Houston’s digital technology industry has seen a surge of growth and the nation’s top talent is taking notice. According to a recent analysis by Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), Houston added 8,100 digital tech workers in 2020, and contributed $29.2 billion to the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.
These are not just native Houstonians joining the digital tech ecosystem. Young professionals from around the country are flocking to Houston looking for opportunities in this emerging sector.
To learn more about what it is like to be a young professional in digital tech, we sat down with Josh Park, Marketing Manager for HP and a “Newstonian” that came to the region from the San Francisco bay area about three years ago, to find out what excites him about the local tech scene and what he loves about his new city. Here is what he had to say.
You moved to Houston about 3 years ago from California, what excited you most about coming to the Bayou City?
I think for me, it was the international diversity. I’ve lived in South Korea, a couple of states on the East Coast, Central California and the Bay Area before I moved here. But Houston has so many representations of different countries and ethnic groups that are on par or greater than other big cities. I love that I can probably eat different, authentic cuisine every week depending on what I’m in the mood for. It could honestly be from anywhere in Asia, South America, Latin America, Europe and even Africa. Besides Korean food, my current favorites are Japanese shabu hotpot, Nigerian beef suya and a Brazilian steakhouse.
Outside of food, we have cultural festivities, which are always fun to participate in. In previous years, I attended the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival and the Korean Festival. There are a few others that are on my bucket list which have been on hold since the pandemic.
How has moving to Houston helped you in your career path?
The pace of life is slower compared to the Bay Area, which was very much needed after graduating from college there. Because it’s more affordable to live here as well, I was able to enjoy experiences I probably would have never had in California. Before the pandemic, with the extra time and money, I was involved in several professional Meetup groups, actively engaged at my company’s on-site extracurriculars, volunteered at a nonprofit, and completed academic programs to further my education all the while traveling for both work and personal. By participating in so many different activities, I was able to expand my perspective and skill set to be more competent and knowledgeable and accelerate my career growth.
What do you think makes Houston a great city for tech workers?
It’s definitely a lot more affordable here compared to tech hubs like Silicon Valley or Austin. While there aren't as many tech companies just yet, I do know more and more are considering an office here. I’m expecting a good number to start moving down over the next few years, especially considering the diverse talent pool, the surrounding higher education institutions, and the overall affordability of Houston.
What are some ways Houston can stay competitive to attract high-quality tech talent and grow its tech industry?
I think there can be a stronger push for innovation and startup culture across many industries, not just within healthcare, energy, and oil and gas. The local government, universities and tech companies can all commit to helping build a tech community here, whether it’s related to education, job opportunities, startup investment or community outreach. The employees within these companies can also help as well. I know a number of HP employees who are actively involved in the community through volunteering, mentoring, facilitating workshops, etc. and I think if we can expand upon that energy and momentum, we can start building a true tech culture that can attract high-quality talent.
How do you anticipate major companies, such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise, will affect technological innovation within Houston’s core industries, such as life sciences and energy?
The products and solutions that companies like HPE and HP have shapes how technological innovation progresses moving forward. Having worked at both companies, I know that both portfolios help end-users and companies provide solutions specifically designed for high performance or advanced computing related to artificial intelligence and machine learning, data science and analytics, design – such as industrial, media and entertainment, etc.– and so much more. Both the life sciences and energy industries leverage an immense amount of data that needs to be stored, maintained, and processed for intense computations that are then used in applications that shape our knowledge and behavior. Essentially these major companies will enable others to change the way we live and thrive in society.
Any advice for someone who just graduated and is looking to find a job in the technology industry? What makes Houston the perfect place to launch their career?
Demonstrate passion for technology. You don’t have to be an engineer or a technical person. There are so many careers offered in a tech company that don’t have anything to do with technical expertise. You can do marketing, sales, finance, supply chain, program management, diversity and inclusion, recruiting, and that’s just from the top of my head. Don’t limit yourself when you’re job hunting, and you’ll find that many industries have the same or similar jobs that you can transfer your skills and experiences to.
Also, build a network of professionals in tech. The industry moves so quickly and having a strong, active network will definitely be valuable in the long term. LinkedIn is probably the most well-known and easiest, but there’s many other platforms and paths to networking, including events, Meetup groups, and niche online communities through blogs and even podcasts.
What advice can you give to another young professional who is about to make the move to Houston?
First, join a Meetup group. Meetup is an app that is very similar to Facebook Groups but is specifically focused on building local communities. You can find different groups based on interests or hobbies, and many of these groups would host events, workshops, and social happy hours so members can network. If you’re coming from other metropolitan areas like San Francisco, L.A. or New York City, one of the biggest culture shocks moving to Houston is that no one walks here. To me, it seemed more challenging to make friends, especially if you don’t know anyone in the city, when you have to drive everywhere. But I was lucky enough to make some connections within the first two weeks after moving here, which got me plugged into a community that I’m super grateful to have (quick shoutout to the Asian Professional Meetup group).
Second, make an effort to truly explore Houston. There are so many little nuggets of surprise throughout the city to cater to your interests, which for me included urban study cafes, international cuisine, architectural aesthetics, parks, museums, bars and clubs, dance studios, and more. As the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston has so much to offer for everyone and anyone.
Finally, definitely experience Houston Restaurant Weeks. This is typically a month-long dining extravaganza where restaurants will offer sweet deals like a 3-course brunch for only $20 or a 4-course dinner for $45. They’ll donate a certain portion of their sales to the Houston Food Bank. Not only do you get to enjoy a special meal at a lower than usual price, you’re also giving back to the community.
Top 3 things you love about H-Town:
1. The amazingly diverse culture you’ll see in Houston. It’s not just international or ethnic-based culture you’ll find here. You can also observe the local culture or niche interests in various spots throughout the neighborhoods that make the city so unique.
2. The people you’ll befriend here are extraordinarily nice compared to those in other cities. I’m not sure if that’s a Houston thing or a Texas thing, but people here really do try to be more open and friendly to you.
3. The downtown skyline is absolutely stunning especially with the amazing sunsets Houston has. I’ve lived in several different apartments here, and I try my best to find a unit that faces downtown just so I can get a glimpse of the skyline every day.