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UH introduces new innovation-focused programs

In the fall semester of 2019, undergraduate students can choose to minor or major in a few new innovation programs. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

The University of Houston took a step forward in educating Houston's future innovators. The university has created two minor programs and a major focused on innovation.

Undergraduate students now have the option to major or minor in Technology Leadership and Innovation Management or minor in Applied Innovation. All three options begin in the fall semester of this year in the College of Technology. According to the college's dean, Anthony P. Ambler, the college is also interested in adding a master's and a PhD. program in Innovation Management or a post-graduate certificate program.

"We are about giving people the right tools to innovate," says Ambler in a release. "How do you get more people to the position where they are able to innovate?"

All of the programs are affiliated with two out-of-state institutions: the University of Maine's Foster Center for Innovation and Ohio-based Innovation Engineering.

UH previously offered Innovation Leadership classes, and one was taught by David Crawley. His class and the new programs focus on the tools students need to develop "to solve problems and develop meaningfully unique opportunities," Crawley says in the release.

"I always thought of creativity as something that comes upon you in the middle of the night, or in the shower," says Ahmad Mohamad, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering technology, who took Crawley's class last semester. "But there are techniques you can learn to help you come up with these creative solutions."

The Technology Leadership major replaces the Organization Leadership and Supervision degree, but students currently majoring in this program will be able to continue on with the new degree program, according to the release.

"Learning how to innovate — how to identify unmet needs, creatively develop solutions, and then bring them to reality – amplifies the workplace value of all other technical and business skills," says John Jeffers, director of geosciences at Southwestern Energy, in the release. "Whether innovating within an organization as an "intrapreneur", or stepping out to create something new, people who are familiar with the mindset and practice of innovation have an enormous advantage."

These programs aren't the only thing UH is doing to advance innovation in Houston. The university has recently revamped its Energy Research Park to be the Technology Bridge. The institution provides space and resources for early-stage, research-based startups. Read more about the UH Technology Bridge here.

Courtesy of UHAnthony Ambler is the dean of the UH College of Technology.

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Building Houston

 
 

SeekerPitch exists to update the job hiring process in a way that benefits both the job seekers and recruiters. Photo via Getty Images

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."

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