Melanie’s journey began as a child tinkering in the shed on her family farm. Now, Melanie is responsible for shaping the quality of future products in the automotive industry at Holden.
Interview with Maline Pollock
Can you tell us about your time at Deakin?
Cloud Campus study was unusual when I started my MBA. I was travelling a lot, so Deakin’s Cloud based program was the perfect fit.
Many of my first subjects introduced all new concepts for me; subjects such as Financial Reporting, Change Management and Organisational Behaviour were initially foreign to me. During the middle of my course, I reduced my workload as I started a family and my career progressed. In hindsight, this was the stage of my career that I was able to leverage my learning the most, but also the stage when I had the least discretionary effort available. I remember being exhausted during this period!
Towards the end of my course my real-world experience really kicked in, and I could be much more efficient in my study. I enjoyed taking leadership roles in my assignment groups and applying the theory I was learning in my day job.
The highlight of my course would probably be my intensive leadership course – Audacious Leadership. The course was an experiential program designed to simulate real world crises. Working in groups we could test and debrief different leadership models, while learning how to sail a tall ship in the southern ocean.
I would have liked to do more residential programs but I was working full time with a young family, so the flexibility of being able to complete my study in the evenings and on weekends made cloud based learning the best fit for me.
What has been your journey since finishing your course? Briefly outline your career path prior to your current role.
Prior to starting my MBA, I was in an engineering role as an individual contributor. As I progressed through my course I was able to take more senior roles, lead teams of engineers and work in technical advisory roles.
One of my most interesting roles was establishing a transformation and continuous improvement department within the commercial part of our business.
Soon after graduating from Deakin, I took my current role, leading Quality in Australia. While my engineering background was obviously a valued trait, I’m confident that my business acumen and the MBA experience at Deakin played a key part in securing the role.
What is your current position?
My team are responsible for shaping the quality of Holden’s future products. We develop insights to help our product teams make our new models the best in the market by design. We ensure our cars are tested in Australia, to suit Australian conditions, and we work with engineering, manufacturing and aftersales to continuously improve our vehicles.
What has been the biggest influence on your career?
I think my career has been most strongly influenced by people – initially, my family. My mum worked full time in a number of significant roles, ensuring I saw the work she did to be successful. My dad introduced me to machines at an early age, driving my interest in cars, and my curiosity. In the workforce, I have found many mentors. Being curious about others and taking any opportunity to learn something new has opened many doors, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Have you always wanted to pursue the kind of journey you have embarked on? If so, when and how did you realise?
My dream was always to apply science in a practical way, so it’s not surprising I ended up as an engineer, or that I went on to complete an MBA. My specific interest in the automotive business started as a child tinkering in a shed on the farm, but has really grown with my time at Holden.
What advice would you give graduates wanting to pursue a similar profession?
I think if you set your heart on how you want your career to make you feel and the types of experiences you want to have, rather than a specific profession or position, you can then open yourself up to consider different pathways, take more opportunities and get more enjoyment along the way.
What do you believe Deakin University has shown you/given you as a person?
Aside from all the models and intellectual development, my MBA really helped me relate to people from the commercial part of our business. I became fluent in commercial terms, started to understand some of the cross functional complexity of the business, and could relate to the issues that my colleagues were facing. My MBA taught me some of the skills that I needed to put myself in their shoes, both as a supplier and as a partner.
What are your passions outside your work?
I love spending time in the great outdoors with my family and friends. We’ve just booked a mountain biking trip to Falls Creek for Easter, but I also love sea kayaking and playing touch footy.
How would someone describe you?
They’d say I love solving problems and that I like to jump in and roll up my sleeves to get things done.
Is there any advice you would give to a person who is starting out in your career?
Take every opportunity to learn, get breadth of experience as well as depth, and have fun along the way.
What is something that amazes you?
I love watching children discover things for themselves. My son was doing a project on packaging last year, and nothing could beat watching his anticipation as he tested his designs to see if they protected a potato crisp when he dropped them off our veranda, and placed them under a weight. In our information rich world, it is amazing that simple things can still bring such delight.