Our 2019 Trailblazers Get Real and Get Personal

Shawn Simmons, PhD, Environmental & Permitting Manager at ExxonMobil, Gulf Coast Growth Venture
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be. Be confident in yourself and your abilities. The rest will come … just keep living and keep pushing forward.
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman looking to make a career in your industry?
A: Performance is necessary, Image sets you apart, Exposure helps you get to the next level. Define success early on for yourself, seek out mentors, and adjust your path as needed.
Q: What is something no one knows about you?
A: I am a thyroid cancer survivor.
Q: What, if any, unexpected turn happened in your career path?
A: An opportunity to work in Africa, which I took. It was not on my radar and totally unexpected.

Julie Fawdington, NextGen IT MoC at Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: I would tell my younger self to take advantage of the youthful confidence and keep pressing forward! I left grad school thinking I knew everything, which gave me the confidence to go after jobs and opportunities that now in my wiser old age I’m more hesitant to go after.
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman looking to make a career in your industry?
A: I work in IT for a large tech company. Never in my early career did I think anything related to IT or tech would be interesting. I had brainwashed myself from past feedback that ‘I wasn’t good at math’ or ‘certain classes are too technical. I’m not in a technical role in my current position, however I have been thrown into technical roles in the past. I truly love the challenge of learning something completely new and find myself energized and motivated to learn every day when I’m in an unfamiliar role.
Q: What is something no one knows about you?
A: Hmm. I’m not sure about this one. Something people might not know is that I don’t give up…. Ever. This has been my secret to success in work and life. I will win in the end simply due to endurance, being the last ‘man’ standing. I also run marathons for fun.
Q: What, if any, unexpected turn happened in your career path?
A: Getting into IT was definitely an unexpected turn. The best career moves have been because I took advantage of an opportunity, even if it seemed to be a strange route. Every move is a good move – the key is to keep moving!

Jenny McCauley, SVP of Administration at Southwestern Energy
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?

A: 1. Be confident, believe in yourself and be grateful for those around you who teach you.
2. When you feel nervous or uncomfortable, this is a sign of strength and not a weakness! Truly understand that living outside of your comfort zone is how you develop and grow.
3. It really is true that what you learn and how you bounce back from failures is so much more important than the fact that you failed – you have to focus on the learnings and not the failure.
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman looking to make a career in your industry?
A: 1. Realize that you have the opportunity to be a “trailblazer” since the stats of women in the E&P industry are low.
2. Believe in yourself as a professional in the industry and not a “woman” in the industry, and never forget that as a woman, you have an opportunity and responsibility to help other women succeed
Q: What is something that no one knows about you?
A: I am going on my first safari next year
Q:  What, if any, unexpected turn happened in your career?
• First unexpected turn was when I was thrown for a loop by my boss early in my career when he asked if I would move across the US for a job that he thought would be great for me. I had no intention of going or moving, but interviewed “for him” and ended up taking the job. Changed the course of my life and career!
• Second unexpected turn came later in my career when I was asked by my boss to take on responsibility for a group of functions that I had no experience in or background with. I took the leap and did it opened my eyes and perspective to a completely different side of the business that has broadened my idea of what I might be interested in next.

Lisa Renko, Community Development Relationship Manager at Woodforest National Bank
Q: What advice would you give to young women looking to make a career in your industry?
A: Always be willing to be uncomfortable with change
Q: Did you always think this would be the career path you’d follow?
A: Never in a million years, but sometimes you are where you need to be before you know it
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: Relax girl, you got this.
Q: What is something no one knows about you?
A: I’ve flown a blimp”
Q: What is something you tell yourself when you’re stuck?
A: You’re better than your mind is telling you right now
Q: What book are you currently reading?
A: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Megan Soltura, Vice President – Global Human Resources, Crane Worldwide Logistics – IAH
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?

A: Stop stressing out about what other people think.
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman looking to make a career in your industry?
A: To any up and coming young woman, regardless of the industry, The sky is the limit- it truly is. Surround yourself with those who build you up, not tear you down. Find other powerful women to network with and put it on your calendar to reach out. Get involved, and expose yourself to as many business situations as possible. People can only take advantage of you if you let them. If you feel or have a fear of being stagnant, MAKE THE MOVE. It might be the gateway to something great. Above all, have the courage to live the life you want to live, and get out there and make it happen.
Q: What is something that no one knows about you?
A: I love Ethiopian food!

