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Why Diversity Is Important To Alice Mannion, Principal Product Manager at Ocado Technology

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

Alice Mannion, Principal Product Manager at Ocado Technology speaks to us about her experience as a woman in tech. She explains why Diversity helps us build better solutions and why we need more women ready to take that leap.

Read her story here. 

How did you get into tech? 

I started in the Ocado Retail team, working on a variety of projects related to General Merchandising products such as creating a returns process and new packaging. I wanted to be able to access data quickly to help back up the decisions I was making so I learned SQL. 

After a few different roles, I ended up running the Ocado Retail insights team. My team provided analysis and created reports for our buying, marketing and product teams. 

I enjoyed the product analytics work my team did which combined commercial understanding, customer thinking and data-driven decision-making.  

I recently moved across from the Ocado Retail team to Ocado Technology when I had the opportunity to step up into a Product role to cover a colleague’s maternity leave.  

Today, I’m a Principal Product Manager for Ecommerce at Ocado Technology working on the Ocado Smart Platform.

How has Ocado Technology supported you in your career development? 

I’ve had lots of access to senior folk, gaining opportunities to learn from them. One of the core values at Ocado Technology is trust and I have been able to talk openly to my manager about my development and let them know when I have been ready for a new challenge. It’s really given me the required space to develop. Finally, there has always been the opportunity to get involved in new things, and activities, broader than the day-to-day. 

What advice would you give female technologists interested in leadership? 

Spend some time thinking about the sort of leader you would like to be – read books, listen to podcasts – and talk to other leaders that you admire. Watch how they do it. Figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. You might need to stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone, but you need to do it in a way that suits you. 

What does flexible working mean to you? 

It means adapting your work pattern according to what is happening in your personal life – so you can do both.  

I have a two-year-old daughter and took 8 months maternity leave and my husband then took 4 months of shared parental leave. “Handing over” to him made the return to work much easier for me. Though I often rang for a video chat at lunchtime to say hello! 

I recently changed roles and discussed working part-time during the process. It was great to be able to have the conversation upfront and I had the chance to talk to others in a similar role about how suitable part-time working could be. 

I now work a 4-day week, taking Wednesday off. I make it clear on my emails, slack and calendar that I’m not working on Wednesday, though I occasionally pick up urgent things as my flexible working needs to work for everyone.  

A lot of meetings are recorded which helps to make flexible working successful and I have the support of my colleagues. Even our CEO, James, double-checks which days I am working before booking a meeting. 

What would you say to young women thinking of starting a career in tech? 

We need you!

Diversity helps us build better solutions. Diverse ways of thinking enable us to solve problems in new and different ways and if we want solutions that meet our needs as well as men’s needs, then we need to be involved. There are so many exciting areas to work in and you can have a big impact. For example, some of the work I’ve done with Ocado Technology makes it easier to shop which gives families hours back to spend together. 

How do you think tech companies can ensure that women experience more representation and inclusion in the workplace? 

I think we still have a way to go to reach a point when starting a family has the same impact on men as it does on women. I think tech companies can encourage Dads as well as Mums to have time with their new arrivals. If we can encourage Dads to take time and work flexibly, then we hopefully won’t have the same negative consequences that Mums often experience. 

What resources have you found useful in supporting your career development so far? 

My greatest support has been from my colleagues; getting their feedback and advice over many years has been invaluable. For me at the moment, I am spending time thinking about leadership so am listening to lots of podcasts of leaders (typically women, but not solely) talk about their story and their leadership style. Earlier in my career, I focused on management and read books on management approaches and coaching. 

Can you tell us about your greatest career highlight?  

When I reflect on what I have achieved in the 10 years I’ve worked at Ocado, I am most proud of the part I played in helping the business adapt in the early days of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. It was a team effort and everyone in the business was working to “feed the nation”. I was able to bring my understanding of our business and logical thinking to build new processes and make changes to our product which allowed us to get more food to customers when it was most needed. I was honored to work with my colleagues and the teamwork and clarity of purpose that we had will always be something I’m proud of. 

Finally: what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?  

I’ve been asked this several times and find it hard to pinpoint one single thing and actually, I think that is OK. We are the sum of our experiences, the advice we’ve been given, and the books and podcasts we’ve engaged with. Pulling a few of these pieces together, I think the advice that has stuck with me most is that you need to have confidence in yourself and your strengths. 

 


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