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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

Houston Methodist breaking ground on its new "hospital of the future" was among this week's top stories. Photo courtesy of Houston Methodist

Editor's note:Another week has come and gone, and it's time to round up the top headlines from the past few days. Trending Houston tech and startup news on InnovationMap included innovators to know, a new innovative hospital, a lookback on Houston venture activity, and more.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Kaitlyn Allen of MendIt, Miguel Calatayud of iwi, and Tatiana Fofanova of Koda Health. Courtesy photos

In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from sustainability to health tech — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. Click here to continue reading.

Ion Houston offers up low-cost workforce development programs

New programming at the Ion hopes to equip the workforce with valuable skills and education. Photo courtesy of The Ion

The Ion announced this week that it will launch four new workforce development programs that aim to enhance learner's digital skills and prepare them for careers in tech.

The courses will start in February and will take on a variety of formats, from bootcamps to traditional courses and virtual coaching sessions. All were created with the support of The Ion's founding partner Microsoft.

“The Ion is collaborating with new and existing organizations to create visible pathways to careers in technology for underrepresented populations and job seekers,” says Jan E. Odegard, executive director at The Ion, in a statement. “The Ion is excited to offer low-cost programming that meets learners of all skill sets and financial backgrounds where they are to make a tech-fueled career or career in tech possible.” Click here to continue reading.

Houston hospital system to open new innovative location

Houston Methodist broke ground on a 400-bed hospital in Cypress. Rendering courtesy of Houston Methodist

Houston Methodist will soon break ground on a “smart” hospital in Cypress that is poised to be the smartest of its nine hospitals.

The $650 million Cypress hospital will be modeled after Houston Methodist West and Houston Methodist The Woodlands hospitals. However, the Cypress location is on track to outdo them in terms of smart technology.

“Our commitment to innovation is one more way we set ourselves apart from other hospital systems, and we are committed to making this new hospital the most technologically advanced and innovative hospital ever,” Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, says in a note to employees. Click here to continue reading.

Rice University announces its plans to be carbon neutral by 2030

Rice University has set a goal to become carbon neutral in the next several years. Photo via rice.edu

A Houston school has announced its mission to achieve carbon neutrality in the next eight years, and university executives described how exactly they will get there.

Last week, Rice University President David Leebron and Provost Reginald DesRoches wrote a letter describing the university's community as eager to participate in initiatives to stave off climate change on campus.

"Given the commitment of Rice faculty to research and scholarship that supports human knowledge and progress, it is unsurprising that this issue has been addressed from many disciplinary perspectives," the letter reads. "Our faculty, students and staff have a strong desire to contribute to solutions and to see their university as an active participant in the global effort to address climate change and other pressing environmental issues." Click here to continue reading.

New analysis puts Houston's leap in venture capital investment in perspective

A new report from the Greater Houston Partnership analyzes the city's startup ecosystem's banner year of VC activity. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-area startups raked in the cash last year, setting a record for the region’s annual tally of venture capital.

In 2021, Houston startups collected $2.02 billion in VC funding, according to a Greater Houston Partnership analysis of data from PitchBook. That’s up 175 percent from the $734.2 million raised in 2020.

Three startups (Solugen, HighRadius, and Lancium) accounted for more than $800 million of last year’s VC haul.

“This record year in venture capital funding for Houston companies is another important example of the positive momentum building around our innovation ecosystem,” says Susan Davenport, chief economic development officer for the Greater Houston Partnership. Click here to continue reading.

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Building Houston

 
 

What's an employee group and why do you need to know about it during Hispanic Heritage Month? This Houston expert explains. Photo via Getty Images

Making a name for yourself in corporate America is no easy task. It is especially hard if you are the first generation in your family to attend college in this country and the first to take a stab at climbing the corporate ladder. The secret behind those who successfully make it to the top is access to a strong support group.

Finding the right support system, one that provides professional and personal mentorship and one that you identify with culturally, can help you navigate the business world and help you achieve your career goals.

Many Hispanic/Latino professionals have found that support system in employee groups, or EGs.

What are EGs and how can they help Hispanic professionals succeed?

EGs are employee-led groups that foster inclusivity and build community. The purpose of the group is to provide personal and professional support to its members, who usually share certain characteristics in common – like being Hispanic, or those who simply have interest in learning about a culture that is not unique to them.

AT&T has 14 EGs, including HACEMOS, which was established in 1988 and is dedicated to supporting Hispanic employees and the communities they live in. There are 36 HACEMOS chapters across the country supporting more than 8,500 members. The Houston chapter currently supports 278 members – all in different phases of their career.

HACEMOS members believe that “Juntos HACEMOS más,” which means “Together we do more.” Under that guiding belief, members work together to support each other in advancing their careers. Through HACEMOS, AT&T employees can participate in various professional development learning opportunities and have access to one- on-one mentorship sessions with members from the leadership team.

For many members, the group offers a safe environment to engage and learn from other professionals who understand their personal and professional hurdles from a cultural point of view.

At a personal level, the support I receive from HACEMOS has helped me to better understand and be proud of my heritage. HACEMOS has embraced my “Latina” identity, encouraging me to continue using my Spanish skills to serve our Latino customers within AT&T.

EGs provide members with a sense of community and belonging. 

Most EGs have a community aspect to them that allow members to work together to address needs in their communities. HACEMOS members in Houston take pride in organizing, volunteering, and participating in various initiatives that provide support to the most vulnerable members of their community.

This year, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Houston HACEMOS Chapter will be hosting events throughout the city, helping support our youth and instill the importance of continuing their education and striving for success. Our national group is actively volunteering on efforts to help close the digital divide (the gap between people who have reliable internet access and those who do not) which is more likely to impact people of color, especially Hispanic families.

EGs create a win-win for employees and employers. 

EGs are beneficial to employees and employers. It’s true, EG members are engaged and develop strong relationships with their colleagues from other departments resulting in a collaborative environment.

Also, the company benefits from the knowledge and skills EG members gain through the various workshops and learning resources. In addition, EG members serve as brand ambassadors in the community for the company while they participate in community volunteer events.

So, if the company you work for currently does not have an EG you identify with, it’s easy to build your case to launch one. And if your company has an EG you identify with, then I encourage you to join it today – I can ensure you, it will be a rewarding experience that can help you advance your career.

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Erika Portillo is the Houston HACEMOS president for AT&T.

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