The Houston area boasts some top-tier employers. Photo by Getty Images

A slew of Houston-area companies may soon see a surge of inquiries and resumes, thanks to a new ranking.

Great Place to Work, which helps employers improve their workplace culture, and Fortune magazine teamed up to select the Best Companies to Work For in 2022 in two categories: small and midsize employers, and large employers.

In the new report, powerhouse Houston-based builder/developer David Weekley Homes tops the list of the top 20 large employers in Texas — a big jump from its No. 20 spot last year.

“We are incredibly honored to be recognized as the top company on the Best Workplaces in Texas list,” said Robert Hefner, vice president of Human Resources for David Weekley Homes, in a statement. “We’re very proud to offer an amazing workplace culture as well as competitive benefits and perks for our team, which inspires them to delight our customers.”

Powerhouse business IT firm Hewlett Packard Enterprise follows on the large employer list at No. 2, followed by apartment owner and operator Camden Property Trust at No. 3. Mortgage lender Cornerstone Home Lending, commercial real estate company Transwestern, and community college system Lone Star College also land on the prestigious list.

Meanwhile, four of Texas’ top 20 small and midsize employers to work for are right here in the Houston area. They are: mortgage provider Republic State Mortgage, online education hub Continued, oil and gas consulting firm E.A.G. Services, and AI-based e-commerce firm PROS.

Here’s the list of the top 20 small and midsize employers on the list of the Best Companies to Work For:

  1. Credera, Addison
  2. Bestow, life insurance company, Dallas
  3. Publishing Concepts, collector of oral histories, Dallas
  4. Pariveda Solutions, business and technology consulting firm, Dallas
  5. 49 Financial, financial planning provider, Austin
  6. Highland Homes, homebuilder, Plano
  7. AIM, provider of special education services, San Antonio
  8. Republic State Mortgage, mortgage provider, Houston
  9. Continued, provider of online continuing education, Houston
  10. Freese and Nichols, engineering, planning, and consulting firm, Fort Worth
  11. OJO Labs, home search platform, Austin
  12. Dialexa, digital product consulting firm, Dallas
  13. Granite Properties, commercial real estate developer, investor, and manager, Plano
  14. E.A.G. Services, oil and gas consulting firm, Houston
  15. Ontic Technologies, producer of “protective intelligence” software, Austin
  16. PROS, provider of AI-based software for e-commerce, Houston
  17. Scribe Media, book publisher, Austin
  18. Embark, business advisory firm, Dallas
  19. ProPath, operator of pathology practices, Dallas
  20. CerpassRX, pharmacy benefits manager, The Colony

Here’s the list of the top 20 large employers in Texas, according to Great Place to Work and Fortune:

  1. David Weekley Homes, homebuilder, Houston
  2. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, provider of business IT, Spring
  3. Camden Property Trust, apartment owner and operator, Houston
  4. Texas Health Resources, healthcare system, Arlington
  5. Vizient, healthcare consulting firm, Irving
  6. Ryan LLC, tax services and consulting firm, Dallas
  7. Hilcorp Energy, energy exploration and production company, Houston
  8. PrimeLending, a Plains Capital Company, mortgage lender, Dallas
  9. Cornerstone Home Lending, mortgage lender, Houston
  10. Transwestern, commercial real estate company, Houston
  11. Dell Technologies, seller of personal computers, network servers, data storage services, and software, Round Rock
  12. NuStar Energy, pipeline and terminal operator, San Antonio
  13. Mr. Cooper (Nationstar Mortgage), mortgage lender, Coppell
  14. Lone Star College, community college system, Houston
  15. USAA, financial services provider, San Antonio
  16. Sailpoint, provider of identity security software, Austin
  17. Enhabit Home Health & Hospice, home health and hospice provider, Dallas
  18. Epicor Software, provider of software for business process management, Austin
  19. Hilti, provider of tools and technology for construction companies, Plano
  20. Alcon Laboratories, producer of eye care products, Fort Worth

Great Place to Work selected the Best Companies to Work For in 2022 based on feedback from employee surveys and data from Great Place to Work-certified employers.

“As workers struggle with the Great Resignation, burnout, and COVID disruptions, these exceptional companies offer workplace experiences as strong as prior to the pandemic,” says company CEO Michael Bush.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Three Houston companies have been recognized for their superior work environments. Getty Images

3 Houston employers clock in among Fortune's 100 best companies to work

best of the best

Hunting for a job in Houston? A new ranking from Fortune magazine suggests you might consider three local companies.

