Greentown Labs hosted its Climatetech Summit from both its Houston location and its Boston-area office. Photo via greentownlabs.com

This week, world leaders are discussing climate change and the future of our planet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, but local leaders were also discussing much closer to home.

Greentown Labs hosted its Climatetech Summit on Thursday, November 4, at both its offices in Houston and Sommerville, Massachusetts. The hybrid event featured a full day of networking, panels, and thought leadership.

Missed the conversation? Here are five key moments from the event.

​"Houston cannot transition without transitioning its workforce, and we need to help with that and make sure that people understand that. Demystifying the jobs of the future is key."

— says Juliana Garaizar, Greentown Labs' head of Houston incubator and vice president of innovation, in her welcome address.

"The energy transition in Houston needs to happen in an equitable way," she says. "Houston is the most diverse city in the US. It is up to us now to make it the most inclusive."

"The world will continue to need a lot of hydrocarbons for quite a long period of time, and Houston can and should remain a leader there. But it will not be an engine for growth."

— says Bobby Tudor, former chair of the Greater Houston Partnership and chairman of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co, in his keynote.

"If we are not going to have that business, which accounts for approximately 40 percent of all jobs in Greater Houston, be an engine of growth, we sure as heck better find businesses that are, or we will not have the same kind of prosperity that we've had in our region," Tudor says.

"The Energy Capital of the World will be the leader in the global energy transition."

— says Mayor Sylvester Turner in his address.

"As a lifelong Houston, I am proud of our history and proud of the innovation, growth, and prosperity the energy industry brings to our community," he continues. "But, as leaders of the energy industry, I believe it is our responsibility to continue this legacy and develop the innovative technologies and practices needed to decarbonize the entire energy sector worldwide."

"Texas has more potential to produce clean energy — wind, solar, storage — and efficiency than any other state."

says HARC President + CEO John Hall in his address.

"And we're fortunate that today — even though we continue to lead the country in producing oil and gas — 40 percent of the electricity being used in this state is zero emitting."

"You don't get change by wishing and hoping. You need to plan and to act."

says Quantum New Energy CEO Patricia Vega on the panel about transitioning the workforce.

"We live in a world where we can track steps, calories, and likes on social media, but if I ask each one of you what is your carbon footprint or carbon efficiency, many of us don't know how to answer those questions and don't have the tools," she adds.

As of this week, Lara Cottingham is the chief of staff at Greentown Labs. Photo via LinkedIn

Greentown Labs hires former Houston sustainability exec

new hire

The country's largest climatetech startup incubator has made a strategic new hire.

Lara Cottingham is the new chief of staff for Greentown Labs, a Boston-area company that opened in Houston earlier this year. Cottingham previously served as the city of Houston's chief sustainability officer and the chief of staff for the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department for the past seven years. In her new role, Cottingham will oversee the day-to-day operations and communications for Greentown's CEO Emily Reichert, along with key stakeholder engagements and strategic initiatives for the incubator.

"Lara brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience to our team from her dynamic leadership role at the City of Houston," says Reichert in a news release. "Her breadth of knowledge in sustainability, climate, and the energy transition, and her expertise in regulatory and stakeholder aspects of the energy industry, will be incredibly valuable to our team and community."

Under her leadership at the city of Houston, Cottingham was the chief author of Houston's Climate Action Plan, an initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Houston, and getting the city to a point where it meets the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Cottingham helped the city move to 100 percent renewable electricity, according to the release, and helped turn a 240-acre landfill into the nation's largest urban solar farm.

"In leading the Climate Action Plan, Lara helped spark Houston's leadership in what has become a global energy transition and was a passionate advocate for climate action in Houston," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. "While she will be missed, this new role will only strengthen our partnership with Greentown. I look forward to working with Emily, Lara, and the Greentown team to meet our climate goals and make Houston the energy capital of the future."

Before her work at the city, Cottingham worked at Hill+Knowlton Strategies' Houston office range of clients across the energy sector. Earlier in her career, she served as communications director for two congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives. She began her work with the city in 2014.

"In working with Mayor Turner and Climate Mayors across the U.S., I saw how important partnerships are to helping cities decarbonize," says Cottingham in the release. "There is no better partner or place for climate action at work than Greentown Labs. Greentown is 100 percent committed to attracting and nurturing the energy companies of the future and making Houston the energy transition capital of the world. I'm excited to join the team and see how climatetech can help cities reach their climate goals."

