On Thursday 30th November BP will be attending the WeAreTechWomen Conference in London as headline sponsor
Monique Breen will be participating in a mentoring session at this event aimed at women in the tech sector who are looking to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their technology networks.
Tell us a bit about your role at BP
As Chief Information Officer for International Gas, Structured Products and Treasury I oversee all aspects of technology and systems strategies in service of the individual business priorities. I manage over 100 people and am accountable for applications deployed across Europe, North America and Asia. My remit includes delivering critical business outcomes, including multi-billion dollars’ worth of daily payments across the BP Group, 24x7 scheduling and balancing of gas and power with Europe’s Transmission System Operators and compliance with financial regulatory requirements.
The key responsibility of my role is to continuously look for technology improvements through high performing teams and partners, ensuring the business has a competitive advantage in the marketplace and industry where traditional business models are being disrupted.
What does a typical day look like?
Every day is different! This is one of the things I love about my job. I often find myself spending time with business teams helping them to solve issues, figuring out what data is lacking, finding gaps in user experiences and how to expedite the onboarding of new products into our systems There may be days where an operational incident might consume some or most of my day – from a systems interface issue to dealing with the impact of a hurricane!
I also spend time reviewing my team to ensure it is operating at an optimal level and delivering a strong performance within defined parameters, including budget and headcount. This may involve attending recruitment fairs, interviewing candidates and coordinating meet-ups to encourage the sharing of domain knowledge and gaining external perspectives via guest speakers.
The best part of my day is when my team demonstrates some of the innovative solutions they are working on – whether it’s a new app or an external customer facing product that showcases the best in class design.
I am collaborating with some external partners to provide industry and leading-edge solutions, I frequently check-in with them to further the development of these initiatives.
I go home having been intellectually challenged and rewarded from the day’s achievements in a fast-paced yet friendly work environment.
What is digital transformation all about?
To me, it’s about solving for the needs of a business or consumer much more comprehensively than we could do before and allowing us to put into practice business models that seemed inconceivable.
Digital technology makes it all possible.
What does this mean in practice?
Funny you ask that, as I’m writing this from a cottage in Norfolk I’ve rented through AirBnB. It wasn’t so long ago when it involved a set of arduous tasks such as rifling through several sites finding somewhere suitable on my available dates, getting in contact with the owner using another channel, searching for references and paying through a BACs bank payment or cheque. Now I’m able to do with a few taps on my mobile as I commute into work.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, it can be quite intimidating at times to have the courage to speak up and promote yourself.
How does digital transformation impact BP’s working environment?
From a productivity perspective, we can remove redundant time-consuming processes through robotic process automation and machine learning to predict system behaviour and minimise downtime. We can connect with our colleagues across the globe more closely using new collaboration tools. The cloud offers us scale and flexibility and comes with innovative solutions that we can purchase off-the-shelf. The expectations of our internal business are continually being raised because of their experience as consumers in their personal lives, like Amazon and Netflix. This means we need design products with the user at the centre, ensuring they are made available on multiple devices, accessed anywhere safely and at any time. We will be adopting artificial intelligence more and more to drive better and faster business decisions leveraging extensive sources of data. To that end, we are always looking to upskill our staff as well as attracting the best talent in the market.
You’re taking part in a mentoring session at the WeAreTechWomen Conference this month. Why is mentoring important for females in technology?
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, it can be quite intimidating at times to have the courage to speak up and promote yourself. Mentoring is a way to help individuals to overcome some of these challenges by getting advice on how to achieve their potential from someone who may well have been in the same position. It is often best when there’s a natural chemistry between the mentor and mentee as it will, at times, involve receiving an element of constructive criticism.
At BP, I introduced a scheme into our IT organisation called Mentoring Circles which is designed to support the professional development needs of women through a peer network of advisors; this is a different take on the traditional concept of one to one mentoring, yet can be as effective.
We start early with schools – through community partnerships and encouraging girls to consider STEM based subjects.
Why is it important to get more female technologists into our business?
There’s been a lot of research to prove how it makes good business sense, but to me it’s much more obvious than that. If you think about it, we deliver our products to women as well as men inside and outside BP, and in fact to all types of diversity. In our data-centric world and the infusion of artificial intelligence, any biases in source data could lead to prejudiced decision making. In short, why would I want a product targeted at me as a woman to only be developed by men? We should capitalise on all of the available talent and ideas in the market.
How do we support this?
We start early with schools – through community partnerships and encouraging girls to consider STEM based subjects. We can’t solve this challenge alone, but we want to play an active role in growing the female talent of the future.
We explicitly target women in our recruitment process: by making sure we reach a diverse talent, by ensuring that we have mixed candidates at interview and by championing agile working practices across the business.