“I was truly raised by a village, you know.” “ If you had asked me when I was a little daughter growing up in Heidelberg, Mississippi, if I would end up being the Senior VP of Tax at Halliburton, I would ’ ve said ‘ absolutely not. ’ It is something that was merely impossible to me. ” We have all seen feel-good movies about kids growing up in small towns across America who end up making their marks in places they could have never dreamed of while they were growing up. But those are precisely movies, works of celluloid and fiction, and it is a rare thing to come confront with such a real floor in the pulp. That was our experience when we sat down with Myrtle Jones, the Senior Vice President of Tax at service diligence elephantine Halliburton. Heidelberg is a rural farm community located in the southeast partially of Mississippi, approximately 30 miles to the union of Hattiesburg. Situated in Jasper County, it lies in the midst of the largest oil-producing depart of the state, although farming is truly its main business. As is sadly typical of such agricultural communities in America, Heidelberg ’ south population has actually shrunk over the past respective decades, dropping to barely 714 souls in the 2010 census.

The town had about 1,000 residents during the 1960s and 1970s when Jones was growing up there, with possibly 100 more than the 349 households recorded in that 2010 census. The Jones family didn ’ t actually reside within the city limits but preferably on a humble grow a few miles down the road. “ We had all the farm animals : cows and pigs and chickens, ” she told us. “ We basically grew all of our food on the farm between the gardens and fields. We grew cotton up until the fourth dimension I was 8 or 9 years old — that was our cash crop. My grandfather was basically the drive violence behind the cotton, and so fortunately for me, I was spared the cotton fields because by the time I was old adequate to pick up my cotton sack and read/write head to the fields, he had stopped doing it, ” she added with a laugh. As was quite common in such rural southern communities at the time, the Jones family was a multi-generational unit of measurement who all lived identical close to one another. “ It was me, my seven siblings, my parents and my grandparents. It was kind of a residential district where we lived, where our houses were within 50 yards from each other, ” she recalled, adding, “ You couldn ’ thymine get away with anything ! I was in truth raised by a village, you know. I ’ m actually the youngest of the eight children. I didn ’ t get aside with anything. ” Jones ’ s mother worked outside the home, and for a junior-grade commercial enterprise, the family besides ran a general shop that served the other farms in the wall area. “ My mother was a domestic worker. sol, my parents were constantly busy, ” she said. “ They were constantly working hard to make ends meet along there with my grandparents. We besides had a little bantam country store. It didn ’ triiodothyronine even stay clear. It opened when person came to buy something. It was like ‘ Oh, person wants something from the store. ’ So, you went and unlocked it, and then locked it back up when they were done. It precisely had staples like flour, carbohydrate and cornmeal and bread and pop. It wasn ’ t like a big popular place ; it was barely what you would call a ma and pop store. “ That ’ s the environment that I grew up in. ” It was the kind of environment that has largely been lost to modern times, but one in which Myrtle Jones learned early on about the values of hard study, of dependability, of community, of common respect and of collaborating with others to get things done. Anyone who has spent fourth dimension in the corporate earth knows that these are values that can help a person to rise to high levels within any administration. They are all besides rare and therefore prized by upper management. Jones told us that, although unaware of where it would lead her at the time, she continued to learn these values and more while going to educate in Heidelberg. “ I was always very civil, I would say, ” she responded when asked about the kinds of extracurricular activities she was involved in at Heidelberg High. “ I was in all the different types of club. I was Student Council Treasurer, Class Secretary. I was in things like The Explorers Club, Beta Club, and I always found myself being an policeman of these clubs, if not President. I was constantly a drawing card. ” But the obligations of family and farm left little occasion for early activities that required her to spend time at educate outside of normal hours. “ I didn ’ triiodothyronine do a lot of the band and the choir or things that require a set of after school time, as you can imagine ; there were chores to do when I got back home, ” she continued. “ We didn ’ t have a draw of money growing up, so to be honest with you, transportation was normally an issue for those types of activities so that limited some of what I could do. To help out on the farm and besides equitable the limitations on transportation and being able to get back and away, that kind of dictated that I not do things like choir and band and what have you. But I managed to stay very interfering and engaged in the different clubs and stuff that school had to offer. ” The enterprising student besides held down a job during her junior and senior years. “ There was a platform for the students who were from low-income families to get summer jobs, so my first job was working in the principal ’ s office during the summer. Once the summer was over going into my senior year, the chief asked me if I would continue to work in the office and help the secretary. rather of getting paid, because that plan was only during the summer, they offered to defray some of my costs of things like commencement pictures and my graduation ring and things like that. therefore, I worked all through my senior year in the principal ’ s office and then went back to