nearly two decades of existence. The nonprofit is one of five industry initiatives under the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership — a joint endeavor of CEOs from prominent universities, corporations and foundations — that promote the region’s growth and prosperity.
TechPoint’s focus is on the state’s technology sector, aiding in efforts to grow the sector’s ecosystem, attract and retain skilled workers, increase capital investment, and foster startups and emerging industries.
Gootee said she believes there’s a real opportunity to help improve the lives of Hoosiers and address equity disparities in tech.
“That’s a big deal,” she said, noting TechPoint’s commitment to working with partners across business sectors. “A key part of that will be to bring more people of color and women into the sector.”
Expanding pathways to success
Gootee succeeded long-time TechPoint CEO and President Mike Langellier, who was named president and CEO in 2012. When she took over in May, Gootee was one of two female CEOs to lead an economic development initiative under CICP, and the third leader to helm the organization since it came under CICP.
But even before officially starting her job, Gootee began her work by launching a listening tour to probe employees on their thoughts about the work TechPoint does.
“I know because of my background, both professionally and personally, I instantly come with a set of ideas, but also potential biases,” she said. “I want to be mindful about listening to the team members who’ve been around a lot longer than I have.”
Yet Gootee also sees her internal biases as a potential positive that could be the basis for a fresh, different and authentic perspective. She represents key points of intersectionality as an immigrant, a woman and person of color.
The daughter of working professionals, Gootee said her upbringing focused on educational achievement. She grew up in an environment where career ambitions were considered climbing the ladder at Eli Lilly & Co. or working for Intel. The daughter of a professor and doctor, Gootee said her parents taught her to work hard.
“I kind of have this mindset early on (that) no matter what you do, you do well. You earn your success both through school and the professional world,” she said. “The biggest reason I’m able to sit in the seat I’m in today is because I follow that path.”
But as she’s navigated her field and encountered social discourse about inequities, Gootee has gained a different sort of education.
“There are other groups already defined as underrepresented groups,” she noted shortly after taking the job. “Because of a lack of such support, social capital, access to networks, their pathways to opportunity or success could be a lot more challenging. I don’t want to necessarily bring my own high-achiever mindset to apply to everything, but I realize that we still can do a lot more in terms of expanding opportunities to promote success.”
Building a platform that attracts workers
TechPoint’s origins date back to the 1990s when Indianapolis began to think about technology, specifically Software as a Service, as a potential area for economic growth.
Out-going CICIP president and CEO David Johnson said the city initially leaned into a handful of tech entrepreneurs, including Don Brown, Scott Webber, Mark Hill, David Becker and Scott Jones, who had success founding and building companies locally.
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“This place didn’t really have any kind of venture activity to speak of and those folks were real standout exceptions,” Johnson said. “They were building these different kinds of companies, but all in the tech area, and so there was a great deal of interest in seeing if that kind of talent could be brought together and some kind of an association be put together.”
In 2006, TechPoint became part of CICP. It was led by Jim Jay until Langellier took over 2012. He broaden TechPoint’s approach, shifting from a heavily legislative focus to looking at the entire tech ecosystem and what could make it healthier. It played a key role in advocating for and helping to shape programs like the Next Level Fund to invest in technology businesses and Elevate Ventures.
Meanwhile, a new generation of companies established a presence in the local market and continued to build other programming for TechPoint around entrepreneurial training and acceleration and company building.
“A lot of it comes down to talent and how you get more of it,” Johnson said. “How do you get more people to move here to live here to participate in technology-related jobs? That’s where TechPoint has been moving.”
The accidental investor
Gootee’s pathway to TechPoint was paved through venture capitalism.
Coming to Indiana from Beijing, she first landed in West Lafayette with the goal of perfecting her English. She enrolled at Purdue University in pursuit of a degree in liberal arts. She met her husband and moved to Indianapolis.
At the time, Gootee stumbled upon an opportunity to work for an international hedge fund that was trading in Asia. Gootee said her language skills got her in the door. Gootee speaks Mandarin and dabbled in French in college. English, of which she’s fluent, is her second language.
Gootee said the three years she spent at the hedge fund opened her eyes to the larger world of finance. It was a world she had never considered before and didn’t know was a possibility. Despite her liberal arts background, Gootee decided she wanted to stay in finance and figured that if she did, she needed to increase her knowledge of general business and number crunching.
