Melanie Franklin was my last encounter. I didn’t think I made a good impression. I told Melanie that I wrote mainly about handbags*, and I expected to come off as a bit flippant. So it was with some trepidation that after work I sat down at Maven Training to interview her for Ada Lovelace Day.
Ada Lovelace Day is a celebration of the achievements of women scientists and technology. Melanie Franklin, CEO at Maven, might seem a strange choice. She runs a project management training business, and her London headquarters doesn’t even have computers. Melanie is a valuable person with hybrid skills, meaning she can understand both the IT world as well as the rest of the business.
After completing an Economics degree and trying trading, Melanie moved to financial services through an operational management graduate program. She was primarily involved in business analysis. She sees this as “building bridge between IT and business”, including establishing the effects of systems on financial processes such as the back office or debt trading.
She sips her tea and tells how she had a “lightbulb moment” while she was a graduate student. She realized that she was most interested in making change happen. She was driven by deadlines so she actively sought out projects and deadlines-related assignments. She quickly realized that being a project leader was a faster way to achieve significant authority than just plodding through the line management system. She explains, “Line management requires you to be efficient with your time.”
Melanie managed large-scale projects and eventually became the manager of IT and the BA team. This was unusual as she didn’t go through the coding route. She says, “I had an intuitive understanding about the business.”
Melanie was told at one point that she could not move up to the next level of management as she hadn’t been there long enough. She quickly left and joined another bank, where she quickly rose up the hierarchy. The job was more demanding and required a steep learning curve.
Melanie also invested a lot in her own professional and learning development. She is highly qualified in both financial services and project and program management. She says that she tries to leave each project having provided something for herself. This is a wonderful approach to professional development. “I’m still learning every day.” What do she wish she knew in her early years of her career? She pauses. She pauses. She has realized that programme and project management skills alone are not enough. However, I suspect she knew this all along. She says, “You should plan for changes at the beginning.” Sixty percent of the tasks on the Gantt charts should be project activity. Fourty percent should be preparing ground and for transition, doing change, supporting change, and measuring the impact of the change.
Melanie says that it’s not about who you know, but what you’ve done. She doesn’t slow down. It’s almost 6pm, and she has another engagement. We exchange handshakes in the lobby, and she puts on her trainers as I go to run home. A broken neck. Yes, that’s right. Even if her head isn’t attached to her body, it won’t stop her from moving.
* You would have seen my red Knomo laptop bag if you had been paying attention to my PMI Congress videos last year. I just bought a smaller laptop. Hurrah! It was an excuse to get a new bag so I bought a black Knomo Cholet a few weeks ago. It’s beautiful.