Camden Property Trust, David Weekley Homes, and Hilcorp Energy Co. all rank on Fortune's 2020 list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, published February 18.

Fortune bases its annual list of the best workplaces on a nationwide study done by analytics firm Great Place to Work. This time around, the study featured input from more than 4.1 million U.S. workers who responded to over 60 survey questions.

Houston-based apartment owner and operator Camden Property Trust comes in at No. 18, an improvement over last year's rank of 19. The real estate owner and operator is known for a lighthearted corporate culture that has seen executives willing to poke fun at themselves and others at company events and celebrations, according to the list.

Camden Property Trust continues to be one of Houston's best places to work. Camden Property Trust/Facebook

There are also perks to working for an apartment landlord; 44 percent of employees live in Camden-owned apartments and take advantage of a 20 percent rent-discount benefit that collectively saves them more than $1.9 million per year.

Not far down the list, at No. 23, is Houston-based homebuilder David Weekley Homes, which makes a big leap over last year's rank of 41. Family comes first at this nationwide homebuilding company, says the report. Prospective employees often participate in Key Influencer Visits, where they are interviewed (often in their homes) alongside family members or close friends to help hiring managers better understand their personalities and backgrounds.

There's also an internship program designed specifically for employees' children and a discount on homes sold to staffers and their family members (a set percentage based on tenure). One worker says, "It really exemplifies how the company puts the employees first, even before customers."

New to the list this year is Houston-based oil and gas production company Hilcorp Energy Co. The largest privately held oil and natural-gas production company in the U.S., Hilcorp challenges its employees to think in terms of Big Hairy Audacious Goals, the lofty performance goals it sets every five years. For every BHAG met, employees are rewarded with significant cash bonuses and even new cars.

To meet these goals, CEO Greg Lalicker believes, total transparency is a must, from frontline employees to the CFO, according to the report. All financials, cash flow, investments, oil- and gas-price impacts, BHAG progress reports, and other critical information are shared in monthly, companywide "lifting cost" meetings. "It blows your mind to be in your first lifting-cost meeting and hear supersecret information," recalls one new hire.

Five other Texas-based employers also appear on this year's list:

  • No. 15. - Arlington-based Texas Health Resources ranks first among Texas-based employers and 15th nationwide on Last year, the organization ranked ninth nationwide.
  • No. 55. - San Antonio-based financial services provider USAA. Last year's rank: 30.
  • No. - 66. Dallas-based Ryan LLC, a provider of tax software and services. Last year's rank: 52.
  • No. 86. - San Antonio-based oil pipeline and terminal operator NuStar Energy LP. Last year it was unranked.
  • No. 88. - Dallas-based Encompass Health Home Health & Hospice, part of Birmingham, Alabama-based Encompass Health Corp. Last year's rank: 54.

Nationwide, McLean, Virginia-based Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. ranks first on this year's Fortune list, followed by Weston, Florida-based Ultimate Software Group Inc., Rochester, New York-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc., San Jose, California-based Cisco Systems Inc., and Pleasanton, California-based Workday Inc.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Three Houston companies made Fortune's list of best places for millennials. Photo by Katya Horner

Houston energy company with big perks named among best workplaces for millennials

Young life

When it comes to keeping young professionals happy in the workplace, Houston is doing a bang-up job — some companies more than others. A new report released by Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work finds three Houston companies, and a total of 11 Texas companies, among the top 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials 2018.

Making the national list is Hilcorp Energy Company, an organization known for giving its employees huge bonuses, such as $100,000 in 2015 and $50,000 toward a new car in 2010. The Houston-based company has 93 percent of employees saying their workplace is great, likely because of these aggressive financial incentives, which include a revenue sharing program, a bonus program, "helping hands" community assistance programs, and a generous referral incentive, according to the Fortune piece.

Hilcorp, even with its big perks, isn't actually the top Houston company on the national list. That distinction goes to Houston-based David Weekley Homes. The construction and real estate powerhouse, leads the Texas pack at No. 19. Houston's construction/real estate company Camden Property Trust comes in at No. 94, and manufacturing/production firm Hilcorp appears at No. 95.

More than 434,000 survey respondents from Great Place to Work-Certified companies provided input into this annual list. The study analyzed how millennials rated their organizations on more than 50 different metrics defining great workplaces, such as managers' competence, respect and fairness in the workplace, opportunities for meaningful work, executive leadership, and opportunities to innovate and contribute to the organization's success.

