Flexible working: Melissa Mitchell, CEO and founder of VOLO

Struggling to juggle your career with childcare? Is your 9-5 incompatible with family life? This series talks to inspirational parents who are finding new flexible ways of working and finds out what it’s really like making it on your own


Melissa juggles childcare and career as CEO of Volo Group

  1. What do you do? 

    I’m the founder and CEO of Volo Group, a social enterprise that uses technology to help shape a more collaborative and impact-focused workforce. I’m also the mother of a nine-week old baby girl named Lily and wife to a wonderful Frenchman.

  2. Why did you want a more flexible career? 

    I’m an incredibly hard worker and always willing to put in long hours to make sure that things get done. As a result, I’ve found that a rigid work environment that ties you to a desk from 9am-5pm makes it nearly impossible to find a good work/life balance.In creating my own start up, I wanted to make sure that we set a culture of flexibility that promotes a positive mentality towards work and allows employees to be dedicated to their jobs without having to lose touch with their families and hobbies.
    Additionally, as my husband and I both worked in finance, we were working incredibly long hours. With thoughts of a family on the horizon, we were having trouble figuring out how we could possibly fit a child into our already time-poor schedules. The idea of raising a child that we would barely have the chance to see, left very little to be desired.

  3. What were you doing before you had children? 

    Prior to starting my company and having my baby, I spent six years launching a disruptive technology into the higher education markets of more than 40 countries. It was an amazing experience that gave me the chance to explore entrepreneurship in a safe and supportive environment and that introduced me to the idea of using technology to improve outdated practices.

  4. What was the trigger point that made you switch? 

    I really loved my job, but I saw an opportunity to use my experience to make an even bigger impact in the world. At VOLO we aim to bridge the skills gap between education and employment by helping students to develop essential soft skills through volunteering. Through using volunteering as a route to address this growing issue, we can not only help charities get the help they need to deliver on their social missions, but we can also break down societal barriers and develop a more collaborative, impact focused and socially minded workforce.

  5.  What’s a typical day like for you? 

    Well, I can’t remember the last time that my day felt “typical”, but I usually start by feeding and cuddling Lily before running out the door to a combination of meetings, trainings, presentations, volunteering and office hours, then back home to spend time with my family, which is usually accompanied by some evening admin.

  6.  Do you work every day, or is it different each week? 

    I work every day, but the hours are always different. My time and location are flexible now, which allows me more time with my daughter than I would have if I was working the way I used to.

  7. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to give up a 9-5 job? 

    While it’s nice to have more flexibility and freedom, I would advise others to be prepared for a long, hard road as you’ll be working a lot harder than you did before, so you also need to be really disciplined in order to use your time effectively.

  8. How do your earnings compare with when you were working in a 9-5 job? 

    Well, they don’t, at all. Haha. That’s actually another piece of advice, if you’d like to give up the 9-5, it helps to have financial stability and a solid plan. Otherwise, you could end up being very unhappy after a couple of months, even if you do have a new found freedom.

  9. What do you think is the biggest challenge for working parents? 

    Since becoming a parent, I’ve gained a completely new level of understanding around the multiple challenges that working parents face. I think the demands of the workplace put an incredible strain on families and I hope governments will continue to push through reforms to address this problem.

  10. If you weren’t doing this job, what else would you be doing? 

    For me, what is most important is being able to learn and make a positive impact in the world. As I’ve recently become a parent, I’m already seeing many opportunities to apply tech to make life easier for families. I think this could be an interesting area to explore.

Inspired? You can follow Melissa’s venture on Twitter @volo4change. Have you a similar story to tell? Get in touch jo@panoramaroad.com. You may also be interested in our other success stories.


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