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

 
 

This week's Houston innovators to know include Liongard CEO Joe Alapat, Church Space Founder Day Edwards, and PDR Principal Larry Lander. Photos courtesy

As Houston transitions into summer, the city's tech and innovation ecosystem enters a new season — but with the same level of entrepreneurialism and can-do spirit.

This week's innovators to know includes a Houston tech founder fresh off fundraising, an architect with the future of the workplace, and a startup leader with a way to digitally connect churches to their congregations.

Joe Alapat, CEO and co-founder of Liongard

Courtesy of Liongard

After raising a $17 million round for his startup, Joe Alapat, CEO of Liongard, joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss fundraising during a pandemic and how he's seen the Houston innovation ecosystem grow.

In the episode, Alapat also shares his advice for Houston startups looking to tap into the Houston innovation ecosystem — something he's watched grow over the past five years. Now, he says, when it comes to new startups in Houston, "the waves are hitting the shore."

"Houston has always been an entrepreneurial city, and this is just that next stage," Alapat says on the episode. "For me, it's the technology side that excites me even more to see technology companies really succeeding." Listen to the episode and read more.

Day Edwards, founder and CEO of Church Space

Photo courtesy of Church Space

Large gathering places have been shut down for months at this point, and that includes places of worship. Houston entrepreneur Day Edwards, founder and CEO of Church Space, usually focuses on connection organizations to spaces for worship or events. But, she is now focused on getting services online for congregations to connect with.

"It felt like the perfect opportunity to give churches a way to reach more people during the pandemic," says Edwards. "This would create more impact than anything we could possibly offer at this time." Read more.

Larry Lander, principal at PDR

Photo courtesy of PDR

While much of the country has been working from home for weeks, Larry Lander opines that this has made physical office space more important than ever.

"As a place to provide a technology offering we don't enjoy at our kitchen table, as a place to better support small group work beyond the tiny real estate of our laptop screens, and as a place that physically represents what our organizations are truly all about," he writes in a guest column for InnovationMap. The role of the workplace has never been more critical to business success." Read more.

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