Greentown Labs first announced its entrance into the Houston market last summer. The new 40,000-square-foot facility in Midtown across the street from The Ion opened its prototyping and wet lab space, offices, and community gathering areas for about 50 startup companies opened in April. Greentown was founded in 2011 in Somerville, Massachusetts, and has supported more than 400 startups, which have raised more than $1.5 billion in funding.

"The Soccer Innovation Institute presents the ultimate opportunity to redefine the player and fan experience, and develop a lasting legacy for the long-term benefit of the FIFA World Cup." Photo via Paul Duron/Wikipedia

Houston makes play to score soccer innovation

new goal

Houston is kicking up its 2026 FIFA World Cup bid by a notch or two with a new innovative initiative.

The Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee on October 14 committed to establishing the nonprofit Soccer Innovation Institute if Houston becomes a host city for the FIFA World Cup.

"The institute will rely on Houston's spirit of innovation to create a united community investment in building a legacy that goes well beyond the city," according to a news release announcing the potential formation of the nonprofit.

The soccer institute, made up of a network of experts and leaders from various global organizations, would conduct specialized think tanks and would support a series of community programs.

"As the energy capital of the world, the global leader in medicine, the universal headquarters for NASA, and the home to numerous sports tech companies, Houston has an abundance of resources that are unmatched by other cities," Houston billionaire John Arnold, chairman of the 2026 bid committee, says in a news release. "By bringing these organizations together under one umbrella, the Soccer Innovation Institute presents the ultimate opportunity to redefine the player and fan experience, and develop a lasting legacy for the long-term benefit of the FIFA World Cup."

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says the institute would align with the city's efforts to build a strong ecosystem for innovation, along with its passion for soccer.

"Houston is recognized as a leader in technology and innovation. We have many innovation hubs around the city that bring bright minds into collaborative spaces where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts," the mayor says.

Held every four years, the World Cup assembles national men's soccer teams from around the world in one of the most planet's most watched sporting events. The traditional 32-team tournament will expand to 48 teams in 2026. After 2026, the World Cup might be staged every two years.

Among those collaborating on the Houston 2026 bid are NRG, the Texas Medical Center, Shell, Chevron, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, the Council for Responsible Sport, the Houston Dynamo, the Houston Dash, the City of Houston, Harris County, and Houston First.

The FIFA World Cup 2026 will be played in 16 cities across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Houston and Dallas are among the 17 cities vying to become a U.S. host. A final decision is expected in the first half of 2022. If Houston is selected, it will host six World Cup games at NRG Stadium.

Between October 21 and November 1, World Cup delegates will visit eight cities in the running to be North American hosts: Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, and Monterrey, Mexico.

Here's your one-stop shop for innovation events in Houston this month. Photo via Getty Images

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events in October

where to be

This month, Houstonians have yet another good batch of in-person and online innovation events, and you and your tech network need to know about them.

Here's a roundup of virtual events not to miss this month — like demo days, workshops, conventions, and more.

Note: This post might be updated to add more events.

October 5 — Perfecting Your Pitch

"Zoom in" for The Ion's event, Perfecting your Pitch. DeckLaunch and Fresh Tech Solutionz will discuss the importance and value of your pitch deck when reaching your target audience.

The event is on Tuesday, October 5, at 1 pm. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

October 5-6 — re:3D SBIR Workshop

The purpose of this workshop is to train and equip participants to identify a federal opportunity and apply for an SBIR/STTR.

The event is on Tuesday, October 5, and Wednesday, October 6, beginning at noon. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

October 6 — Email Marketing: A How To

Join The Cannon's HubSpot for Startups' partners for a fast-paced session covering the key elements of Email Marketing! In this workshop, we'll go over HubSpot's playbook for creating a winning email marketing strategy, generating traffic to your website and converting traffic into leads, and leveraging automation to nurture leads- Email marketing best practices and common mistakes to avoid.

The event is on Wednesday, October 6, at 1 pm. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

October 12-14 — Ignite Healthcare Network's 2021 Fire Pitch: Semi-Finals

Fire Pitch 2021 is Ignite Healthcare Network's 5th annual mini-accelerator program created to encourage innovation in emerging women-led digital health and med-tech companies. The program provides women-led healthcare startups with the unique opportunity to engage with potential customers and investors to assess their solutions and advise them on what they need to build successful businesses.

