#InspireHER: An interview with Melissa Philip-Ashington

10th April 2024

Blog post

Introducing Melissa, a trailblazer in the world of technology. With a background in Business Computing and Graphic Design, Melissa's career journey has taken her from creative roles to the forefront of tech-driven innovation. Currently serving as a Technical Programme Manager at bp's Innovations and Engineering division, Melissa's passion for project management and her commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion make her a driving force in shaping the future of the industry.

1.  Hi Melissa. Please tell us about your career journey and how you entered the world of tech. 

After completing my studies in Business Computing in Cape Town, where I grew up, I also did a Graphic Design certification, and spent a couple of years being very creative (if not a little stressed!) as Lead Designer at a small print magazine company. I did some freelance advertising design on the side to grow my portfolio. In 2004, I decided to come over to London and look for work in the design industry, while doing temp work in various financial sector companies to pay the bills. 

After not finding anything in design, I was offered to go permanent at Barclays, in the role of admin assistant within graduate recruitment area of Human Resources. I enjoyed the varied role that included creative work, as well as learning new skills including stakeholder engagement and project management – the latter very much interested me. Taking very much to the latter. I had the opportunity to complete internal courses and learn new applications, and after several years of moving into different roles, I secured the role of HR Intranet Project Manager. This opened the door to working with many technical teams and delivering to the business needs. 

After a couple of years in that role, I was approached by bp for a similar role and I jumped at the opportunity. I got my PRINCE2 certification and led the teams doing infrastructure set up and application design for the new HR intranet. Over the years I completed various Agile methodology courses, and led DevOps squads delivering new applications and continuous improvements from a backlog of requirements from the business. I have had the pleasure of opportunities and challenges of moving into various roles, and currently am a Technical Programme Manager in the Innovations and Engineering area, focused on future technologies. 

2.  Can you share a little about what it is that you do and what a regular day is like for you. 

I work with great teams every day who are focused on different stages of IT project delivery. My role is to keep them organised and on track, and to work through any issues that may arise with the potential to derail the successful delivery of a project. There are a lot of calls and planning sessions, and some amazing insights into the exciting things technology will be bringing us in the near future. 

3.  What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job? 

On completion and realising a successful project, is not only a relief, but very rewarding. It’s great to see something you and the teams have been working on, come to life and working is most gratifying. And I have the pleasure of working with some very diverse teams in terms of personalities, expertise, and across global locations, which is so enriching. 

4.  As a woman in tech, what do you believe are your unique strengths and contributions to the industry? 

I believe active listening in the workplace is one of my key strengths. By really paying attention to whoever I’m speaking with, refraining from interrupting, and providing feedback to them, ensures that I’ve heard and understood them correctly. I feel this brings effective communication, builds trust, supports conflict resolution and fosters positive relationships for higher functioning teams and greater delivery. 

5.  Can you discuss any initiatives or programs you've been involved in that aim to foster greater inclusion and representation of women in the tech industry? 

bp has many business resource groups, one of which is the Women’s International Network (WIN) which I belong to. They support the empowerment and development of female potential within the company to create a working environment which fosters such development. WIN hosts networking events, bringing women, and our male advocates, together, to celebrate women’s strengths and support them in achieving their potential. 

6.  How do you navigate challenges related to diversity and inclusion in your daily work, and what advice would you give to other women facing similar obstacles? 

Be confident! So many of us might have imposter syndrome, which can be exacerbated when we see women are still underrepresented in the technology industry. I would say to gain knowledge, grow and develop yourself around technologies - do courses, read whitepapers, listen to podcasts and speak to others in technology to learn from them. You too can then understand and more confidently talk to those specific technologies that are relevant in your daily work, and also manage any self-doubt that you are facing. 


7.  How important do you think mentorship and support networks are for women in tech, and have you benefited from them in your own career? 

Incredibly important. For women working in technology to have access to mentors and various support networks that allow them to gain that guidance, encouragement, and direction from those that they can relate and look up to, is so powerful a tool to lean on when needed. And sometimes you simply need a friendly like-minded ear for some emotional support to get through a specific challenge. 

8.  How do you balance work-life commitments in an industry known for its demanding nature, and do you have any tips for maintaining well-being and avoiding burnout? 

I set boundaries. For me, having a scheduled gym session and yoga session per week, is something I will stick to because it’s at a set time. If it’s in my calendar, it’s clearly scheduled and I will go. It’s rewarding, both physically and mentally, and makes me perform better in my role. 

9.  How do you see the future of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, and what role do you believe women will play in shaping it?

Over the years, I’ve seen the increase of women in technology roles, but this needs to keep improving. By women driving awareness and various initiatives, we will see the combating of bias and discrimination in the tech industry, to create even more opportunities for inclusion of women who deserve to be in these positions. 

Thank you Melissa for sharing your story and your insights with us.  

As we conclude our Women in Tech series, we are reminded of the incredible talent, diversity, and innovation that women bring to the forefront of the technology industry. From our own team members to external professionals, each woman showcased in this series has illuminated the path forward with their expertise, passion, and determination. As a technology recruitment agency, we take great pride in honouring International Women's Day by highlighting the achievements and contributions of these remarkable individuals. Their stories serve as a testament to the limitless potential of women in shaping the future of technology. 

We remain committed to fostering inclusivity, diversity, and empowerment in the tech sector, and we look forward to continuing our support for women in their pursuit of excellence in the ever-evolving world of technology.

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