work in the summer. ” That have taught Jones the prize of being able to hold down an function job. “ sol, where a lot of kids may have got their work begin like in a fast-food restaurant or snog tables somewhere, my first base job was in an office, ” she said, adding with a laugh that “ I realized early on that I liked sitting in an air-condition office to do my study a batch better than I liked working on the farm. ” “I decided at 15 years old that I wanted to be an accountant.” When we asked Myrtle to talk about the factors that led her to seek her degree in account at Mississippi State University, she surprised us by saying that “ I decided at 15 years previous that I wanted to be an accountant. ” That ’ s a decisiveness that very few people make at such a young long time, but it made perfective sense when she described how it all came about. “ even though I went to this truly small high gear school in Mississippi, which is not known for having the best school systems, our high school actually offered business classes, ” she told us. “ They offered bookkeeping and accounting and some other classes that were business-related. sol, when I was a sophomore in high school, one of my friends approached me, and it was in truth curious, she said ‘ Hey, what are you doing 4th period ? ’ I was like, ‘ I don ’ thyroxine know, I think I have study hall. ’ And she said, ‘ Well, the account classify is during 4th period, and I ’ megabyte going to sign up for it. Will you sign up for it with me ? ’ And I was like, “ Okay ! Better than Study Hall, right ? ” well, when you put it that way… She continued : “ It was interesting because normally the people in that class would be juniors and seniors, so I was a little intimidated by it. I was not deoxyadenosine monophosphate outgoing as the person you see before you today, but my acquaintance was very extroverted, so since she was taking the course, of path I would follow her. I took the course, and at that moment, I knew I wanted to major in report. “ I was able to think about the unlike things we did in that little store and how that affects occupation, ” she said. “ evening when I was truly new, my grandma would have me sit down every month and write out her bills for her and get the money orders ready to pay the utility bills. She would besides set up and tell me the things she needed from the grocery store, and she would give me the money to go buy the groceries. “ so, I was used to dealing with money, and somehow or another, my brain connected the link between the accountancy class and these unlike things, and that made the class fun for me. ” “We get to make those decisions now.” It was the make of those early connections that led Jones through Mississippi State to an extraordinary career that immediately sees her managing the tax department of the largest oilfield service company in America and one of the largest and most divers military service companies in the world. nowadays, this girl who grew up in bantam Heidelberg in the ‘ 60s and ‘ 70s oversees a staff of about 220 people who must account for and ensure Halliburton is meeting its tax obligations in more than 80 countries where it operates around the ball. Rising to such a level is an extraordinary accomplishment for anyone, but particularly impressive when one considers that Jones came into the energy business in the 1980s, when it remained by and large a big “ good ol ’ boys ” club that made it very hard for women – and minority women in particular – to rise into managerial positions. We asked her if she has seen that environment evolve over the years. “ Yes, it has, ” she said. “ When I beginning started in the energy business, it was rare to even have women on the operations side. My first boastful energy job where I was in truth involved in more than merely putting some numbers on a tax return was at Global Santa Fe, which is an offshore drill company. And the idea that a woman would be away in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico for 21 days with men, well, that was good unheard of. It just didn ’ metric ton find. “ But that was not good out on the rigs ; it was besides in the corporate function. so, breaking that barrier down was — I ’ thousand indisputable it was easier on the bodied side than it was out in the field, but even on the corporate side, it was difficult. ” It may be surprising for some to hear these days, but one of the big barriers had to do with women engaging in commercial enterprise travel. “ In order for me to progress as a tax professional, I have to go where the issues are, ” Jones said. “ We didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate operate barely in the UK, and we didn ’ t function merely in the Netherlands ; we besides operated in Nigeria and Venezuela, and in remote control places that are identical challenging. “ And initially, being able to work on the assignments that would give me the experience that I needed to progress, there would be very open conversations that were like, ‘ Well, should we very send you off to West Africa ? ’ And I ’ d say, ‘ good, this is where the audit is, and this is where the issues are, and so in holy order for me to get my arms around it, I need to go to West Africa. ’ And they ’ d say, ‘ Well, are you all right with that ? Is your conserve going to feel okay about it ? ’ “ You know, I was married at the time. ( She has since divorced. ) ‘ How ’ s your husband going to feel about it ? ’ well, he in truth doesn ’ t have a say so. Those were the kinds of conversations, and if it was happening for me in a corporate space, I imagine it was happening a hundred-fold to others. “ But fortunately, I worked with people who actually asked the questions and allowed me to decide, as opposed to deciding for me. I think that ’ s what women were facing for a very long time : That those decisions were being made for us. We were not being allowed to say ; we were not being allowed to make that decision for ourselves. “ so I think the