The report also analyzed an index of factors where millennials often lag behind other workers, such as access to meaningful work, fair pay, and plans for a future with their organizations. Companies were evaluated as to whether they were creating great workplaces for all millennials — regardless of who they are or what they do for the organization.

Surveys were anonymous, and companies needed to employ at least 50 millennials to be considered. Employees rated the companies on challenges, atmosphere, rewards, pride, communication, and bosses with a numerical ranking. Here's what made the other Houston companies shine:

David Weekley Homes, where 96 percent of employees say their workplace is great, was lauded for offering an employee's children's scholarship program, product discounts, profit sharing, sabbaticals, and even spiritual assistance.

At Camden, where 92 percent of employees say their workplace is great, employees are given apartment discounts, holiday suites, scholarships, tuition assistance, an aggressive stock purchase plan, and even tickets to hot sporting events.

Elsewhere In Texas, familiar San Antonio insurance/financial service brand USAA (United Services Automobile Association) comes in at No. 40, followed by Dallas professional services firm Ryan, Inc. at No. 44 and Dallas' Prime Lending at No. 58.

Austin is represented by tech firm WP Engine, Inc. at No. 61. Dallas' Encompass Home Health checks in at No. 66, while San Antonio transportation company NuStar Energy L.P. follows at No. 69. Abilene makes an appearance with Funeral Directors Life Insurance Company at No. 92, and rounding out the Texas representation is Arlington's Texas Health Resources, Inc. at No. 96.

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Early-stage accelerator returns to Houston, announces finalists

prepare for take-off

CodeLaunch, a traveling seed-stage accelerator, is returning to Houston for its latest cohort.

The startup competition sponsored by software development company Improving will have its ultimate showdown on February 28. The final competition pairs six startups with six startup consulting companies.

Jason W. Taylor, CodeLaunch president and founder, says CodeLaunch isn’t your typical startup showcase, as it incorporates music acts, comedy, and crowd networking. Mirroring the set-up of a TV show, the six finalists all present their working products in front of an audience amid these performances.

“I would describe CodeLaunch as the next generation of venture-tainment in North America and the greatest startup show on earth,” Taylor explains.

The 2024 Houston CodeLaunch participant startups — and their mentor partners — are as follows:

Prior to pitch day, all six teams will receive hands-on instruction from CodeLaunch mentors on how to construct their pitches and free professional software development from their partners. Taylor says the strong relationships between CodeLaunch and these developers played a major role in setting the competition in Houston.

“We love Houston and we’re back for a third year in a row because the Houston startup ecosystem works together better than other major startup ecosystems I’ve seen,” Taylor says. “We have some great software development partners in Houston that are building code for those startups.”

Last year, Houston-based startup Energy360, with the mentorship and help of Honeycomb Software, took home the Championship belt and a $100,000 investment offer from Cyrannus VC fund for their energy management system Matt Bonasera, Energy360’s enterprise architect, says he is grateful for the entrepreneurial community CodeLaunch provides, in particular the team’s mentor Oleg Lysiak, Honeycomb VP of Partnerships and Business Development.

“I happened along this great community of people who are really passionate about supporting each other,” Bonasera says.

Lysiak agrees that CodeLaunch is an ideal opportunity for young entrepreneurs looking to hone their skills and expand their product capabilities. Lysiak says he is looking forward to defending Honeycomb’s title as top consultant development team.

“My whole philosophy is to connect people and have different collisions and collaborations,” Lysiak says.

Houston startup completes testing, prepares biosimilar insulin drug for clinical trials

next steps

A Houston biotech startup is one step closer to releasing its marquee drug for the global insulin market, which is projected to break the $90 billion threshold by 2029.

rBIO says it recently completed testing of the properties of R-biolin, an insulin drug that’s biologically identical to Novo Nordisk’s Novolin drug. The patent for Novolin about two decades ago. In March 2023, the Dutch drugmaker announced it was slashing the list price of Novolin by 65 percent to $48.20 per vial and $91.09 per FlexPen.

Executives at rBIO are now pursuing a partnership with a contract research organization to manage clinical trials of R-biolin. If those trials go well, R-biolin will seek approval to supply its insulin therapy to diabetes patients around the world.

Washington University in St. Louis is rBIO’s academic partner for the R-biolin project.

The rBIO platform produces insulin at greater yields that traditional manufacturing techniques do. The company is striving to drive down the cost of insulin by 30 percent.

About 38 million Americans have diabetes, with the vast majority being treated for type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many people with diabetes must take insulin to control their blood sugar levels.