The summit is Tuesday, October 12, to Thursday, October 14. Click here to register.

October 13 — State of the City Address

This signature event, hosted and produced by Houston First Corporation is an opportunity for community and business leaders to reflect upon the year's challenges and celebrate the city's successes as they hear directly from Houston's CEO.

The event is on Wednesday, October 13, at 11:30 am. Tickets start at $150 and the event is hosted at Hilton Americas-Houston. Click here to register.

October 25 — Climathon 2021 Kick-Off

Impact Hub Houston kicks off Climathon 2021! Come learn about this year's challenges, connect with the teams, and get ready for the week. Impact Hub envisions a more prosperous, inclusive, climate-resilient economy, where finance flows to green projects and activities, and where motivated people are empowered with the skills and capacity they need to take action.

The event is on Monday, October 25, at noon. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

October 25-29 - InnovateEnergy Week 2021

Today's energy companies are working with more emerging technology than ever before, with new projects and technology announced daily.

To enable the growth of these technologies and focus on the impact they are having with the digitalization of energy projects, we are bringing together 4 major Summits to Houston for innovation & emerging tech leaders to attend in one place at one time, including;
  • 5th Annual Energy Drone & Robotics Summit
  • 3rd Annual Industrial XR Summit-
  • Energy EdgeTECH & Industrial Digital Twin Summit
  • MethaneTECH Forum

The events run Monday, October 25, through Friday, October 29, at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Convention Center. Click here to register.

October 25-26 — Frontiers of Brain Science and Medicine - The Welch Foundation conference

The Welch Foundation's 64th conference, titled "Frontiers of Brain Science and Medicine," will explore the brain and the new technologies driving fresh insights into this still little-understood organ. The conference is divided into four sessions over two days, featuring presentations from some of the top global researchers in brain science.

The conference is Monday, October 25, through Tuesday, October 26. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

October 25-26 — Ken Kennedy AI and Data Science Conference

Join the virtual Ken Kennedy AI and Data Science Conference, which will feature invited keynote speakers, technical program, sponsors, student poster presentations, and an outdoor networking reception. This year, expect an exciting lineup of speakers from NASA, IBM, AWS, Human Rights Data Analysis Group, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Rice University.

The conference is Monday, October 25, through Tuesday, October 26. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

Wednesday, October 27, will offer an in-person add-on day to the conference with a technical workshop highlighting deep learning and high-performance computing with Alex Smola, VP of AWS, and Anshumali Shrivastava with Rice University. Workshop registration comes with a small fee. Click here to register.

October 26 — Digital Fight Club: Houston 2021 (Virtual Edition)

Tired of boring Zoom calls? Digital Fight Club is turning the virtual event world on it's head with the first Digital Fight Club, Virtual Edition. Just like IRL, two experts in their fields go up against each other in front of a raucous virtual audience.

The event is Tuesday, October 26, at 6:30 pm. Click here to register.

October 26-27 — Houston DiverseCity Summit

The Houston DiverseCity Summit will inspire action to advance equity and inclusion in the greater Houston region. The Summit offers content for companies and organizations of all sizes with a focus on best practices, peer connection, and first-rate resources to help you mature your diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies.

The summit is Tuesday, October 26 (in person), and Wednesday, October 27 (online). Click here to register.

October 27 — Energy Tech Night

Each Energy Tech Night offers insights from energy digitalization experts and rapid-fire pitches from the cutting edge in startups offering solutions for the energy challenges of today and tomorrow. After the rapid fire pitches, there is a panel of industry leaders having an open discussion on important topics. Presenters include: LiquidFrameworks, Soft Serve, Simetry, eLynx, Inside Petroleum, and GeoNote.

The event is on Wednesday, October 27, at 6 pm. Tickets start at $50 and the event is hosted at The Heights Theater. Click here to register.

October 27 — Houston Startup Showcase Semifinals

The Ion's four semifinalists will come together on the virtual stage and compete for a chance to move on to the finals. Watch the four startups pitch their company and see who the judges will select to move on to the final round and have the opportunity to compete for the prize package.

Presenting Companies:

The event is on Wednesday, October 27, at 6 pm. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

October 27 — The Ion's Industry Day

The Ion District Team and General Contractor, Gilbane welcomes MWDBE firms to learn more about potential opportunities. The area has $15 million in upcoming construction opportunities. There will be a discussion of The District Garage Construction, Vendor opportunities, Q&A Session, and a Tour of The Ion District.

