Bay Area pros ponder turnover in market

SAN FRANCISCO: At least 23 major tech companies have lost or replaced top corporate PR execs in the past year, a phenomenon Bay Area communicators are striving to understand.

SAN FRANCISCO: At least 23 major tech companies have lost or replaced top corporate PR execs in the past year, a phenomenon Bay Area communicators are striving to understand.

Some credit the area's once-again thriving economy, though many blame the sector's naturally high rate of burnout.

Andy Lark, Sun Microsystems' former VP of global communications and marketing, acknowledged the heavy churn and credited a confluence of events.

"[Silicon] Valley is running hot right now," said Lark, who stepped down two weeks ago. "[There's] a ton of recruitment going on, reflecting a stronger tech market."

Lark also pointed to PR being back at the top of many tech companies' agendas, and that the tech industry has a faster career track than other industries.

"It's a sector that moves at an electrifying pace," said Lark. "These are all high-velocity companies staffed by very talented people who are in strong demand. So a different cycle and pace of turnover is natural at the higher levels."

The aftermath of the dot-com bust and tech downturn, coupled with that pace, left many burned out, said Dan Kaferle, corporate communications SVP at Computer Associates.

"The last few years have been a difficult time in the industry," said Kaferle, who was promoted when the previous head of communications left last year. "It's been exhausting for people who have been through a lot of battles. For a while, there wasn't much change. But opportunities are opening up as the market comes back."

Burnout is understandable in an industry that once could do no wrong, but soon became a place where "everyone was out to get you, and no one believed a word you said," explained Tom Galvin.

Many people stayed with their companies during the tough times, and now that their companies have stabilized, they see this as a good time for a fresh start, he added.

Galvin left VeriSign last year, where he was VP of public affairs. He has now launched his own tech/public affairs firm, 463 Communications.

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