Careers March 14, 2019

3 lessons I’ve learnt after my first year at Monzo

A group of people all making the 'call me' sign with their hands, some of them wearing party hats. Team Call and the Gang having shenanigans at Monzo's 4th Birthday party!

It’s been a year since I started working for Monzo. Technically a year and five months, but ehhhhhh, time is wibbly wobbly. (Aside: I once said in an interview that Monzo time is like bullet time in the Matrix. Still can’t believe I got away with saying that.) If I say that my life has never been the same, it makes me feel facetious. Flippant, even. Because really, applying for that entry-level customer operations job was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my career.

It sucks that companies who give a hoot about you aren’t de rigueur, because the time I’ve spent here has been restorative. Working here allowed me to start sloughing off emotional baggage I’ve carried from previous jobs. I can be fragile without fear. I know now it’s actually possible to feel truly satisfied at a job, instead of pretending, or trying to convince myself that I was.

My year has been really humbling, and it’s taught me lots. Paying it forward, I’m sharing some lessons I learnt in my time here so far.

Lesson one: You need a strong feedback culture

In your career, you will inevitably come across people who make mistakes, or do things that make your life at work worse. But if you sit back, grit your teeth and go home thinking “that wasn’t quite right”, it’ll just happen again. And again and again and again.

If only it was as easy as saying “just be brave enough to do something about it”, or “tell them what they did wrong.” But it isn’t. Providing a safe space for people to give feedback and enforcing that culture needs to come from the top and trickle down.

There are two things Monzo does differently. Firstly, they encourage conversation between us constantly. You can book in 1:1s with anyone you like, and you can even give feedback directly to your colleague on a web tool called Lattice.

Secondly, they give everyone at manager-level training on how to give great feedback. This helps us give better feedback, and guides us to lead by example.

Actionable tip 💡

Feedback needs to be three things: actionable, timely, and kind. It isn’t enough to tell someone “that is wrong.” It will also suck if you bring up that feedback too late. When you see an opportunity to give someone feedback, tell them what they did, the impact of their action, and give them a solution. All this should happen as soon as you can manage it, and not a moment later.

Before you send it off, read it back and imagine what it would be like to receive that message.

Lesson two: Being vulnerable with your peers will give you strength

For years when I was feeling stressed or burnt out, I told myself to just deal with it. That worked for a time, but when it stopped, I flamed out gloriously.

The thing is, I was afraid. Afraid of letting myself feel everything I was meant to be feeling. Afraid of the fact I was feeling overwhelmed, and worrying all the time that one day my “everything’s fine” mask was gonna drop. It was exhausting.

One of my favourite channels on Slack is #mental-health. There, we share our mental health stories, ask for help from our mental health first aiders, and provide moral support. For the first time, I joined a company and didn’t feel alone. It was revolutionary.

Beyond that, being open about my limits has helped me find better ways to work around them. My colleagues understand when I’m having a not-so-good day. I can work from home when it all gets too much. It also helps me with accountability. If I can’t do something on one day, I’m now much better at saying “I can’t do this right now, but I can by the end of the week.”

Working at Monzo has made it so much easier for me to be honest about how I’m actually feeling. We talk about our struggles and boundaries openly with one another, with no fear of judgment. The kindness I’ve experienced has been unparalleled, frankly.

Thinking point 🤔
Who can you trust to share your struggles at work?
How ‘you’ can you be in the office?

Is your company doing enough to support your overall health at work (mental and physical?)
If not, where else can?

Lesson three: Just say yes. What’s the worst that can happen?

The best anecdote I can give is when I made the jump from chat customer service to calls. Three months into my job, my team was disbanding because my manager Beth was temporarily moving to Cardiff. I needed a new assignment. She recommended I speak to Fred, squad captain of a team called ‘Call and the Gang’. Call and the Gang were the team who dealt with both calls and social media customer support, so with my experience as a social media manager, she thought it would be a great fit.

I was at home in Malaysia, eight hours ahead when I first hopped on a Google Hangout with Fred to chat about joining the team. We spoke for an hour, about my previous social media experience, what my vision was for how social support should look like, and I learnt about the exuberant, enthusiastic team he was running.

At the very end of the phone call, he dropped the bomb. 💣

“By the way, we’re looking forward to seeing you do calls too! Bye!”

Whoa. That’s not what I signed up for. I’ve never done customer service phone calls, and I was still so fresh at the job. What if I was crap? What if I stuttered? What if I messed up? My impostor syndrome cranked up to the max at the thought.

But I didn’t say no. I paced around my parents’ house for a day and decided to give it a go once I was back in London in the new year.

Hitting the ground running in calls was easier than I thought it would be. Everyone in Call and the Gang was so customer-centric, and driven to make magic happen. My colleagues were so ready to teach. And goodness was I ready to learn.

In fact, I loved calls so much that I became one of its biggest advocates here. Now, I help to scale up the calls function here at Monzo and provide training to people who want to join us. I’ve come a long, long way from being terrified of the thought of calls. All because I said yes to something that scared me.

Challenge 💪
Find an area in your role that scares you. Figure out if learning how to do it better would be both you and for the business you work for. Ask someone to teach you, and work at it until you’re not scared of it any more.

Come join us?

The gist of this all is, I bloody love working here and I think you would love it too.

We have loads of openings at the company (some in my department!) so head on over to the Monzo careers page to see if anything might tickle your fancy. If you get the role, hit me up. I’d love to take you out for a coffee and a 1:1. (Not an ad by the way! Wrote this in my own time because I really wanted to.)

Writer’s note: Hey folks! Long time no speak. This is actually the first piece of writing I’ve done in over a year so bear with me while I stretch out my typing fingers and brush out the brain cobwebs.

I’d love to hear more from you! What else do you want to know about life at Monzo? Sound off in the comments ❤️ 👇

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