Women of the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region
By Kaitlyn Conner
Last month, the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region (Economic Alliance) hosted the Women’s Leadership Luncheon at Cullen’s restaurant. Women of various industries met and mingled about their successes and strengths in the workforce, how to stay motivated, past and present challenges, and the life events that have led to their success. Three women in leadership roles at the Economic Alliance provided me the opportunity to interview them about their accomplishments. #EAWomen
Dr. BRENDA HELLYER
Past Chairman (2012-2013)
In 2009, Dr. Brenda Hellyer was appointed Chancellor of San Jacinto College, Texas’ seventh largest community college. Prior to the position of chancellor, Dr. Hellyer served in many executive positions at San Jacinto College, including: executive vice president for resource development, vice chancellor for fiscal affairs, chief financial officer, and executive vice chancellor.
Dr. Hellyer addressed over 35 women during the June Women’s Leadership Luncheon. During her presentation, she shared three inspiring points. The first was to, “Encourage others and find your passion.” Women should encourage one another to stay motivated and find what they love in their work. In doing so, women in the workforce can become leaders for future generations.
The second point was, “Where you begin your journey may not be where you complete your journey.”
She reminded us that it is easier to resist change than to accept it, but over the long term, change may make the greatest impact in one’s life. By embracing change, we as women become powerful individuals that are able to take on the world.
She concluded her presentation noting that, “Change creates choices for all of us.” By branching out and remaining open to new ideas, we create a vulnerable yet powerful side to ourselves.
Throughout her encouraging presentation, Dr. Hellyer reminded us that although it isn’t always easy, we should stay consistently focused on the end goal of who we ultimately want to be.
VP of Business Development
Marie McDermott has over 30 years of experience in economic development. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science degree in International Business and Finance. In 1997, Ms. McDermott received her Economic Developer Certification from the International Economic Development Council and became Chairman of the Texas Economic Development Council in 2004. She achieved the role of vice president of business development at the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region in 2007, where she markets the Houston Ship Channel region to international and domestic businesses.
Ms. McDermott reminds us that staying interested is the key to successful relationships by saying, “Economic development is my passion – I have done economic development for the State of Texas, two different regions, and a city. I enjoy working with people that are pleased to take me into their businesses and show me around their facilities. They love their businesses, and I love learning from them.”
When asked about the struggles she has faced in the workforce, she said that her perspective has changed over time. When she was younger, there weren’t very many noticeable challenges that really stood out to her; now that she is older, she has greater perspective. “I prefer women that just move ahead,” McDermott says, encouraging women not to be concerned about their differences.
In addition to her positive outlook, Ms. McDermott’s education has also prepared her well for her role. She says, “I utilize finance in my projects, and I am always seeking international projects. One reason I have worked in the Houston Port Region is that many firms have global headquarters here.”
Chairman (2014 – 2015)
Karen Gregory joined the Economic Development team on behalf of CenterPoint Energy in 2007. Her career with the company has spanned more than 26 years. In addition to developing the northern region of the service area, she is responsible for developing projects and relationships in the distribution and logistics market.
Ms. Gregory, a curious person by nature, says one of the best ways to stay motivated is to constantly be learning new things. However, according to Gregory, you also need, “personal time, time to just shut down from work, and take a step away from the phone and emails.” Gregory says, “It’s easy to get burnt out. When you’re so focused on going, going, going, and you never stop to take a breather, you can run yourself into the ground.”
When asked how she stands out from the rest of her team, Ms. Gregory laughed, “Well, I kind of have a loud voice,” she said. On a more serious note, she answered, “Honestly, the best thing to do is to find your niche or an area of interest that you invest time and studies into for the benefit of educating other employees.” She was known as the “Lighting Expert” for a while due to her expertise in that area.
Ms. Gregory has worked her way up during her career at CenterPoint. “I came out of college at 22 years old ready to set the world on fire, wanting to find something cool do to with my life,” she says. “I thrived at work and eventually my personality fit into what I was doing here at CenterPoint.”
Ms. Gregory recently returned from Wisconsin, where she received her Certified Economic Developer designation, a national recognition that denotes a mastery of principal skills in economic development, professional attainment, and a commitment to personal and professional growth.
Thank you to our Economic Alliance Women we appreciate everything that you do for our organization and our region.
For more about the Economic Alliance visit www.allianceportregion.com
Kaitlyn is a senior at Sam Houston State University, graduating in May 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations. This summer, she is participating in an internship at the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region.