Candace Hurt CFP® CDFA®, Vice President, Senior Portfolio Manager, The Bridge Group at Morgan Stanley
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: Make use of trusted friends and mentors. Seek their counsel when you are faced with important decisions that will have a long-term impact on your life. Always remember that our God does not withhold wisdom when we request it.
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman looking to make a career in your industry?
A: If you are considering this profession, you need to have the desire to develop two major skills. First make sure you have the desire to develop and continually refine your knowledge of economies and financial markets. Second, make sure you have the interpersonal skills to develop supportive and caring relationships with your clients. Most clients, when they trust you, will provide you with all the information you need to help them appropriately plan their financial future. But that trust is developed by letting the client know you are truly interested in who they are and what they want to achieve. In my opinion, women are ideally suited to this profession, yet less than 15% of the financial advisors in the US today are women. Lastly, it takes time and perseverance to develop a practice. When beginning your career consider aligning yourself with a veteran advisor as a partner or mentor.
Q: What is something no one knows about you?
A: I was a bare back horse rider as a young girl and aspired to be a country western singer.
Q: What, if any, unexpected turn happened in your career path?
A: Prior to becoming a financial advisor, I made my living in technology and had been a single mom for the better part of a decade. During that time, I realized that I needed to save and grow funds for my kids college education. So, I began to do a bit of investing and found markets and investments very interesting. When I remarried, my husband knew my heart was not in technology and he asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to be a financial advisor. He offered to support me and my children while I began my practice. I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to help people on such a personal level in a profession that I love!

Jeanne-May Sun, Executive – Energy Transition & Clean Energy Solutions, Baker Hughes
Q: What book are you currently reading?
A: “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”, David Epstein, 1st edition, May 28, 2019
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: 1. While it is absolutely crucial to do your job very well, it is also very important at the same time to build relationships both inside and outside your company. People have to know you to be willing to advocate for you. 2. Carve enough time for yourself outside work for family, friends, health, hobbies, etc. This will sustain you through the inevitable ups and downs of your career.
3. Establish a long-standing group of trusted advisors – people use the term “Personal Board of Directors” – with whom you can discuss professional issues. 4. Ask for help when you need it.
Q: Was there a surprising change that happened to you while on your career path?
A: Yes, I made multiple changes in my career (and education) path along the way. It’s not surprising that I did this because I’ve always been one to follow my interests and change course as my interests have evolved. However, I couldn’t have predicted the specific changes in advance. I initially wanted to be a journalist, then a diplomat, then an academic economist. After doing my Ph.D. in economics, I decided to become a management consultant where I served a variety of industries including consumer products, retail, and automotive. I then left management consulting and joined the food industry, and subsequently the energy industry. I’ve also done work in telecommunications, healthcare, and the non-profit sector among other areas.
Q: What is something you tell yourself when you’re stuck?
A: • Just do it
• Keep going – you can do it
• It will get better – this too shall pass
• I have much to be grateful for

C Baldwin Penthouse + The Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce (GHWCC)

As many of you know, the GHWCC is proud to have influenced the naming of the C Baldwin Hotel, after Charlotte Baldwin Allen, one of Houston’s founders.  Kudos to Brookfield Companies for finally giving Charlotte her rightful place in history.  Several of the GHWCC’s leadership and board members were treated to the exclusive launch of the C Baldwin and experienced an evening of fine dining in the Rosalie Restaurant, named for the highly celebrated chef, Chris Cosentino’s grandmother Rosalie.  In fact, we were the first to dine in the restaurant!  The GHWCC leaders were hosted on a private tour of the gorgeous hotel.

Charlotte Baldwin was born on July 14th, 1895 upstate New York.  Charlotte could have easily remained up north where she grew up and lived nicely from her inheritance.  But, In 1831, Charlotte marries Augustus Chapman Allen and in 1832, she, her husband and his brother (John Allen) leave New York and head to the state of Texas.  Ultimately, Charlotte’s inheritance helped fund the purchase of land in the Buffalo Bayou which then lead to several additional and noteworthy investments.

The initial land they purchased attracted further investment and settlement in to the area.  A notable accomplishment is their funding of the first state house.  Charlotte and Augustus were even Sam Houston’s neighbor.  In 1831, John Allen passed away and Charlotte had a disagreement over the estate with her husband, Augustus.  In 1850, they separate over this disagreement and Augustus moves away to Mexico and Washington DC – and Charlotte remains in Houston.  The caveat was that back in those days, married women could not own property.

Charlotte was a prominent member of their collective families throughout all of their business dealings.  She even registered her own cattle brand and negotiated numerous real estate and development projects.  She helped create what is the city of Houston today.

Charlotte becomes one of the most well-known citizens in Houston for the next 45 years.  After the civil war, her home became the headquarters for the commanding general of federal troops in Houston.  She deeded various parcels of property to the city, some of which were used for a city hall and market house.

The Allen Brothers received much of the credit for developing Houston.  But, if it wasn’t for Charlotte – none of it would have happened.  Charlotte is considered ‘the mother of Houston’ and is one of the unsung heroes among Texas history.   She was a leader in Houston when women had few rights and even fewer opportunities.  She was an accomplished business woman and her decisions and actions mattered, they made a difference for others.

