Tech conference to highlight growing SC industry

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Bob Brookshire is a professor in one of the most popular fields of study at the University of South Carolina and he's hoping the rest of the region will catch on to the growing need for experts in the integrated information technology field.

"One of the biggest secrets about the Midlands is people don't realize how much information technology is going on here," said Brookshire.

Integrated information technology has recently skyrocketed into the top five majors on the USC campus. Steven Magazine immediately got involved in the IT program when he got to the school and the senior from Camden already has a job lined up after graduation in an industry where the image of the it guy is quickly changing.

For years, the stereotype of the IT guy has been a person with limited social skills, who sits locked in their office all day hammering out computer code. That's not reality. Industry professionals and students like Magazine point out it's about project management, integrating departments and communication.

"I wouldn't say it's sit behind a desk, don't talk to anyone," said Magazine. "It's in the middle between IT and business. I would say. definitely it is not limited to sitting behind a desk, geeks with glasses and suspenders that barely aren't seen within a corporation."

Some of the most influential corporations in the industry will make Columbia home starting Wednesday at the annual POSSCON, a software conference that brings in the heavy hitters in the tech field and helps position the region as a major player in the game. The multi-day event is being held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

Bob Brookshire helped organize the first event in 2008, and was hoping just a few people would show up. This yea, more than 500 are expected as the need for IT professionals grows in the medical and insurance fields in South Carolina.

There are nearly 50 thousand IT workers in the state and that number grows with each passing day.

"One of the things we're trying to do with this conference is raise people's awareness about all the technology that's going on the area," said Brookshire. "There are actually companies that are relocating to Columbia because they've been introduced to the area through the conference."

And the next generation is learning just how important the industry is in one of USC's fastest growing programs.

"I think information technology is just the backbone of everything that is in operations in business," said USC student Emily Supil. "You need a computer, you need a cellphone now. Even more you might need an I-pad."

The IT program at USC has a direct link to many of the employers that will be coming to this year's POSSCON, and some firms in the area through a local non-profit called IT-ology.

The Columbia-based group, which was established last fall in concert with the university, has developed partnerships throughout the region to get information technology pros on the job. The group also works to expose young people to the industry through internships, workshops and outreach programs at Midlands schools.