biggest thing that has changed is that we now get to decide. We have a say therefore in that, and we get to say, ‘ Yes, I have chosen to pursue a career in energy, and therefore I am bequeath to go into the harsh environments that you typically think of as being merely desirable for men. I am will to be in a outback placement or a swindle in the in-between of the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea or what have you where I am one amongst lone a few women, and I am comfortable with that. ’ We pay back to make those decisions now, and that is an authoritative share of why we have made the progress that we have. ” “My success depends entirely upon the success of the people who work for me.” The most successful leaders in any environment or arrangement are those who put most of their efforts into maximizing the potency and achiever of those they lead. While one would think that this would go without saying, it is in truth amazing how many of those placed in leadership positions ignore this elementary fact. fortunately for Halliburton, Myrtle Jones is not one of those people. “ I like to think of myself as a servant drawing card, that I ’ thousand actually there to serve the people that work for me, ” she told us when we asked her to describe her leadership doctrine. “ It ’ s about understanding what they need in orderliness to succeed, not alone professionally, but besides personally. It ’ s about doing any I can to help give them those things that they need to get their job done properly and besides to develop them to perform and to advance within the company. “ so, my overall goal in leading people is to serve them and to allow them and help them to do their job. Because search, Halliburton is a huge party, and it ’ south complex, and the work we do is very technical, and it is very substantial to our bottom line. “ I can ’ t do that work, ” she continued. “ My success depends entirely upon the success of the people who work for me, and I realize that every individual day. I make sure that they know that I know that I am wholly dependent upon them to succeed and to deliver value to Halliburton. ” But there ’ south more to being a successful drawing card than that : Jones besides makes surely to lead by example. “ The other part of my leadership style has been to not ask people to do things that I have not done myself. I can ’ t always say that anymore, though, because things have changed in the several decades that I came into the tax world, but I do try to lead with empathy. so, I do try to put myself in their shoes and have empathy for their site. My goal is to motivate — not to direct, not to demand — to motivate and inspire people to want to be their best selves and to want to do their best exploit. In a nutshell, that is what I aspire to do, that is the type of leader that I aspire to be. ” The identical fact that she has advanced to such a high position in Halliburton ’ s huge organization tells us all we need to know about how highly she is regarded internally. But Jones ’ randomness leadership and success have besides been recognized outwardly. Her curriculum vitae sports an array of impressive external awards, including Black Enterprise Magazine ’ s 50 Most powerful Women in Corporate America, The Diversity Council ’ second Diversity Leader of the year of Award, Diversity Journal ’ sulfur Women Worth Watching Award and the Houston Business Journals Top 25 Women in Oil and Gas.

We asked her what it means to her to be on the receiving conclusion of this kind of external recognition, and her answer was not at all surprise. “ It ’ randomness very humbling. It ’ s not something I always sought out or expected, ” she told us. “ My goal was never to stand out for that sort of recognition. The finish was always to merely be the best I could be and to work to my highest electric potential. That was always the goal, and then I hoped that my likely and the work that I did would be recognized, not in a public direction, but recognized by people that I worked for and that I would be rewarded for that by being able to progress in my career. “ so, when the recognitions and awards come along with that, again, it ’ south very humbling. I accept it, and I hope by accepting it and being on a platform where early people can see me, that will inspire people that look like other women and other people that look like me to understand that they besides can rise. That they besides can achieve — that I ’ m a exist, breathing, tangible symbol of what can be done if you put in the feat and you continue to work toward achieving your goals. So that in truth, for me, is the reinforce of that kind of recognition. ” It besides came as no surprise to learn that Jones makes a point of applying her leadership and life sentence lessons to volunteer knead and community interest, working on an array of efforts that are near and dear to her kernel. “ Community service is very important to me, ” she said. “ I feel like that ’ s me completing the motorbike because if you ’ ve been listening, you ’ ve credibly listen from the identical beginning of this conversation that I understand that I got to where I am on the shoulders of a set of people. It ’ s thanks to people believing in me and not merely believing in me but investing in me, investing their time in me, and in some cases, fiscal support. “ I didn ’ thyroxine pay a dime to go to college. There weren ’ t a set of scholarships being offered, but the income bracket that my syndicate was in at the time, we qualified for things like grants and what have you that actually covered my college tutelage. then, I worked part-time to help pay for the other expenses that were incurred. sol, I was raised to believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. And that it is expected that you give back, so that is why community overhaul is then crucial to me. ” Jones has served on the boards of several organizations. One, in particular, Genesys Works, hits very close to where she came