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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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Houston-based Melax Tech has developed multiple Natural language processing tools that are used by more than 650 health care and life science organizations. Photo via MelaxTech.com

Melax Tech Partners, a leader in natural language technology processing, announced a new partnership with the University of California at Irvine that will help researchers derive insights from the UCI Health Data Science Platform’s electronic health records system and improve patient care.

Melax will implement its signature text annotation tool LANN to pull information from clinical notes, and its CLAMP product to develop natural language processing customizations through the use of AI, according to a statement from the company.

“There has been a strong desire among UCI researchers to have the capability to analyze free-text clinical narrative data using cutting-edge NLP technologies," Kai Zheng, chief research information officer at UCI Health Affairs, says in a statement. "We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with Melax Tech to deploy their AI-driven annotation and analytics tools to help our researchers advance their research agenda by leveraging the vast amount of free-text data that our health system has accumulated in the past two decades.”

Natural language processing, or NLP, allows organizations and healthcare groups to sift through and analyze massive amounts of data at a rapid rate through the use of machine learning and AI. Houston-based Melax Tech, founded in 2017, has developed multiple NLP tools that are used by more than 650 health care and life science organizations, according to its website.

In addition to the recent partnership with UC Irvine, Melax has also recently partnered with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Western Pennsylvania on similar clinical projects.

Melax has also used its platforms to pull vital information from datasets relating to COVID-19, in both medical and social settings.

In March 2022, it was awarded a Phase 1 NIH Award, valued at $300,000, to develop informatics tools based on COVID-19 datasets with the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UC San Diego. The tool aims to help researchers better understand vast amounts of virus-related data and connect findings with other similar results.

In August, Melax also received another $300,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop NLP-based algorithms that will "model, extract and synthesize vaccine misinformation from multiple popular social media sources," according to a statement. Melax will also develop a visualization that presents its findings on the misinformation into a compressible format.

"This is a very real topic affecting culture at present," Andre Pontin, CEO at Melax Tech, says in a statement. "And shows that we as a collective business and group of experts continue to be on the cutting-edge of science in the NLP and AI domain."

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