Houston-Area Leaders Named as HBJ’s 2019 Women Who Mean Business Honorees

After reviewing hundreds of nominations, the Houston Business Journal has named 65 women as honorees for the 2019 Women Who Mean Business Awards and 10 as Women to Watch.  All of the honorees across nine industries will be recognized in a special section of HBJ’s Oct. 4 weekly edition and at an awards gala on Oct. 3. Click here to learn more about the event and to purchase tickets.  A lifetime achievement award winner will be named at a later date and will also be honored at the reception.

The criteria for selection included career achievement, contribution to company and city success, community involvement and leadership. The 2019 judges were Stephanie Burritt, principal and managing director at Gensler; Suzan Deison, CEO, president and founder at Great Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce; Gabriella Rowe, CEO at Station Houston; Robin Russell, deputy managing partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth; Claudia Aguirre, president and CEO at BakerRipley; Kimberly McKay, managing partner at BKD LLP; and Carol Guess, chair at the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce.

At Murphy, Mission, Vision and Values Drive Employee Retention

Written by Maria Martinez, Vice President, HR & Administration, Murphy Oil Corp.

At Murphy, our Mission, Vision and Values (MVV) are embedded into our daily activities and drive every aspect of what we do and how it is achieved. We believe in providing energy that empowers people and we realize that can take on many different forms. Through our MVV, we are building a positive culture which is supporting our retention strategy. Recognizing that retention strategies must be adjusted based on current conditions, below are three effective strategies that I am currently focusing on to drive engagement and retention:


  1. Work Environment – Creating a work environment that is inclusive, productive and empowering allows employees to show up as their authentic selves. By removing barriers, respecting each other and our differences and focusing on creating a positive workplace, our employees make meaningful connections with their colleagues and become more productive as a result.
  1. Training and Development – Putting a heavy emphasis on training and development within an organization allows employees the opportunity to grow and develop into the best version of themselves. Training and development is not ‘one size fits all’ and we approach it by keeping our employees’ needs in the forefront of every program that we offer.
  1. Benefits – Today, benefits include more than just healthcare which is why we strive to offer a robust total rewards package. I believe that by offering benefits that are competitive with industry expectations we can attract and retain the top talent. I realize that offering comprehensive benefits empowers our employees to accomplish more in their personal lives, which allows them to sustain their effectiveness while they are at work.

Let’s Summarize Our Breast Cancer Knowledge As We Move from One Month to the Next

by Darra McMullen,  Women’s Health Network Writer/Researcher

As we close out October and move into early November, now seems to be the perfect time to review what we may (or may not) have heard in bits and pieces about breast cancer in the various media throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Before we get into those details, let’s take a brief moment to recognize and remember that the beloved men in our lives are at risk for breast cancer too, and as loving wives, girlfriends, daughters, sisters, cousins, nieces, aunts, friends, or co-workers, we should remember to gently chide our men to be aware of their risk and proactive in getting checked out for possible tumor growth.  Breast cancer seems to be a particularly difficult topic for many men to broach with their doctors due to the disease’s “effeminate” reputation, but the truth is the disease can hit anyone of either sex and should be taken seriously – just like any other life-threatening ailment.

Breast cancer fundamentals:

Now let’s move on to some breast cancer basics.

With one in eight women likely to become breast cancer victims at some point in their lives, now is the perfect time to increase our awareness of this serious problem and learn more about breast cancer detection and prevention.

As women grow older, the risk of breast cancer increases.  Nearly 8 out of 10 breast cancers occur in women older than age 50, according to American Cancer Society statistics.  That’s not to say that younger women can’t get the disease also.  In fact, an alarming number of young women in their 20’s and 30’s have had to deal with the numerous scary aspects of breast cancer, such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, drug side effects, and the possibility of death or, at least, infertility due to cancer treatment.

The various contributing causes of breast cancer are not all known at this time, and therefore, no definite way to prevent the cancer’s occurrence is available.  There are some lifestyle steps women can take to reduce their risk of breast cancer, or other cancers, from developing. (Details on these lifestyle steps follow shortly.)

The best option for effectively dealing with breast cancer is early detection.  Cancers caught early require less severe treatments, saving misery, money, and time out of daily life activities for the cancer patient.  Life expectancy rates also are much brighter for the patient whose cancer is caught early.

Screenings are very important for breast health!

Depending on which group of experts you refer to for advice, mammograms should become yearly events at age 40, 45, or 50.  Generally, women younger than 40 are urged to talk with their doctors about an appropriate screening schedule based on individual factors.  Of course, high-risk women of any age may need more frequent screenings and/or screenings with added dimensions of testing, such as ultrasound.  Women of any age with dense breast tissue are in particular need of ultrasound or MRI testing in addition to mammograms because mammograms cannot always detect small tumors in dense breasts.

