🙋‍♂️ My first few months at Monzo

First up, a disclaimer

I enjoy writing, but I don’t make much time to do it, and as a result, I’m really out of practice. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve enjoyed reading this, and what else you’d like me to write about (you can contact me @lukebriscoe on Twitter – I’m keen to keep going 📝).

In this first post I’ll be writing about what I’ve found from my first couple of months working at Monzo.

A bit about what I do…

I joined Monzo at the end of February 2019 as an engineering manager. Engineering managers at Monzo are completely focused on the engineers we look after; therefore we’re decoupled from delivery, and we don’t do any hands-on coding. We’re completely focused on engineer wellbeing, performance and personal development, with some more strategic things sprinkled in. I’ll write another post in the near future that goes into some more detail about our approach, and how and why we set up like this. There’s a (slightly outdated) post on the Monzo blog to read over for now which will give you a general idea.

I look after some of our engineers focused on tackling our people-scaling challenges (TechOps and Org Scaling), as well as the engineers who develop and operate our core banking platform. I’ve also been involved with helping improve our on-call and incident management processes, our engineering hiring process, and more recently, preparing audit responses (it comes with the territory working at a UK bank and in a heavily regulated industry 🕵️‍♂️).

My experience so far

So on to the good stuff. 

I’ve learnt an unbelievable amount in my first few months with Monzo. I joined wanting to take on the challenge of scaling engineering in a rapidly growing organisation, and I’m definitely getting what I came here for (and more!). In my short time here, we’ve taken on over 1 million customers, onboarded around 250 new employees, and announced a new £113m round of funding. There’s a real feeling that we’re changing the face of banking for all of our customers, and we’re only just getting started.

💁‍♂️The emoji game is real 

Command + control + space is one shortcut you need to remember when you’re working here. I thought I was big in the emoji game before (I was known for my emoji-filled presentations in my previous role), but I’m an absolute amateur compared to some of the people I work with. Emoji helps us communicate in a more personal way with each other and our customers, and I even use them to help organise my diary (i.e. I know if I see 👨‍💻in a calendar slot, then I have some desk time. It’s really useful when you glance quickly at your diary on your phone for the day ahead).

🧠Support for mental health and wellbeing

Monzo’s commitment to making sure that everyone can be themselves at work is incredible. We have trained mental first aiders available to support anyone who needs to talk something through, a dedicated #mental-health Slack channel, and a public blog where we share what we’re doing in terms of mental health with our customers. The posters below are in every toilet cubicle, and you’re given a copy to keep for yourself as a reminder on your first day 🤗. We’re encouraged to regularly talk about our challenges and to offer support to the people around us.

Monzo Mental Health Poster

🤓I get to work with some amazing people

I learn something new every day, guaranteed. I’m constantly amazed by the engineers I manage and their commitment to what we’re doing. One thing that makes my job so interesting is that I get to work with people from many different backgrounds. We have a fortnightly roundtable where we get together as an engineering management group to discuss various challenges we’re facing (both individually and collectively), and I get to learn a lot from this by us sharing our experiences with each other and talking things through.

😰Impostor syndrome

Working with people who you admire and who regularly inspire you comes with some challenges. On my first day at Monzo I was introduced to impostor syndrome, and I’m so glad that we can talk openly about how we feel. For anyone reading who doesn’t know what impostor syndrome is, Wikipedia describes it as ‘a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud’. In other words, you feel out of your depth and that one day, you’re going to be found out as having no idea what you’re doing 😱. I’ve come to learn that it’s completely natural to feel like this when you’re surrounded by great people, and it helps me continue to stretch myself and perform better as a result.

🏡Trust & Flexibility

I’m trusted 100% to get my job done, regardless of where I’m located. I live in Bristol but I tend to visit our London offices once or twice a week to get some face-to-face time with my team. I’m not expected to always be in the office to do my job, so we’re set up to allow distributed workers to do their best work with the tools and policies we have. We encourage a company-wide work from home day every other Friday, and use a range of tools and Slack to make distributed working really easy.

Having the autonomy to work where and when is best for me and my team means that my work-life balance has improved massively in the last few months, and as a result, I feel well equipped and refreshed each day to turn up and do a great job. 

🤔We work hard (!)

A lot of what I’ve written so far is very positive, but I won’t lie that my days are full on. We’re moving quickly as a business, and although we already have 2.5+ million customers and a big London office, we constantly remind ourselves that we’re still very much a start-up and only right at the beginning of what we want to achieve. As Monzo’s reputation and customer base is growing, the expectation on us to continue to excel grows with it. We’re very conscious of burn-out, and encourage everyone to take the time they need to look after themselves. I try and keep my Fridays completely meeting-free so I have time to decompress from a week of 1:1s and meetings, and have a day dedicated to ‘doing’. It’s difficult to protect that time sometimes, but I definitely recommend trying to keep time for yourself to think, work, and reflect each week. It also means I can head in to the weekend without having things hanging over me that I knew I should have got done.

🤝 With great autonomy comes great responsibility

We’re granted a lot of autonomy to get the job done, and with that, you’re responsible for finding a way to do it. We don’t have well defined processes for everything we do yet, so sometimes it’s up to you to go and define the way things should be done. I have felt pressure to shape and define the way we should do things, but that’s exactly what I signed up for and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

😎 I’m excited for what’s next

I’m really excited for the future! I’m getting more and more involved with hiring incredible engineers (check out Monzo’s careers page if you like what you’ve read so far), tackling some of the scaling challenges we’re facing, and making sure that the engineers I manage continue to feel well supported to build the bank of the future.

I’m also looking forward to writing more about my experiences and the things I learn along the way – so please check back in the near future to read more!