The event is on Wednesday, October 27, at 4 pm. It's free and happening at The Ion. Click here to register.

October 28 — The 2021 MassChallenge U.S. Showcase and Awards

The 2021 MassChallenge U.S. Showcase and Awards is a celebration of creativity and innovation coming from the minds of entrepreneurs building game changing businesses that will impact the way we live, work, and play. Check this year's Boston, Rhode Island, Houston & Austin cohorts at the event.

The event is on Thursday, October 28, at 3 pm. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

The City of Houston has held the No. 1 spot on the municipal list since 2014. Photo via Getty Images

Houston continues its reign as the top city using renewables, per the EPA

seeing green

The City of Houston continues to electrify the country when it comes to the use of green power.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks the city first among municipal entities for the highest annual consumption of power from renewable sources. The list features participants in the EPA's Green Energy Partnership.

The EPA pegs the City of Houston's annual use of green power at a little over 1 billion kilowatt-hours. That's enough electricity to power more than 94,000 average U.S. homes in a year's time. No other municipal entity uses more than 1 billion kilowatt-hours of green power per year.

The City of Houston has held the No. 1 spot on the municipal list since 2014. Among all users of green power in the U.S. that participate in the EPA's Green Energy Partnership, the city ranks 19th.

Since July 2020, all City of Houston facilities have been powered by 100 percent renewable energy derived from solar and wind sources. Houston-based NRG supplies the electricity for those facilities.

In an August 11 news release, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says the EPA recognition is "great news for the city of Houston and, by extension, for the rest of the world. We are going big to set the example for cities around the world. If 100 percent renewable energy can happen in Houston, it can happen in any other city."

The news release points out that green power helps offset damage from ozone, acid rain, haze, fine particles, and other harmful pollutants. Fine particles come primarily from exhaust produced by vehicles, as well as from the burning of coal, wood, and heating oil, and from forest fires and grass fires.

The City of Houston isn't the only municipal outfit in Texas that shines on the EPA list. Here's are four others among the top 30 municipal users of green power:

  • City of Dallas, ranked second, 701.8 million kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, ranked fifth, 450.2 million kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • City of Austin, ranked sixth, 325.3 million kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • City of Irving, ranked 30th, 24.9 million kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.

Nationally, these five Texas businesses rank among the top corporate users of green power:

  • Dallas-based AT&T, ranked seventh, 2.36 billion kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • Irving-based Kimberly-Clark, ranked 18th, 1.03 billion kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • Round Rock-based Dell, ranked 46th, 365.6 million kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • Houston-based Solvay America, ranked 61st, 220 million kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • Plano-based Cinemark USA, ranked 95th, 120.2 million kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.

Two Texas schools appear on the list of the top colleges and universities for use of green power:

  • University of North Texas in Denton, ranked 17th, 80.3 million kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • Fort Worth-based Tarrant County College District, ranked 25th, 57.1 million kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.

Four Texas institutions show up on the list of the top K-12 users of green power:

  • Austin ISD, ranked second, 19.8 million kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • Lake Travis ISD (select schools), ranked 12th, 960,000 kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • The da Vinci School in Dallas, ranked 15th, 237,990 kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.
  • The Empower School in Austin, ranked 17th, 115,314 kilowatt-hours of green power used each year.

The EPA's ranking of the largest users of green power across the country "is proof that good business practices can also benefit the environment," says James Critchfield, director of the EPA's Green Power Partnership.

Honeywell has once again bet on the Bayou City for business. Photo courtesy of Parkway

Fortune 100 company moves materials tech biz HQ to Houston

big move

A nearly $10 billion division of Honeywell International that primarily caters to the oil and gas industry has moved its headquarters to Houston.

On August 11, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Honeywell announced its Performance Materials and Technologies (PMT) division had completed its relocation to the Westchase area's nearly 1.5 million-square-foot CityWestPlace office complex where the company already has operations.

PMT joins one its units, Honeywell's Process Solutions business, at CityWestPlace. The Process Solutions business and about 750 employees relocated there from 1250 Sam Houston Parkway South in 2019.

At CityWestPlace, PMT is adding a customer center where it can showcase automation products and services.

With the PMT relocation, Honeywell now employs more than 850 people in Houston. Representatives of Honeywell decline to say where PMT was previously based.

