'I joined Monzo in 2016, and was the first Black person on the team'

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I'm Yehudi Asamoah and I've been at Monzo for 5 and a half years.

Although I don't have a degree, I studied English, Philosophy and Mathematics at university level. It was while volunteering for the NHS when I started to build my career there. I was fortunate enough to get onto an NHS talent programme, where I met terrific managers who pushed me to push myself whilst working within a leadership team and then as an Operations Manager.

In 2016 I decided I wanted a complete change and started reading obsessively about fintech, discovered Monzo (then named “Mondo”), applied, interviewed and that was that!

My Monzo journey

I've had different roles at Monzo. This includes working in Operations, Platform, Knowledge Management and People, as Chief of Staff, Head of Complaints, Customer Operations and more.

My proudest achievement at Monzo is the role I played in establishing and launching our company values in 2019.  It’s something that continues to resonate with people at Monzo. At the moment I'm People Systems Lead which means I manage our HR systems strategy. It’s a good blend of things I enjoy: interacting with people, systems thinking and solving problems.

This range of roles is pretty typical for anyone who's joined a fast-growing start up at an early stage. At the start it's a mutable experience - a constant dance of growth and adaptation. There's an internal rhythm that leads to early joiners doing lots of different things, coupled with a sense of spontaneous choreography, in that everyone is doing anything and everything, yet it somehow all flows. You all find a way to flow together. Practically everyone around at that time did lots of different things and loved it.

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Being the first Black Monzonaut was awesome. Initially it felt very utopian and colour blind.

That might sound odd, as we know it can be unhelpful when people claim to not see colour, but that's genuinely how it felt to me. I felt included. I didn't feel like the first Black person at Monzo. I felt like someone lucky enough to work with a brilliant team building a meaningful product. Being Black felt inconsequential.

The larger an organisation becomes, the more it absorbs the strengths and challenges of the society it inhabits. I'd say that's been the case for me as a Black person at Monzo. I've always felt included, but as we've become larger I've noticed that we've had to work harder to ensure that everyone feels included, regardless of background or professional history.

A few of our newer Black people at Monzo have shared with me that they don't always feel fully included or connected. I've supported them by participating in the Black Monzo community, hosting listening sessions, supporting people, coaching people, organising events, connecting Black team mates to others within the company, communicating feedback to leadership and more.

I think that using data is critical in understanding where we target our efforts. We’ve improved our ethnicity data collection to ensure we can meaningfully monitor progression and attrition for Black people. We also want to make sure it is comparable to progression and attrition for non-Black people.

At the end of the day, I want everyone to feel the level of inclusion I felt when I joined Monzo.

What Black history month meant to me

During Black History Month I loved finding out about experiences from Black communities around the world. That meant watching obscure African documentaries, or listening to French Hip Hop, or cooking (well, trying to cook) Caribbean food or eyeballing fashion or whatever. For me, Black History should be characterised by joy as much as it should be characterised by struggle and triumph. We aren't a monolith; there are thousands of Black cultures, languages and communities and I love to learn more about them.

A lot of allyship discourse focuses on intense topics like bargaining, enquiry and analysis. In Black History Month, Black people speak about our experiences and everyone else is expected to listen. That process is vital. But it's important to find joy, community and happiness during and after Black History Month too. Finding joy and hope has an inseparable relationship with civil rights movements. For example, jazz had a recurring connection to the civil rights movement in the US, in the midst of impossible adversity for African Americans. Joy is often cathartic and it is universal. It unifies communities. There is much to commiserate and improve, but also much to celebrate.

Monzo now and in the future

Monzo’s journey so far has been incredible, fun, challenging and fulfilling. Despite all that it’s hard to consider how far we've come because honestly, we're just getting started. In the future we need to continue to create a positive influence. I feel proud when people speak about how we’ve encouraged inclusive policies, or when customers tell us that we’ve helped them find financial freedom.

Our internal Black community, Black Monzo, has grown substantially and is a wonderful, welcoming community. Speaking more widely, our product teams have launched stellar new features and have even more lined up. We have a truly inspiring exec team. The last year had its challenges no doubts about that, although recently I’ve seen renewed buzz and enthusiasm within Monzo. And that dopamine hit I get when I meet people for the first time who say “I use Monzo!” is stronger than ever.