She enrolled in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008, focusing on corporate finance. She took classes in economics, marketing, accounting, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate finance. Then the Great Recession hit. Overnight, the job market changed. Gootee responded by taking a summer internship at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation where she spent time assessing the performance of the 21 Fund’s portfolio.
At the time, the fund had been in existence for about 10 years and the internal management team wanted to look at how the fund was performing and how they could improve its success rate.
Gootee was part of the team that helped introduce the interim development concept. It wasn’t a model that they invented, but they had looked around and figured out how venture funds in other markets were yielding good results.
That’s also when they realized that venture development funds out of government entities can help attract workers and companies and had the ability to do it well, sparking the impetus to create Elevate Ventures.
Elevate was launched with the mandate to help companies become investor ready. Elevate also had a pool of funds it could invest.
“There was a financial crisis, and Mitch Daniels was governor at the time. Everybody’s managing the budget super tight and we’re asking them to potentially let us run this pool of resources separately,” Gootee said, acknowledging that people could have viewed it from the perspective that they would lose something.
After assessing the fund’s portfolio companies, Gootee learned how insufficient capital loans were.
Gootee is hesitant to discuss her accomplishments. But if there’s one role Gootee is known for, it’s her work at Elevate Ventures, the IEDC’s nonprofit venture capital arm. Elevate Ventures, she said was a startup to make government officials recognize the importance of an independent organization that would carry the market credibility and do the type of work they do.
Gootee was chief investment officer and a key founding executive at Elevate Ventures.
“We went through the entire entrepreneurial journey — from startup to make mistakes along the way, learn from our mistakes, and now rebound from mistakes, and coming back to be more resilient than before and enjoy the type of market reputation that we’ve joining today,” she said.
Gootee is hoping to apply some of the lessons she learned at Elevate to her job at TechPoint and help facilitate the partnership opportunities between the two organizations and CICP.
Initially, Gootee hesitated to leave, fearing a gaping hole in leadership. But she said realized that Elevate was well-structured to keep going as she transitioned to her new role.
Where Indiana stands in tech employment
Working at Elevate, she’d had the opportunity to watch TechPoint as it rolled out plans to market Indiana’s tech sector and initiatives to attract workers.
When approached with the opportunity to be CEO, Gootee said she was attracted by the opportunity to be part of a high-performing team and what she saw as the next phase of growth in Indiana. Gootee said she was confident she could add value given her work with the public and private sectors and with foundations. Plus, she’s well connected.
There’s collective interest in maintaining TechPoint’s role as a leading voice in helping put the state’s tech sector on the national map. “We are sort of there already but we need to provide a story,” she added.
Indiana has made strides in growing its tech sector, but there’s more work to do. According to the Computer Technology Industry Association 2022 Cyberstats report, tech employment in Indiana ranked 24th in net tech employment, with 112,567 workers, and 16th for net jobs added.
Ohio, with 252,910 workers, ranks 12th and 14th, respectively, while Illinois ranks 7th for employment with 318,662 workers and 28th for jobs added. To the north, net tech employment in Michigan stood at 190,133, giving the state 17th in nation and 18th for jobs added.
Indiana ranks 37th among states for having an estimated 3.6% of its overall workforce in tech.
“So there’s certainly an opportunity to examine what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the last decade,” Gootee said. “I think that will really help inform the next set of decades with the strategy for the next decade.”
Telling Indiana’s story
People who’ve never been to Indiana typically don’t know what’s happening in the state, making the challenge for those-in-the-know to tell the state’s story.
“We’ve got to do more,” Gootee said. “We know we need to do more, and I think that’s part of reason that I was attracted to TechPoint. I knew from the last decade what a powerful marketing engine they had created, which really contributed to putting Indiana on the map for the tech ecosystem story.”
When Gootee is not working, she’s spending time with her family. She’s a mom to a 16 year old and a dog mom to three pups. She also gardens.
“I absolutely can handle, with no problem, information — synthesized information, but I also need my room and space,” she said. “Afterwards I need my alone time to process, and come back the second day with a little more solidified point of view.”
Contact IndyStar reporter Alexandria Burris at email@example.com or call 317-617-2690. Follow her on Twitter: @allyburris.