"Houston [is] a diverse and rapidly growing city, and locating our headquarters here will help us meet our long-term needs to recruit and retain premier talent in our industry. It will also allow us to build closer, more impactful relationships with our Texas-based customers," Vimal Kapur, the new president and CEO of PMT, says in a news release.

Before coming to Houston to take the reins of PMT, Kapur was president of CEO of Atlanta-based Honeywell Building Technologies. He has worked at Honeywell for more than three decades.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says PMT's move to Houston offers another example of how the city is leading innovation in the global energy sector.

"As the energy capital of the world, Houston has the talent and expertise to amplify Honeywell's sustainability work. And with their focus on key components of the energy transition, including carbon capture, energy storage and hydrogen, Honeywell's PMT business unit will serve as a critical partner in Houston's effort to lead the energy transition," Turner says.

PMT provides performance chemicals and materials, process technology, and automation technology for an array of industries, including oil and gas. It posted net sales of $9.4 billion in 2020, down from $10.8 billion in 2019. Honeywell, a Fortune 100 conglomerate, reported net sales of $32.6 billion last year.

Competitors of PMT include ABB, BASF, Dupont, and Emerson Electric.

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New Houston-based specialty pet supply company aims to pamper your pooch

good dog

Considering that Americans will reportedly spend $109.6 billion on pets this year, according to new data, it really pays to be discerning when buying. Now, Houston dog owners can stay local when shopping for their fur babies.

Houstonians Brad Madrid and Bobby Dwyer have launched Fido, a new e-commerce pet wellness brand. Available all over Houston, Texas, and indeed, the nation,

Fido products will initially start with Chill Chews and Clear Ears, both of which are scientifically formulated and aim to provide relief and comfort, per a press release. Products are lab-tested and veterinarian-approved, per the company.

Anxious pups may benefit from Chill Chews, which make training, traveling, and everyday life smoother and are said to help pets relax. The Clear Ears, meanwhile, is composed of natural ingredients such as eucalyptus and aloe and is meant to keep pets’ ears clean and clear of any wax, debris, fungus, and bacteria.

“As a professional dog trainer and breeder, I’ve worked with hundreds of dogs which has allowed me to develop a deep understanding of how dogs think and function,” said Dwyer in a statement. “Through my profession, I’ve discovered a need for products to ensure canines’ health and wellness, and it’s our mission to provide great products to make good boys even better.”

Brad Madrid and Bobby Dwyer have launched Fido, a new e-commerce pet wellness brand. Photo courtesy of Fido

Madrid and Dwyer aren’t just business partners but also brothers-in-law. Bringing science to Fido, Madrid boasts a background in pharmaceuticals, while Dwyer brings canine know-how with his experience as a dog trainer.

Both hope to see their business grow by leaps and bounds. Products are available for purchase on the website and shipping is available nationwide. Plans for products to be sold in local pet stores, as with international shipping available in the future.

If current data is any indication, Madrid and Dwyer are in the right business. A survey of 2,000 dog and cat owners found that 52 percent of respondents said they spend more money on their pets than they do on themselves each year, per GoBankingRates.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston startup shakes up antiquated hiring process for the next generation

new way to hire

Companies across the country have been requiring resumes and cover letters from their new hire hopefuls since the World War II era, and it's about time that changed. A startup founded in Houston has risen to the occasion.

Houstonian Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch when she was looking for her next move. She felt like she had developed a formidable career in digital transformation and had worked with big name clients from Chevron to Gucci. However, she couldn't even get an interview for a role she felt she would be a shoe-in for.

"I knew if I could just get through the door, a company would see the value in me," Hepler tells InnovationMap. "I wasn't being seen, and I wasn't being heard. I didn't know a way to do that."

And she wasn't alone in this frustration. Hepler says she discovered she was one of the 76 percent of job candidates who get filtered out based on former job titles and keywords. At the same time, Hepler says she discovered that 80 percent of companies reported difficulty finding talent.

Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch based on her own ill-fated job hunt experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

"I was just a symptom of a larger problem companies were facing," Hepler says. "Companies were using algorithms to dilute their talent pool, and then the hires they were making weren't quality because they were looking for people based on what they've done. They weren't looking at people for what they could do."

SeekerPitch, which is in the current cohort of gBETA Houston, allows job seekers to create an account and tell their story — not just their job history. The platform prioritizes video content and quick interviews so that potential hires can get face-to-face with hiring managers.

