What are Monzo's technical expectations for Engineering Leaders?

Read the article

My favourite thing about the Engineering Manager (EM) role at Monzo is that it’s so dynamic. In any given week, your focus may shift between helping an engineer set career goals, hiring a new team member, negotiating a roadmap, or navigating a major technical obstacle. Our progression framework defines the role in 3 pillars: people management, execution, and leadership. Ultimately, the role is whatever your team needs to thrive and achieve their goals. Sometimes that means getting into the technical details.

This post will explore how EMs at Monzo continue to leverage their software engineering backgrounds in practice, and how we assess those skills in our hiring process.

In practice

Most EMs at Monzo don’t contribute code regularly. We’ve all been senior software engineers at some point in our careers, but now we’re building the teams that build our products and services. So what does our technical involvement look like?

Technical outcomes

Our success as EMs is reflected in the outcomes of our teams, so we need to ensure our teams are prioritising impactful projects and delivering them well. This accountability might be shared with a product manager, but the EM is uniquely placed to navigate the approach, dependencies, and timelines. We need to be able to review proposals, reason through trade-offs, and assess major technical decisions without always deferring to an engineer on the team.


EMs play a unique role in the flow of information: quickly and accurately summarising complex technical topics for cross-functional partners. You might find yourself justifying a decision the team has made, or pushing back on a deadline because refactoring a system will make the team more productive. Both of these scenarios are easier if you’ve been an engineer. You can tailor the level of detail to your audience and draw parallels from your own experience.

Operational excellence

EMs should champion high standards in their teams. That means knowing what good looks like across incident management, monitoring, rollouts, and more. We need to be comfortable coaching the team towards technical and operational excellence, understanding how they’re doing relative to the rest of the organisation and broader industry standards.


Hands-on engineering experience can also be an asset in the people management aspects of the role. For some of your reports, it will be important to know that you’ve been in their shoes. That shared experience is a foundation for building the trust that will enable candid feedback, and being able to get into the details might even help you spot stretch opportunities that will accelerate their growth.

In hiring

Our hiring process for EMs includes a systems design stage. This is the same exercise we run with backend engineering applicants – a one-hour interview focused on solving a distributed systems problem end-to-end on a virtual whiteboard. However, it’s evaluated with a slightly different set of expectations.

  1. Communication
    We expect EMs to do extremely well at the collaborative aspects of the exercise, such as refining requirements, weighing up implementation options, and maintaining a shared understanding of the system. 

  2. First-principles reasoning
    One of our hiring principles is “We test for problem-solving ability, not knowledge”. There’s no expectation to be familiar with any specific technology, but we do expect candidates to understand fundamental software engineering concepts. We acknowledge that some candidates have focused on managing teams for years. Others will be coming from environments with limited scope to adopt the latest open-source tools. For example, you might need to use an abstract queue to solve a problem, but you wouldn’t be expected to get into Kafka configuration details.

  3. Correctness and scalability
    EMs will not necessarily achieve a perfectly scalable solution independently. We do expect candidates to make continuous forward progress, but it’s okay to collaborate with the interviewer to uncover flaws or limitations in the design.

We run this interview regardless of the candidate’s engineering background. This is because engineering teams at Monzo are cross-functional. Even teams focused on our mobile app experience or customer support web tools will own backend systems that enable those experiences. Since our interviewers are looking for problem-solving ability over knowledge, it’s possible to do well without having specialised in backend engineering. At least half a dozen EMs at Monzo (myself included) have spent most of their careers building mobile apps. 

Most of the technical signal in our Engineering Manager hiring process comes from this interview. There will be questions on past projects in the initial call and behavioural interviews, but they typically won’t get down to the same level of detail as the systems design. We then evaluate the sum of strengths across all stages when we debrief and make a decision. 

Come join us!

The EM role at Monzo is well-suited to engineering leaders who put people and teams first, without losing sight of the technical complexity inherent in building software systems. If this sounds like you, find out more about our open EM roles or check out these leadership roles below:

Director of Engineering
Engineering Manager, Business Banking
Engineering Manager, Developer Platforms