Voices of Houston: Woman uses her engineering and innovative skills to help transform her community

Nelia Mazula's road to success

HOUSTON, Texas – KPRC2 Voices of Houston honors women’s history. One Houstonian is using her engineering, software and innovative skills to transform her community and inspire young girls to chase their dreams.

Nelia Mazula is a Houston-based innovator, engineer and digital transformation strategist who is breaking barriers in a field of predominately led by men.

KPRC2′s Rose-Ann Aragon sat down with Mazula at none other than Houston’s SHAPE Community Center, a historic hub for African American cultural education, community and resources.  KPRC 2 got a closer look at Mazula’s road to success.

“The only timeline that you have is your life. The only regulator of your dream is you,” Mazula said.

Mazula has both chemical engineering and international business degrees, but also wears multiple hats.

“I was a processing engineer. I was a commissioning engineer,” Mazula mentioned.

On the business end, Mazula is an innovator, helping large companies through the process of digital transformation, changing the digital bones of industries like oil and gas.  “Understanding the technology. I work with my customers to translate their needs into, ‘Here’s what we can do,’” Mazula said.

Mazula has always had a passion for finding solutions, and also, artificial intelligence.

“The long-term goal is that we’re going to have robots or artificial intelligent entities that we can interact with that can help us in our day-to-day lives,” Mazula said.

With her passion for STEM, Mazula also crafts algorithms, which ultimately helps enhance A.I.s’ abilities to “see” and interpret data. Five of her patents related to augmented reality were awarded by the Society of Women Engineers.

“It was really humbling to receive the award,” Mazula said. “Basically, all of the patents are algorithms. They’re logic that explains how a software or computer would look at an environment and interpret it.”

However, Mazula persevered and succeeded in many ways.

“Oh yeah, I’m in a male dominated field. Both engineering and industrial software is male dominated,” Mazula said.

From her childhood to now, Mazula said she has come a long way.

“I was born in Mozambique. It’s a little country in East Africa,” Mazula said.

Her family fled civil war and planted roots in Glendale, Arizona.

“(I always knew) I wanted to help people,” Mazula said.

In 2001, her path returned her to Mozambique to help establish a natural gas plant there during her first major job after she graduated college with a chemical engineering degree from Arizona State University.

“There was nothing there. And we built everything with that project. We built the sewage system and the water system,” Mazula said.

Her work brought life-changing resources to her hometown.

“I saw the impact of that project on the region and on the country and I thought, ‘Wow!’” Mazula said.

Now, in Houston at the SHAPE Community Center in Third Ward, Mazula is also continuing to give back.

She’s working with SHAPE Community Center leaders to enhance the The Marcos Mazula Technology Center, a move to help the community and honor of her late brother, Marcos Mazula, who was a tech-whiz and digital artist who taught at SHAPE.

“Everybody needs a role model. Everybody needs a role model. Because they need to look at someone that looks like them,” Mazula said.

Her message to younger girls?

“You can do whatever you want,” Mazula said. “If you love math or science, you should really look at an engineering or STEM field. I became an engineer because the Society of Women Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers. I had scholarships from them, and then they mentored me.”

Mazula said achieving one’s dreams requires courage and action.

“How do you become an innovator? I guess you just do it,” Mazula said.