Houston Impression

I moved down to Houston from Minneapolis about one year ago. I first heard about Houston because of NASA, and then the Rockets, for which Chinese native Yao Ming was playing. I didn’t know much about the city and the Oil & Gas industry until the company I have been working for acquired two companies based in Houston.

For the past two years after the acquisition, the office in Houston consistently delivered robust growth that dwarfed any other business unit in the company. I moved down in July 2014, so this was long before oil prices dropped to $50-$60/barrel when the US oil market got hit heavily. Under the influence of Sheryl Sandberg, as she wrote in her book Lean In, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat”, I applied and got the job to work for the “rocket ship” in the whole company. Though never setting foot in Houston prior to accepting the job and being warned that the city is quite industrial, I bid farewell to friends and the great state of Minnesota where I spent four years of college and two years of professional life and started the adventure in the bayou city.

After three months in the office, I knew I made the right move for myself professionally because: 1) I’ve learned a lot about the O&G industry, which is an area with challenging concepts that I have little knowledge about; 2) I have more responsibilities in the job because the local finance team is running very lean for an almost four billion dollar business; 3) The office culture is pretty laid back and I love the team. We have been joking that the culture was driven by the cowboy spirits.

In terms of living in Houston, I do find my friend’s warning of “Houston being industrial” quite true. The city is very commuter driven, consisting of circles of highways. All this concrete takes over the space for nature. Gone are the days when I could easily access parks, running/biking trails, and lakes. As a runner for more than two years now, I found my outdoor running trails somewhat limited. Memorial Park and the trail circling Rice University are my go-tos now, the latter of which is particularly appreciated due to the shade it provides in the summer.

Despite not being very walkable or nature friendly, Houston still has a lot to offer. Without a doubt, I love the pleasant sunny days three fourths of the year, skipping the three months of hot and humid summer. That’s certainly something to brag about when the northern US experiences snow storms in the winters! It took me a move out of the familiar Midwest to realize how important sunshine is to me, when I get to enjoy it more! What’s more, being the fourth most populated metro city in the country, Houston has a very diverse demographic. I love that people could simply order lunch in Spanish, or that I could easily find authentic Chinese dishes. Further, a lot of people in Houston are transplants just like me, continuously pumping new energy into the city and easing up the friends-making process.

Though people are generally open to meeting new people, I still need to make an effort to reach out. There is someone on my floor that works in a different group that I usually say hi to. One day I asked her out to lunch and found that she was relatively new to the city just like me. She also mentioned wanting to enjoy the Houston classical music scenes, but didn’t know anyone here to go with. By the end of the lunch, we agreed that we would go to Houston Symphony together next time! Now I wish I had initiated lunch earlier. One way I tried to meet people is to use Meetup.com. The website hosts a substantial number of interest groups organized by enthusiastic volunteers. Had I still been in Minnesota, I would have hang out with friends from college and followed my usual pastime routine. The Meetup group usually organizes various events that are not necessarily considered “my routine”. But the goal of meeting people and making friends motivated me to try a lot of new activities, such as indoor rock climbing, topgolf, rollerblading, flag football, etc. I am getting used to trying new things now and not that afraid of failures or being judged, which I am quite proud of.

Within this past year, I have hosted two visitors. At a disadvantage of Houston not being a top destination city for leisure, for each visit, I planned fun events in Houston with diverse points of interests, such as science, art, nature, food, etc. Then it dawned on me that I am no longer new in town and could be just as informed as a local Houstonian. There are still many places on my to-explore list, so I can’t wait to see what else Houston has to offer!

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