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BP's Harry Maxwell wins TechWomen100 Award

BP’s Harriet Maxwell, senior development technologist, has been chosen as a winner in the 2018 TechWomen100 awards which celebrates "up-and-coming inspirational female technology talent" across a range of industries

The TechWomen100 Awards are part of the wearethecity platform where BP has had previous nominees and winners of the Rising Star awards. The awards recognise the achievements of 100 up-and-coming inspirational female tech talent, and also provides a platform to help inspire the next generation of female role models for the industry.


Why you were nominated for this award?

I don’t actually know for sure why I was nominated – I’m yet to find my mysterious nominator so thank you, if you’re reading this! Having been through the competition I’m grateful for the person who saw this and thought of me and my work. As for winning, it was a genuine surprise; I later found out that there were 29,000 public votes and over 500 nominees so I am thrilled to have won.


I was grateful that the judging panel appreciated the work I’ve done in roles across BP – the judges were from a range of STEM industries so I’m glad my experience and perspective came through. It’s very easy to move from one challenge to the next without leaving space to assess the learning and progression - this award was an opportunity to see my role from an outsider’s perspective and reflect on my own professional development.

How did you become a development technologist for BP?

I studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge, completing a four-year Masters degree with a chemistry focus in 2013. I then applied for an 11-week summer internship at BP to help me discover the potential career options open to me.


During my placement, working on a project with significant business impacts, I discovered how much I enjoyed a role that combined my chemistry studies with real-world applications. As a result, I successfully joined the BP graduate scheme in 2013, completing three placements in engine oil product development, fuels product development and the motorcycle engineering team.


My last placement was fundamental in my professional development and led me to join the test methodology development team. It also inspired me to learn to both ride and dismantle (then successfully reassemble!) motorcycles in my spare time.


I moved to my current role, a senior development technologist in the motorcycle engine oil product development team, at the start of 2018, so I now get to meddle with motorcycles at work too!


My role combines chemistry, engineering and complex problem solving, along with some really cool tech, working with passionate colleagues in a range of teams.


As a biker I know that riding a motorcycle is connected to emotion and experience – from freedom to adventure to sheer adrenaline rushes (within speed limits, of course!) – so the end product of my work is something Castrol customers are really invested in, and it’s brilliant to be connected to that.

Why do you think it is important for more girls to study STEM?

This question reminds me of a quote by Rosalind Franklin: “Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated”.  After all, science is purely a process of testing, observation and interpretation that people do to a greater or lesser extent every day, and there’s no monopoly on everyday life by any one gender!


Luckily a lot of hard work has been done by inspirational women before me, and particularly in BP we have role models, policies and principles working towards equity. In the same way that I have benefitted from their efforts, I too want to pass on the opportunity for girls to see examples of women doing cool science – as the rule, not the exception.


You lead the BP Pride group – What does this involve?

The BP Pride group in Pangbourne is a business resource group (BRG) for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender topics (LGBT) focussing on training sessions about LGBT issues, as well as advocating for LGBT rights and providing networking opportunities for colleagues.


The BP Pride UK committee and community are brilliant, compassionate and endlessly enthusiastic people – our achievements are a real testament to the diversity in the group and I’m proud to be part of the hard work the group does. Privilege doesn't just divide along gender lines, so intersectional approaches are essential, and BP supports the BRGs from the highest levels.


What’s next for you? 


Professionally, I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into innovation and future trends projects. Personally, getting a few more of the classic European mountain passes under my belt is on the motorbiking bucket list – and maybe taking an electric sports bike for a test ride!