Yearly manual breast exams by a doctor or nurse are a good idea for all women of all ages.  Young women may be able to extend to an every two or three year testing schedule, but do so only after consulting with a doctor for guidance.

Self-exams of the breast on a frequent (often monthly) schedule are a good idea and can help the individual woman familiarize herself with what’s normal for her particular body.  Self- exams have led many a woman to discover a problem (sometimes cancer, sometimes another condition) with her breasts.  Early treatment of any problem – cancer, benign tumors, bacterial or fungal infections, etc. – generally leads to a more successful outcome and quicker resolution of the situation.

When it comes to screenings, the most important thing to do is open up a comfortable channel of communication with your doctor about your breast health.  Discuss your individual risk factors, any breast related concerns you have, and any fears you may have about your health, the screenings themselves, and if needed, treatment options.

When it comes to preventing, detecting, and treating breast cancer, thoughtful, calm, deliberate action is the best path to follow.

Be aware of significant symptoms:

The American Cancer Society urges all women to be vigilant about any changes in their breasts, such as dimpling, changes in color, unusual swelling, pain, discharge, or lumps, and they urge women to see a doctor right away about any changes.  Even if a given situation is not breast cancer, a doctor often can help with other breast related issues, such as hormone imbalances, breast infections, fibroids, or even pinched nerves which can cause breast pain and swelling.

American Cancer Society’s breast cancer prevention tips:

Of course, the very best scenario is to avoid ever developing breast cancer.  With all the causes of breast cancer still unclear, the best we can do for now is to reduce known risk factors associated with breast cancer occurrence.  The American Cancer Society suggests the following steps:

  • Maintain (or get to) a healthy weight – not too heavy or too thin. The body’s immune system functions best in an ideal weight range, not too low or too high.  Likewise, the body’s endocrine (hormonal) system functions best in an ideal weight range.  Because immune function and hormonal balance play a role in breast cancer, it is best to keep both systems in peak condition.
  • Eat at least five servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined grains and sugars.
  • Limit consumption of processed and red meats.
  • Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on five or more days per week. Lengths of exercise bouts in the 45 to 60 minute range are preferable for reducing the risk of colon or breast cancers.
  • Limit how often meats are grilled or fried. High cooking temperatures can create chemicals that may increase cancer risk.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Risk of breast cancer increases with just a few drinks per week. Women at high risk for the disease may choose to avoid alcohol altogether.

Dietary supplements that may help with the battle against breast cancer:

There are several dietary supplements that show good evidence of helping to avoid breast cancer and/or to help the person fighting breast cancer to survive their condition more successfully.

The book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC has a fascinating, thorough, and well-written nine and one-half page section devoted to breast cancer prevention, screening, and nutritional support for women seeking to avoid breast cancer or treat it more effectively.

The following dietary supplement suggestions are recommended in Balch’s book, and these same supplements have been widely discussed and recommended in other media.  Of course, as always, check with your personal physician before taking supplements, especially if you are presently under treatment for breast cancer or take prescription drugs for any ailment.

Below is a brief listing of each supplement and its benefits:

  • CoQ10 – This substance improves cellular oxygenation and is available widely for improving heart health. Increasing evidence supports the theory that coenzyme Q10 reduces the risk of breast cancer.
  • Colostrum – Boosts the immune system to protect against infections and is known to promote accelerated healing.
  • Garlic – It has been used for ages to maintain wellness and has been scientifically shown to enhance immune function.
  • Melatonin – This substance is known to block estrogen-receptor sites on breast cancer cells; if you’ve ever suffered from seizures, talk to your doctor before using this product.
  • Multivitamin and Multi-mineral – Overall nutritional balance is needed to keep cells functioning properly. Multis can help fill in dietary nutritional gaps and help stressed human bodies cope better with disease and treatment.
  • Vitamin E – Deficiency has been linked to breast cancer. Vitamin E also helps with hormone production and immune function.
  • Vitamin C – This vitamin has a long history of improving immune response to any invaders, including cancer cells.
  • Natural carotenoid complex – The carotenoid complex works as a powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals, thereby protecting cells from damage.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids – They improve any inflammatory problems and lower cancer risk.
  • Curcumin – Is another powerful anti-inflammatory agent and immune enhancer.
  • Rosemary extract – It is an excellent anti-oxidant that helps remove estrogens from the body; and therefore, may help inhibit breast cancer development.

In conclusion:

There is much we can do to avoid getting breast cancer and much we can do to survive it if we should be so unfortunate as to acquire the dreaded disease, but we must be proactive – with screening, with lifestyle, and with determination to succeed in our own personal health journey.


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