Research company iHealthcareAnalyst predicts the global market for insulin will surpass the $90 billion mark in 2029.

“There has been a lot of talk in the media about reducing the cost of insulin for diabetic patients, but what is often overlooked is that the domestic demand for insulin will soon outpace the supply, leading to a new host of issues,” Cameron Owen, co-founder and CEO of rBIO, says in a news release.

“We’re dedicated to addressing the growing demand for accessible insulin therapies, and … we’re thrilled to announce the viability of our highly scalable manufacturing process.”

Professionals from the University of California San Diego and Johns Hopkins University established rBIO in 2020. The startup moved its headquarters from San Diego to Houston in 2022.

CEO Cameron Owen and Chief Scientific Officer Deenadayalan Bakthavatsalam work on insulin purification in the Houston lab. Photo courtesy

How AI is changing product management and what you need to know

guest column

For the past 14 months, everyone has been talking about ways artificial intelligence is changing the world, and product management is not an exception. The challenge, as with every new technology, is not only adopting it but understanding what old habits, workflows, and processes are affected by it.

Product managers — as well as startup founders leading a product function — more than any other role, face a challenge of bringing new life-changing products to market that may or may not be received well by their users. A product manager’s goal is complex — bring value, stay ahead of the competition, be innovative. Yet, the "behind the scenes" grind requires endless decision making and trade offs to inspire stakeholders to move forward and deliver.

As we dive into 2024, it is obvious that AI tools do not only transform the way we work but also help product managers create products that exceed customer expectation and drive businesses forward.

Market research and trends analysis

As product managers, we process enormous amounts of market data — from reviewing global and industry trend analysis, to social media posts, predictions, competition, and company goals. AI, however, can now replace hours, if not days, of analyzing massive amounts of data in an instant, revealing market trends, anticipating needs, and foreseeing what's coming next. As a result, it is easier to make effective product decisions and identify new market opportunities.

Competitive analysis

Constantly following competitors, reviewing their new releases, product updates, or monitoring reviews to identify competitor strengths and weaknesses is an overwhelming and time consuming task. With AI, you can quickly analyze competitors’ products, pricing, promotions, and feedback. You can easily compare multiple attributes, including metrics, and identify gaps and areas for improvement — all the insights that are otherwise much harder to reveal quickly and efficiently.

Customer and product discovery

Of course, the most intuitive use case that comes to mind is the adoption of AI in product and customer discovery. For example:

  • Use AI for customer segmentation and persona creation to help visualize personas, prioritize user motivations and expectations, and uncover hidden behavior and needs. You can then create and simplify customer questionnaires for interviews and user groups and target customers more accurately.
  • Analyze quantitative and qualitative data from surveys, support tickets, reviews, and in-person interviews to identify pain points and unmet user needs and help prioritize features for future updates and releases.

Roadmap and sprint management

AI provides value in simplifying roadmap planning and sprint management. Resource optimization is often a gruesome task and AI can help with feature prioritization and resource allocation. It helps teams focus on critical work and increase their productivity. You can even analyze and manage dependencies and improve results across multiple sprints months in advance.

Prototyping and mockup generation

There is no product manager’s routine without multiple mockups, wireframes, and prototypes that explain concepts and collect feedback among stakeholders. AI has become a critical tool in simplifying this process and bringing ideas to life from concept to visualization.

Today, you can use textual or voice descriptions to instantly create multiple visuals with slight variations, run A/B tests and gather valuable feedback at the earliest stage of a product life cycle.

Job search and job interviews

Consider it as a bonus but one of the less obvious but crucial advantages of AI is using it in job search. With the vulnerable and unstable job market, especially for product roles, AI is a valuable assistant. From getting the latest news and updates on a company you want to join, to summarizing insights on the executive team, or company goals, compiling lists of interview questions, and running mock interviews, AI has become a non-judgmental assistant in a distressing and often discouraging job search process.

Use AI to draft cold emails to recruiters and hiring managers, compare your skills to open positions’ requirements, identify gaps, and outline ideas for test assignments.

We already know that AI is not a hype; it is here to stay. However, remember that customers do not consume AI, they consume your product for its value. Customers care whether your product gets their need, solves their problem, and makes their lives easier. The goal of a product manager is to create magic combining human brain capabilities and latest technology. And the best result is with a human at the core of any product.

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Natasha Gorodetsky is the founder and CEO of Product Pursuits, a Houston company that helps early stage and venture-backed startups build products and create impact.