"We empower companies to hear the candidates' stories," Hepler says. "We're bringing candidates streaming to computer screens. We are the Netflix of recruiting."

Hepler gives an example of a first-generation college graduate who's got "administrative assistant" and "hostess" on her resume — but who has accomplished so much more than that. She put herself through school with no debt and in three years instead of four. SeekerPitch allows for these types of life accomplishments and soft skills into the recruiting process.

SeekerPitch profiles allow job seekers to tell their story — not just their past job experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

Over the past few years, a trend in hiring has been in equity and diversity, and Hepler says that people have been trying to address this with blurring out people's names and photos.

"Our belief is that connection is the antidote to bias," Hepler says, mentioning a hypothetical job candidate who worked at Walmart because they couldn't afford to take multiple unpaid internships. "They can't come alive on a resume and they won't stand a chance next to another person."

SeekerPitch is always free for job seekers, and, through the end of the year, it's also free for companies posting job positions. Beginning in January 2022, it will cost $10 per day to list a job opening. Also next year — Hepler says she'll be opening a round of pre-seed funding in order to grow her team. So far, the company has been bootstrapped, thanks to re-appropriated funding from Hepler's canceled wedding. (She opted for a cheaper ceremony instead.)

Right now, SeekerPitch sees an opportunity to support growing startups that need to make key hires — and quickly. The company has an ongoing pilot partnership with a Houston startup that is looking to hiring over a dozen positions in a month.

"As a startup, your key hires are going to make or break your company — but you have to hire quickly," Hepler says. "That's the ultimate challenge for startups. ... But if you don't hire well it can cost your company a lot of money or be the demise of your company. It's people who make a company great."

How universities can help equip Houston with a skilled cybersecurity workforce

guest column

With an increasing number of data breaches, a high job growth rate, and a persistent skills gap, cybersecurity professionals will be some of the most in-demand workers in 2022. It’s more important than ever to have people that are properly trained to protect individuals, corporations, and communities.

Demand for cybersecurity talent in Texas is high. According to Burning Glass Labor Insights, employers in the Houston metro area have posted over 24,000 cybersecurity jobs since the beginning of 2021. But the pipeline of cybersecurity workers is very low, which means many local and national companies don’t have enough people on the front lines defending against these attacks.

Unfortunately, it looks like the cybersecurity skills gap is far from over. An annual industry report from the Information Systems Security Association shows that the global demand for cybersecurity skills still far exceeds the current supply of traditionally qualified individuals, with 38 percent of cybersecurity roles currently unfilled. This shortage has real-life, real-world consequences that can result in misconfigured systems and improper risk assessment and management.

How can companies help close the cybersecurity skills gap within their own organizations? We believe it will become increasingly important to look beyond “traditionally qualified” candidates and view hands-on experience as the same, or even more important than, the certifications or bachelor degree requirements often found in cybersecurity job descriptions.

The top open cybersecurity roles in the Houston area include analysts, managers, engineers, and developers. Employees in these positions are essential to the everyday monitoring, troubleshooting, testing and analyzing that helps companies protect data and stay one step ahead of hackers. When looking to fill these roles, hiring managers should be looking for candidates with both the knowledge and experience to take on these critical positions.

Fortunately, Houston-based companies looking to establish, grow, or upskill their cybersecurity teams don’t have to go far to find top-tier talent and training programs. More local colleges and universities are offering alternative credential programs, like boot camps, that provide students with the deep understanding and hands-on learning they need to excel in the roles that companies need to fill.

2U, Inc. and Rice University have partnered to power a data-driven, market-responsive cybersecurity boot camp that provides students with hands-on training in networking, systems, web technologies, databases, and defensive and offensive cybersecurity. Over 40 percent of the students didn’t have bachelor degrees prior to enrolling in the program. Since launching in 2019, the program has produced more than 140 graduates, some of whom have gone on to work in cybersecurity roles at local companies such as CenterPoint Energy, Fulcrum Technology Solutions, and Hewlett Packard.

Recognizing programs like university boot camps as local workforce generators not only gives companies a larger talent pool to recruit from, but also increases the opportunity for cybersecurity teams to diversify and include professionals with different experiences and backgrounds. We’re living in a security-first world, and the right mix of cybersecurity talent is essential to keeping us protected wherever we are.

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David Vassar is the dean of Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies at Rice University. Bret Fund is vice president overseeing cybersecurity programs at 2U.