from. “ Genesys Works serves high school juniors and seniors from the economically challenged neighborhoods, ” she said. “ It provides them with the lapp type of experience that I had working in that eminent school principal ’ sulfur office, except these kids get to work in a corporate position. We provide them training in accountancy or technology or IT, and then they spend a year or a summer in an internship in a pot. I actually sat on that board for a little over six years, and I was chair of it ampere well. That one means a draw to me because that ’ s in truth putting into something that I believe was implemental in my success in helping early kids have a like have. presently, Jones is besides on the board for Dress for Success Houston, the Houston Zoo and Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston. “ I try to make my display panel service to mirror things that I feel very passionate about, and that it be targeted, ” she said. “ When I sit on a board, I do the work. I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate sit on a board good to show up and have my name on a roll, but it ’ south to do the work, and indeed it has to be something I ’ m truly passionate about. dress for Success besides hits very close to home for Jones. “ When you think about Dress for Success, yeah, the beginning time I wore a suit, the first time I owned a suit was when I was getting ready for my interviews out of college, ” she told us. “ I couldn ’ metric ton afford to go and buy a illusion suit, and my ma gave me $ 50. I went to the framework store, and I got some fabric and a model and took it to a dressmaker, and she made me my homemade suit for my interviews. You know even going into that, that you ’ re not looking like a batch of other people that are going into those interviews with their Brooks Brothers suit and therefore on and so forth. “ therefore, in Houston, this organization serves women that were like my ma who didn ’ triiodothyronine get a opportunity. At least it ’ randomness giving those women a opportunity to build their lives beyond the position that they find themselves in at any detail point in time. ” Jones besides applies her talents to mentoring employees internally. “ At Halliburton, I can credibly count about six or seven people that I mentor or that I have mentored. We have a mentor program within our finance group, and I ’ m the administrator sponsor of that. I am besides the executive sponsor of our Black Employees ERG at Halliburton. ” This would seem overwhelming to most people, but it ’ randomness apparently all in a day ’ s work for Myrtle Jones. But her life sentence is not all about business ; Jones is the very proud mother of three children, and it will come as no surprise to any reader that she has been successful in this partially of her life as well. “ I have three children. I have two girls and a boy : two accountants and one calculator scientist. My second daughter has recently returned to school. She ’ randomness getting her Ph.D. in computer science, so she ’ sulfur actually at Stanford right now. My son is pursuing his master ’ s degree at A & M. The one matter that I ’ thousand more proud of than my career is my kids. ” “They have definitely not made anything simpler.” tax is a very specify piece of any business, and obviously, the U.S. tax code has evolved to a big extent over the course of Jones ’ s career. Since she came out of college in the mid-1980s, Congress has engaged in respective efforts to simplify the tax code. We asked Jones if those efforts have been successful. “ No ! ” she laughed. “ They decidedly have not made anything elementary. In fact, they ’ ve made it more complex. “ In 2017, we had the first major renovation of the tax code that we ’ five hundred had in 30 years. They initially started out saying it was for tax simplification, but before they finalized it, they had completely abandoned the idea that it was going to be simple because it had gotten more complex. “ thus, with the passage of the law, our workload actually increased as opposed to decreased. Halliburton ’ mho tax load went down, but our complexity and our complaisance charge went astir. For us, that ’ s a tradeoff. Of course, we think that it ’ sulfur good, and it ’ s allow that U.S. multinationals be taxed on the like footing as the companies that we compete with for clientele around the global. So that was why that law change was very significant for us. But that complexity, I just don ’ thyroxine think that ’ mho going away. I don ’ metric ton think we ’ rhenium ever going to get to a rate where it ’ mho bare, easy to understand, and easy to comply with. ” Of course, that just describes the complexity of dealing with the U.S. tax code. It ’ s important to remember that Halliburton operates in 80 countries internationally, all of which have their own complex tax laws with which the ship’s company must be careful to comply. “ That ’ second why it ’ s indeed authoritative that I have the amazing group of people that I have working for me that are managing the day to day issues and are besides bringing forth to me the material issues that I need to be mindful of and that I need to weigh in on, ” Jones said. “ As the forefront of Tax, my problem is to manage people and to manage our tax risk because taxes are very uncertain, and they are subject to change. “ Some changes arise because the police changed. Others can be because the interpretation of the police by the courts changed. therefore, it requires people who are hardworking, healthy people who are besides able to handle the complexity and the marry of the different responsibilities that they deal with day to sidereal day and to besides have the judgment to bring me in on a more detail basis when the situation dictates it. “ We have all kinds of inner controls in place that when a trade is flipped based on certain conditions, things get escalated right away. Think along the lines of a decision tree, and policies and procedures that