On college campuses these days, the top nerds are getting a taste of what it's like to be star jocks.
For Maxwell Hawkins, a computer science and art major at Carnegie Mellon University, the moment came in March. A technology recruiting firm sent him a letter by FedEx urging him to drop out of his junior year and take his talents to work for a start-up.
"I work for the founder and seed investor in PayPal, Palantir and Facebook," wrote Peterson Conway, a recruiter with Carmel, Calif., firm Goodwyn/Powell. "I have been asked to help identify the founding team of a new venture."
The technology boom has created an acute shortage of engineers and software developers. The industry has responded by taking a page from the playbook of professional sports: identify up and comers early, then roll out the red carpet to lock them up.