Featured Innovator

This Houston energy executive is helping to create more women mentors in business

When Myrtle Jones was rising through the ranks of an energy company, she didn't have a female mentor to look up to. Now, she hopes help connect young women with mentors digitally. Courtesy of Myrtle Jones

If you're a young woman in business, you're probably familiar with the struggle of finding a woman in business to be mentor. Here's some good news for those women: There's an app that's looking to change that, and there's a good chance you've already downloaded it on your phone.

In 2017, Austin-based Bumble, the dating and social mobile application, launched Bumble Bizz, an application that seeks to connect industry professionals and foster networking and mentoring opportunities. As of 2019, users have the option to see only women on the app, too, in order to foster their professional network of women.

Myrtle Jones, senior vice president at Houston-based Halliburton, knows a thing or two about the importance of mentorship, in large part because she went without it for much of her career. Jones, who's participating in Bumble Bizz's launch efforts, has become known as one of Houston's most influential and inspiring women in business. She spoke with InnovationMap about the importance of mentorship, how she wound up in the energy industry, and how interested professionals can become mentors to the next generation of professionals.

InnovationMap: What role did mentorship play in your career?

Myrtle Jones: I think people fail to realize that I came up in the industry before mentorship was really a thing. I started working in the energy business in the early '80s, and women were new to the industry. We were somewhat getting ourselves established in the business world – there was no such thing as someone saying, "We're going to get you linked up with mentors," so you had to find role models. I always had role models, and I always looked at the fact that women should have an equal opportunity in the workforce, and that we belonged in the workforce.

I was going to make my way in corporate America, and my motivation was believing that we had just as much right to be out here as men did.

IM: Did you have a mentor in your earlier days in the professional world?

MJ: A very wonderful sponsor came in as a treasurer when I was at GlobalSantaFe [now Transocean], and he was eventually promoted to CFO. He was someone who picked me out of the crowd and noticed I brought a lot of value. He brought me to executive meetings and board meeting and gave me an opportunity to show what I could do.

IM: How'd you get involved in the energy industry?

MJ: It wasn't that I was looking to go into energy. At the time I got out of school, the hottest job market was Houston, Texas, and it was the energy business. I went to Mississippi State, and the oil and gas companies were expanding their search outside of Texas and attracting people to move to Texas. So, that's how I ended up in the business. Other than the energy business, the economy was a bit slow around the rest of the country.

IM: What are some of the professional obstacles and adversities that you've faced as a female, especially in a stereotypically male-dominated industry?

MJ: First off, it was men getting used to seeing women in this industry, and just having to build those relationships and build mutual trust. A lot of it was just building trust, and overcoming a lot of prior stereotypes and beliefs that people had about the role [of women] in the workplace.

IM: Tell me about the role of technology and innovation at Halliburton.

MJ: There's so much technology development at Halliburton. A lot of people don't realize that Halliburton is a technology company. We have a fully fledged research and development center and we file hundreds of patents each year. The technology that Halliburton has developed has led to significant improvements in terms of oilfield services.

IM: What's your advice for folks reading this who are interested in mentoring, but aren't sure how to get started?

MJ: Make yourself open to it. When I'm in networking situations, and I'm meeting someone who's committed to their career, and they're looking for ways to talk to me, I open myself to that opportunity. I have a number of people who I mentor at Halliburton. For people who want to be mentors, it's really not that hard. [Mentees] are looking for that sounding board, and for someone who's "been there, done that."

So, even without having a formal organization to go through, people can become a mentor through their own network, or seek out organizations that have formal mentoring programs.

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Portions of this interview have been edited.

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Building Houston

 
 

Calling all sports tech companies. A Galleria-area sports tech hub is opening this summer. Photo via braunenterprises.com

It's game time for a Houston-based coworking company that's working on opening a sports innovation hub this summer.

The Cannon is working on opening new hub in 53 West, a Galleria-area office building recently renovated by Braun Enterprises. The project is in partnership with Gow Media, InnovationMap's parent company, and will be co-located with the media business that runs Gow Broadcasting LLC and the SportsMap Radio Network, which includes local sports station 97.5 as well as national syndicated content.

The Cannon's founder Lawson Gow tells InnovationMap that Gow Media — founded by Lawson's father, David Gow — and Braun Enterprises were opportunistic partners for the organization.

"We've always been optimistically looking for strategic partners that we can co-locate with or team up with to create a hyper focused, niche community," Lawson Gow says. "We've spent a lot of time thinking about what that can be."

Expected to open midsummer, the new two-story space will have 23 offices and a 1,500-square-foot open space that can be used for events. All existing Cannon members will have access to the space, and potential tenants can expect a similar pricing model to The Cannon's other three Houston-area locations.

Houston makes sense for sports tech, which Gow defines as encompassing four categories of innovation — fan engagement, activity and performance, fantasy and gambling, and esports. Houston has the money, the big four sports teams, a big fan base, and corporate interest, he explains.

"Sports tech is a thing we can win at. There's no global hub for sports tech — so Houston can do that," Gow says. "We've always had that in our heads as a direction we want the city to head down, so it just makes it so opportunistic to create a space for that kind of innovation at work for the city."

53 West has been undergoing renovations recently. Photo via braunenterprises.com

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