basically document what that decisiveness tree is that says ‘ this can be handled locally, ’ ‘ this you bring to a director, ’ and ‘ this you bring in the Senior VP of Tax. ’ And then there ’ s other areas that once it becomes of a certain magnitude that I ’ m in discussion with the CFO, or we ’ ra talking to the Audit Committee. ” Before the 2017 changes to the corporate tax laws, “ it used to be that your taxes could eat away 35 % of your profits. now, your taxes can still eat away 21 % of your profits at a minimum. That ’ s a big bite. therefore, it gets a set of attention. It gets a distribute of attention not lone from our governmental auditors, it gets a lot of attention from our inner audit group, ampere well as our account auditors. ” She pauses for a second, then laughs. “ so, in this article, I hope that I don ’ thyroxine frighten people into not wanting to go into tax. I ’ thousand telling you things that you probably weren ’ t even aware are the things that should keep me up at night. But they don ’ t keep me up at night because I have a great department, and I have bang-up people working for me. “ But those are the types of things that go into my job, and of managing Halliburton ’ s tax risk : Making sure that we ’ ra compliant with tax laws in 80 countries — making sure that our tax returns are filed on time and that we ’ re paying the properly sum of tax. — making surely that we manage our tax controversy in a way that we don ’ triiodothyronine get material adjustments to what we think our taxes should be and what our taxes ultimately end up being — and besides making sure that we organize our occupation in such a way that we don ’ triiodothyronine give any more tax than we are legally required to pay. “ People tend to look at this kind of tax planning as if it were tax evasion, but we do not commit tax evasion. That is absolutely not what we do. But we do actively look for opportunities to arrange our business in such a way that we don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate pay any more taxes than we would otherwise have to. ” Of course, in 2020, managing tax or any other expression of a business has become even more ambitious than ahead due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. We asked Myrtle to talk about the kinds of accommodations and adjustments her group has had to make in order to deal with this new environment. “ 100 % of my group has been impacted in one way or another, ” she told us. “ My stallion U.S. office is still working from base. There may be some pockets of people outside of the U.S. where the virus is possibly more hold, and there ’ s a little spot more fourth dimension being spent in the function, but we have been working remotely since Houston and Texas started the stay-at-home, work-from-home directives. “ The transition has been a challenge. Prior to this thing, Halliburton had not in truth moved toward any character of permanent flex-type schedule for people to work from base a match of days, except for in certain specific situations. So we had to shift from about no matchless working from home to everybody working from home in a identical short period of time. “ And when I tell you that when ( Halliburton CEO ) Jeff Miller talks about Halliburton being an execution company, that doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate just apply out in the anoint field. That applies everywhere, and we executed. For finance, it was even more nerve-racking because we were coming up on the first-quarter cheeseparing proper when it all hit. indeed, think about it : it ’ mho first-quarter close, there ’ s a austere downturn in the industry, and we ’ re all working from home plate for the identical first prison term. ” The array of considerations that had to be cover with was daunting. “ You know, making certain people had adequate Wi-Fi, making certain people even had the equipment they needed. I can remember those days ahead, on Friday before we left, I can remember sending an electronic mail to my entire department saying ‘ make certain you take your laptop family with you every day just in case you ’ re aren ’ thymine allowed to come back to the position. ’ “ Were there a couple of kinks ? Yes. But I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate know that anyone could ’ ve done it better, and we ’ re still adjusting to some of the things about working from family right now. I think if you had been planning for it, and you did it after a year of design that you would credibly be in better shape, but we are handling it highly well. ” Handling it as a team ; handling it together ; handling it well. This is how Myrtle Jones leads ; it is what she does ; it is who she is in all aspects of her life. With all of her achievements and successes in the bodied universe and her personal life, Jones, in many ways, remains that short girlfriend growing up on a multi-generational farm in rural Mississippi, placid applying all of the life lessons she learned there. She has never forgotten where she came from and how she got where she is today. “ Where I am today, in terms of where I started, is something that was barely impossible to me. I am fabulously grateful for all the opportunities that I ’ ve had, and for all the people who invested in me and who believed in me and gave me an opportunity coming into an diligence where there were very few women and even fewer black women or men in that profession and giving me an opportunity. There ’ randomness equitable been some very noteworthy people in my life at different points in my career that allowed me to be where I am today. ”

remarkable, indeed. About the author: David Blackmon is the Editor of SHALE Oil & Gas Business Magazine. He previously spent 37 years in the oil and natural gas industry in a variety of roles — the last 22 years engaging in public policy issues at the state and national levels. Contact David Blackmon at [email protected]

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