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Tech Industry

Tech agency scouts for "talent"

Unlike traditional staffing firms, the Carrera Agency has Hollywood-style ambitions for grooming hotshot tech jocks.

    Are you the Tom Cruise of tech stars? If so, Steven Pfrenzinger wants you on his team.

    The longtime consultant is building a tech staffing company based on the Hollywood talent model. Unlike traditional staffing firms, which match people to specific job openings, the Carrera Agency scouts hotshot tech jocks with the idea of developing a long-lasting relationship during a string of consulting jobs.

    After applicants are invited to participate in the plan, the company puts them through a series of tests, background checks and interviews. It turns away those who won't command top jobs. People who make the cut will get job placement, concierge services and opportunities for speaking engagements.

    Carrera's ideal candidates are experienced technologists who've worked independently and possess sophisticated technological skills. "We're looking for skills that aren't subject to constantly being outsourced to India," he said. Some of the highest demand is for those with specialized skills in the security and health care fields, he said.

    Pfrenzinger said he came up with the idea of launching a placement firm based on the talent agent model while working on a Hollywood screenplay.

    "One of the things I discovered was that to get anything done in Hollywood, you have to have an agent," he said.

    He thinks the agent model will work well in the technology market because some IT consultants, like some actors, are clearly at the top of their game, demanding high pay even in a down economy. They just need someone to promote them, he said.

    Pfrenzinger breaks up the pool of IT workers into two groups. The first is "commodity" workers, or those whose skills are a dime a dozen--in other words, the bit actors of the tech world. Pfrenzinger isn't interested in them.

    Instead he has designs on the smaller, more select group of megastars, those he calls the true "talent." He's hoping to line these folks up with blockbuster jobs that in turn will fund his company.

    Carrera will take up to a 30 percent cut of the salary paid to the worker, a figure Pfrenzinger said is average for the industry. The Aliso Viejo, Calif., company is still in the process of building up its stable of workers. So far, 20 have cleared the Carrera hurdle, and another 20 are in the works.

    But will the model survive in an economy where the unemployment rate is at an eight-year high and where many companies are still scaling back tech spending? Pfrenzinger thinks it will. He said the dot-com bust and fallout will weed out those who had no business being in technology in the first place.

    "The people who don't really want to be in this industry or really aren't committed to this industry will leave," he said, adding that those left standing eventually will be rewarded for staying in the field.