DIGITAL DOMINANCE

Houston named national hot spot for this tech career, says report

Houston is a good place for creators of digital content, such as podcasters, bloggers, writers, and strategists. Photo by Laurence Dutton/Getty Images

The Greater Houston area ranks as one of the hot spots in the country for an in-demand area of tech expertise.

A new report from career website LinkedIn looks at an array of career categories exhibiting the highest year-over-year growth rates in hiring (based on the period from last April to October).

The report pinpoints Houston as one of the hottest U.S. markets for creators of digital content, such as podcasters, bloggers, writers, and strategists. For those looking to transition, the majority of these digital content creators have a bachelor of arts degree, while some 25 percent have a masters, the report notes. Top skills for these positions include editing, writing, public speaking.

Meanwhile, DFW is listed as a "top region" for UX specialists, including UX consultants, designers, and researchers along with the San Francisco Bay area and Greater Chicago area. (What, exactly, is UX? While the field and job can have many facets, one industry site puts it this succinctly: "UX design is the process of designing (digital or physical) products that are useful, easy to use, and delightful to interact with.")

The Austin area ranks as one of the hottest spots in the U.S. for artificial intelligence (AI). The report says jobs like artificial intelligence specialist, machine learning researcher, and machine learning engineer are in particularly high demand in the Austin area, as well as Denver and San Francisco Bay.

In 2019, the tech sector in Texas wielded an economic impact of $141.7 billion and employed more than 1 million people (including AI engineers, UX designers, and digital content creators), according to CompTIA, a trade association for the IT industry.

"Technology powered job growth and economic gains in the past decade in Texas and across the country while delivering countless benefits in how we work, communicate, create, and share," Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, said in a 2020 release.

U.S. News & World Reportranks the University of Texas at Austin among the country's top five schools for undergraduate students studying AI, an arm of computer science that simulates human intelligence.

Globally, AI is a fast-growing specialty among employers. A 2020 report from the World Economic Forum identified AI and machine learning positions as the No. 1 emerging category of jobs. Ninety-three percent of U.S. companies surveyed by the organization indicated they had adopted AI technology.

In 2019, job website Indeed reported that average salaries for the highest-paid AI jobs in the U.S. ranged from $109,314 to $142,859.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Kelly Avant, investment associate at Houston-based Mercury Fund, shares how and why she made her way into the venture capital arena. Photo courtesy of Mercury

Kelly Avant didn't exactly pave a linear career path for herself. After majoring in gender studies, volunteering in the Peace Corps, and even attending law school — she identified a way to make a bigger impact: venture capital.

"VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems," Avant tells InnovationMap.

Avant joined the Mercury Fund team last year as an MBA associate before joining full time as investment associate. Now, after completing her MBA from Rice University this month, Avant tells InnovationMap why she's excited about this new career in investment in a Q&A.

InnovationMap: From law school and the peace corps, what drew you to start a career in the VC world?

Kelly Avant: I graduated from Rice University with an MBA, starting scouting for an investment firm in my first year, and by the summer after my first year I was essentially working full-time interning with Mercury. But, I like to tell people about my undergraduate degree in gender studies and rhetoric from a little ski college in Colorado. If you meet someone else in venture capital with a degree in gender studies, please connect us, but I think I might be the only one. I’ll spare you what I used to think — and say — about business students, but I have really come full circle.

I always thought I would work in a nonprofit space, but after serving in Cambodia with the Peace Corps, working for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and briefly attending Emory Law School with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.I found that time and time again the root of the problem was a lack of resources. The world’s problems were not going to be solved with my idealism alone.

The problem with operating as a nonprofit in a capitalism is you basically always pandering to the interests of the donors. The NFL was a key sponsor of The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The United States has a complicated, to put it lightly, relationship with Cambodia and Vietnam. It became pretty clear that the donor/nonprofit relationship was oftentimes putting the wrong party in the driver’s seat. I was, and still am, very interested in alternative financing for nonprofits. I became convinced that the most exciting businesses were building solutions to the world’s problems while also turning a profit, which allows them to survive to have a sustainable positive impact.

VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems.

IM: What are some companies you’re excited about?

KA: There are a couple super interesting founders I’ve met directly engaging with . To name a few: CiviTech, DonateStock, and Polco.

I’m very proud to work on mercury investments like Houston’s own, Topl, which has built an extremely lightweight and energy efficient Blockchain that enables tracking of ethical supply chains from the initial interaction.
I’m also excited about mercury’s investment in Zirtue, which enables relationship based peer to peer lending to solve the massive problem of predatory payday loans.

We have so many awesome founders in our portfolio. The best part about working in VC is meeting passionate innovators every day. I get excited to go to work everyday and help them to build better solutions.

IM: Why are you so passionate about bringing diversity and inclusion into Mercury?

KA: I love working with exciting, highly capable, super smart people. That category includes so many people who have been historically excluded. As an investment team member at Mercury, I do have a voice, and I have an obligation to use that voice to speak highly of the best people in rooms of influence.

IM: With your new role, what are you most focused on?

KA: In my new role, I am identifying and researching high potential investments. We’re building out a Mercury educational series to lift the veil of VC. We want to facilitate a series that gives all founders the basic skills to pass VC due diligence and have the opportunity to build the next innovative companies. My goal is ultimately to produce the best returns possible for our investors, and we can’t accomplish that goal unless we’re building out resources to meet the best founders and help them grow.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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