Following our last ‘Women in Recruitment’ roundtable event we wanted to shine a spotlight on women in business, so we have conducted a series of interviews with successful women in our industry, to hear from them about the challenges they face and what inspires them. The ninth interview in the series is with Melina Jacovou.

Studying graphics and design led to a seven-year career in design, including four years as a designer at Dorling Kindersley. Though her early exposure to digital though designing CD-ROMs, she realised the potential of the internet and joined recruitment company MAK&C to launch its new media division. Within 18 months she’d earned a seat on the board.

Wanting control of her own destiny and with a firm conviction in the revolutionary power of digital technology, she founded Propel London in 2001 to help drive and support the talent needs of the digital economy. Propel is now one of the UK’s largest independent digital talent businesses.

Now we have some background information on Melina, let’s dive into the interview to find out more:

Q: What inspires or drives you as a leader?

A: Working with future-thinking, intelligent people who are as excited about the future as I am.

Helping other people achieve success is what drives me. Our people and our clients are what help drive me forward to differentiate Propel from our competition and remain the beating heart of the tech ecosystem.

True success comes from how you treat other people.

Q: Do you have a female role model, if so who and why?

A:The one and only Billie Jean King. She was fearless in standing up for what she believed in and fighting to change what she saw as wrong. In my own way I’ve tried to follow her example, standing up for and speaking out around issues I see as important, from sexuality to women’s roles in business.

Q: What would you attribute your success to?

A: Lots of hard work. Focus, drive and vision. Always hiring people who are better than me and giving them the space, encouragement and support to succeed and therefore help me succeed.

Q: How did you get to where you are today and who helped you along the way?

A: Friends, family, business partners, employees and clients all played a huge role. Honest relationships are one of the most important things in the world to me, in business as in life. Building honest, authentic relationships created an incredibly strong network that supported and supports me at every stage along the way. You need to take care of your network, invest in it and support it and the rewards are always incredible.

Q: After all your success, what challenges do you continue to face?

A: To never become too complacent, to keep learning and to constantly reinvent myself to keep relevant in such a competitive market while never losing track of my values and beliefs.

Q: Have you ever struggled to achieve work life balance, or achieved it?

A: I don’t believe you need to find a balance. If you love what you do, it simply isn’t work. With Propel, I’ve tried to build a company to support this approach for everyone that works here.

Q: What is one leadership lesson that you have learned in your career?

A: To never believe your own hype and always be learning and growing from those you work for and with.

Q: What have you learned about leadership and entrepreneurial-ship?

A: It never gets any easier but the continual joy of seeing those you’ve helped thrive is more than worth it.

Q: Do you or have you ever mentored others, is there value in this in your opinion?

A: Absolutely. Everyone should have a mentor. I mentor people constantly and am fortunate enough to have had and continue to have people that add incredible value to both my personal and business life. Your network is your career and through it you should always be open to being both a mentor and a mentee.

Q: What words of advice or tips would you give to other mentors?

A: Take it seriously. Being a mentor is a privilege and with the right application and approach you’ll be surprised by how much you also learn about yourself.

Q: What is the best and worst decision you have ever made?

A: Best, setting up Propel. Worst, not defining the purpose of why sooner!

Q: Do you think there are barriers for women looking to climb the ladder?

A: There are embedded cultural issues in any industry, but these aren’t barriers. Challenges yes, but barriers, never.

Q: What advice would you give to women who are looking to become leaders in a business?

A: Focus, work hard, look after people you work for and with. Be authentic in everything you do and always stick to your own values and beliefs.

Q: What do you think will be the biggest challenge for women looking to move up the hierarchical ladder?

A: The challenges vary in every company and industry, but these are only challenges, not barriers and every single one can be overcome with hard work, application and an unwavering belief in the values that drive you.
Back to my point about the power of your network, the challenge is to ensure you’re always working hard to build relationships both throughout your own company and the wider industry.

Q: In your experience what do you think a business can do to encourage diversity?

A: Diversity has to be driven from the very top to become a part of a company’s DNA, never a box-ticking exercise. The benefits to any company’s health, longevity and its very bottom line have never been more apparent.

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