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Spotlight Series: Monica Norman, Technical Programme Manager, bp

Monica Norman, Technical Programme Manager, bp

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Monica Norman is a technical programme manager at bp with over a decade of experience in data analytics, data management and digital product development.

Her expertise lies in leveraging creativity to drive innovation in technology, with a deep understanding of the technical and business aspects of digital product development, and the intersection between business, technology, and user needs.

At bp, Monica focuses on driving digital projects to bring bp closer to its ambition of reimagining energy. Having joined bp in 2012, Monica has held a variety of roles within the business, including acting as a data manager for the bp North Africa region and managing seismic data for the Middle East.

Outside her role, Monica is passionate about mentoring and coaching and has devoted her time to developing talent and building high-performing teams in the data and analytics field. She holds a bachelor’s in Computer Science from City, University of London.

WE SAT DOWN WITH MONICA TO CHAT ABOUT HER JOURNEY INTO TECH, THE INCREDIBLE PROJECTS SHE’S INVOLVED IN, AND HER CAREER ADVICE FOR OTHER WOMEN IN TECH.

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED?

Being creative is a fundamental part of my life in all sorts of ways, from my hobbies of painting, crocheting, and writing, to innovating digital solutions within my current role at bp. This common thread has carried me throughout my career.

After graduating with my degree in Computer Science, I worked for a contracting company, during which time I was seconded to bp. I served as a data manager for the bp North Africa region, before moving into a role where I was managing seismic data for the Middle East. I have since gradually transitioned into other areas across bp, including acting as a subsurface information management specialist within the data science accelerator team and eventually moving to become a technical programme manager in bp’s data & analytics Centre of Excellence.

WHAT ARE THE KEY ROLES IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK, AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR CURRENT EXPERTISE?

In general, there is an extremely high demand for people to fill digital roles. This is particularly the case for jobs relating to data science, data engineering, software engineering, and programme/project management fields.

I chose to focus on my areas of expertise (data analytics, data management, digital product development and programme/project management) because I’m a very creative person and digital allows me the freedom to be creative. I view digital as a blank canvas which you can fill using creativity as a vehicle to explore solutions. In the best cases, this exploration will result in the successful development of a solution which goes on to be put into practice.

I also felt I was suited to my role as I’ve been told that my “superpower” is my ability to build strong and lasting relationships. This is a quality which is very important when dealing with stakeholders, otherwise, you would experience limited feedback and a lack of alignment and commitment.

DID YOU (OR DO YOU) HAVE A ROLE MODEL IN TECH OR BUSINESS IN GENERAL?

I don’t have one single role model. However, every leader who has contributed to supporting me throughout my career has inspired me in some way. They all have diverse qualities and I’ve managed to learn a great deal from all of them as I progress.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR?

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have contributed to a range of exciting digital projects. For example, I supported the development of a fleet decarbonisation tool for bp’s regions, cities & solutions business, which recommends the best decarbonisation package and pathways for bp customers, cities and corporates. I similarly also led the development of a safety-critical fuel decal recognition project for bp’s aviation business, Airbp, which uses machine learning methods to prevent aircraft misfuelling. A fuel decal is the sticker or image located next to a fuel orifice on an aircraft which indicates the fuel grade required.

I’m proud of my involvement in these projects, as well as the challenges I’ve had to overcome along the way. I sometimes have to pinch myself when I think back to how I grew up, attending a school in Nigeria which had few chairs, no windows, and no electricity or running water.

Growing up, a career such as the one I have today was nothing more than a distant pipedream.

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORKDAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

My role as a technical programme manager at bp involves managing relationships with internal and external business stakeholders. On a daily basis, I’m responsible for helping to deliver bp’s strategic objectives by finding new ways to simplify how we work, driving digital best practices, and promoting bp values and behaviours.

My role is also about ensuring that bp has the in-depth technical skills needed to create strategies to standardise the methods and tools that we use to drive innovation. It is important to drive these standards and values across our disciplines so that everyone can be part of the decision-making process.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SKILLS OR TRAITS THAT YOU NOTICE COMPANIES LOOK FOR WHEN SEARCHING FOR ROLES IN YOUR FIELD?

Aside from technical skills, the strength of your soft skills is critical as well. This includes being able to communicate effectively with a diverse audience. It’s also valuable to have an open mindset and be willing to experiment and innovate at work in general.

On the technical side, possessing a familiarity of emerging technologies (e.g., AI or cloud computing, IoT) is sought after, in addition to having strong digital literacy.

HAS ANYONE EVER TRIED TO STOP YOU FROM LEARNING AND DEVELOPING IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, OR HAVE YOU FOUND THE TECH SECTOR SUPPORTIVE?

I’ve always been encouraged to innovate to the best of my ability! In fact, some simple creativity explored over my lunch breaks led me to develop Seles, a tool for managing the life cycle of seismic data, while I was working as a seismic data specialist for the bp Middle East region.

Seles has since become the front-end tool for bp’s flagship project, Seismic Shift. It’s an online catalogue and interactive portal used to easily access, search, order and move seismic data and other documents. bp encouraged my innovation at this time, and this early work opened the door for me to attain other digital roles at the company.

HAVE YOU EVER FACED INSECURITIES AND ANXIETIES DURING YOUR CAREER, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

At the start of my career, I had self-doubt about whether I would fit into a discipline and business dominated by coders and engineers possessing exceptional technical expertise. Fortunately, I have had some incredible managers who recognised my insecurity and helped me overcome my nerves.

By supporting the development of my skills, these managers provided a path for me to achieve my dream career.

When I became a mother, I also had doubts about whether a young family would prevent me from rising to challenging heights in my career. However, I have been very fortunate in that bp allows me to take the time I need for family commitments. It feels great to know that the company understands flexibility and has established working structures to help people overcome these fears during the early stages of parenthood.

ENTERING THE WORLD OF WORK CAN BE DAUNTING. DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE FEELING OVERWHELMED?

At every step of your career, it’s important to engage with people around you, get to know them and build a firm relationship based on trust. When you engage with others, you connect and build team spirit. This collaboration can be a powerful force to accelerate your learning, skills development, and ultimately your confidence in the workplace.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY?

Collaboration is one of the best ways to kick-start progress. As a woman working in tech, I’ve found the informal networks that I have built with colleagues to be incredibly valuable.

Sharing my experiences with other women who are also trying to carve out a career in tech means I have learnt a huge amount from them in return.

I’ve also been involved in several mentoring programmes with women who are beginning their careers to help them learn from my experiences too.

bp makes a real effort to support talent in the digital space. I would advise people who are at the start of their careers in the digital space to take advantage of opportunities like these and use them to expand their horizons.

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