My first 3 months at Monzo as an engineering manager

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Hello 👋  My name is Jarryd and I joined Monzo as an engineering manager at the end of 2021. I've tried at least 17 other permutations of my introduction, but at this point, my name and job title are probably sufficient. 

I've heard it said that I'm completely unique, just like everybody else. That saying has always bothered me somewhat. The two truths seem to be at odds with each other. How can I be unique and just like everybody else? Joining Monzo was the first time this juxtaposition made sense because it’s the first place I've been able to operate in an environment where these two truths are held in great tension and produce Monzo Magic ✨

Experiencing Monzo Magic as a customer 

For years, I've been a fan of Monzo. I remember my excitement when I first learned about the digital bank of the future. I remember signing up and being added to the queue of thousands of early adopters. I clearly recall sending my personal invite to any of my friends and family who had email addresses just to bump my position in the queue. Side note: I've subsequently learned that the British do not take kindly to queue-jumpers.

As customer #8770, I will never be more proud than I was on the day that I loaded my first £30 onto my Mondo Mastercard and rushed to my nearest Boots to splash out on a meal deal. I'm sure many Monzo fans can remember the first time somebody reacted to the bright orange (hot coral) card. I can recall the first time I made a payment at Nandos; the chicken emoji made the entire experience delightful. Put simply, every interaction with Monzo felt ... magical! 

Behind the curtain 

Imagine my excitement at the prospect of having the opportunity to be a part of Monzo's mission nearly 7 years after I had become a customer. Having found an opening for an engineering manager position, I applied not thinking I’d be considered, let alone invited to an interview. 

I didn’t have any expectations about the interview process with Monzo. I held no assumptions prior to the interviews, because the recruitment team were phenomenal at setting my expectations way ahead of time. To be frank, I was just happy to be on the candidate list.

The interviewers were kind, thoughtful, and curious, and the process was well laid-out. The initial interview, for example, was a casual conversation about my interests, my experience, and what I was currently working on. This was followed by three more stages: technical, leadership, and behavioural. These final stages were all very targeted interviews and while challenging, they were incredibly fun. The results were communicated quickly and the recruitment team could not have been more helpful or responsive. In fact, the entire thing felt very... Monzo. 

Battling Impostor Syndrome

They (whoever they are) say you should never meet your heroes because they're sure to disappoint you. I may as well have tattooed the quote on my eyeballs because it was the dominating thought in my mind for weeks. 

Engineering managers at Monzo are not only responsible for supporting and developing our engineers, but also providing technical leadership for teams and groups across the company. I was entrusted with the care of the Backend Platform Squad, a team whose skills are far beyond my domain of expertise. Backend Platform, as the name suggests, is the team responsible for building a platform for Monzo backend engineers to work with. The team exists with the sole purpose of making engineers at Monzo more effective. As a humble frontend engineer (pixel-pusher, Browserfolk, JS-Ninja 😎), I could not have felt more out of place and out of my depth.

I found myself constantly looking for problems and pitfalls more often than I care to admit. The more snag-searching I did, the more convinced I became that I was in the wrong place. During my predicament-pursuit, I had allowed the all-too-familiar feeling of inadequacy (Impostor Syndrome) to creep in. What if there were no problems or pitfalls? What if the entire Monzo-ship is powered by pixie dust? What if Monzo Magic is intrinsically found in stunning individuals, and what if I'm just not one of them? 

During week three of my exciting adventure, the dark cloud of self-doubt had firmly settled on my mind. I was surrounded by confident, technically-brilliant individuals who I didn’t understand. What did I know about Kubernetes, deployment manifests, metrics ingestion (yeah… still sounds pretty gross to me), or canary deployments with an automated rollback capability? 🤯

I had met my hero and concluded that I simply didn't belong. Fortunately, my story doesn't end here...

The days and weeks continued to roll on, and as they did, something strange began to happen. The problems started to appear. Challenges, issues, and opportunities revealed themselves. As if by some sort of magic, my role began to make sense, and I found that I could wade into conversations to offer help or insight. It was as if the problems had come looking for me. I had spent so much time and energy looking for a mess to tidy that I hadn't realised (like some sort of olfactory-deficient dog walker) that I had been stepping in it all along.

Any platform used by hundreds of engineers to ship changes to thousands of microservices multiple times every day is bound to develop some cracks along the way. Teams made up of passionate individuals are bound to have tensions bubbling under the surface. Leaders helping steer a ship that’s ever-increasing its speed have a tough time tending to every area that requires their attention. Monzo’s success really has given glorious birth to a whole host of new challenges and opportunities! 

Perhaps that's what made my first three months at Monzo so exciting. Monzo is not immune to problems. In fact, issues, obstacles, and a healthy dose of challenge is the very thing used to fertilise Monzo magic. It's obvious now that the only reason Monzo feels so magical as a customer, is because it's taken an industry littered with difficulty, unnecessary complexity, wrought with challenge and friction, and made it into something delightful. As an engineering manager at Monzo, my first three months have taught me so many incredible lessons - but none more important than this: 

Monzo magic doesn't happen by accident. It's cultivated by incredibly smart individuals who work hard to tackle difficult, important problems. It's nurtured in an environment of autonomy, support, and fast feedback. The magic is very much in the people.

The adventure continues

The arch of any good Disney movie is one that ends with a 'feel good' conclusion. Usually this is a summary that makes you feel like the journey is complete and an ending that ties off the loose ends (we found out about Bruno, after all). This, however, is not a Disney movie, nor is it the end. At Monzo, we have an enormous task ahead of us. Making money work for everyone is going to take a lot more than Tinkerbell’s fairy dust. I’m more convinced than ever before that Monzo is made magical by the people, people who are unashamedly unique, just like everybody else! 😇

If you'd like to join the adventure, we're currently looking for a senior engineering manager to join our security squads.