Monzo Staff Weekly Q&A - Maria Campbell (Head of People)

Note : All Monzo Q&As to date can be found here :grinning:

People of Monzo! It’s that time again. The time where I write hilarious introductions to a regular weekly thread! Soon, I will run out of clever and interesting ways to say basically the same thing - at that time, I will retreat into a Batcave-like structure, pen in hand, for a long night of brainstorming. It’s going to be epic, and there will be beer.

But for now, it’s time for the weekly Staff Q&A!

You know the rules. You need to catch up first!

Week 1 : Chris MacLean, Customer Operations & Vulnerable Customers :santa:t2:
Week 2 : James Nicholson, iOS Engineer :green_apple:
Week 3 : Tara Mansfield, People Operations Manager :woman_technologist:t5::man_technologist:t3:
Week 4 : James Routley, Backend Engineer :hammer_and_wrench:
Week 5 : Hugh Wells, Customer Operations :policeman:t3:‍♂
Week 6 : Naz Malik, Technical Specialist :computer:
Week 7 : Fred Morgan, COps Squad Captain (Calls & Social Media) :telephone_receiver:
Week 8 : Emma Northcott, COps Scaling Team :balance_scale:
Week 9 : Jarno Wolf, COps Financial Crime Specialist & Squad Captain :wolf:

This week in the hot coral hot seat, it’s our Head of People, Maria Campbell!!!


You may remember Maria’s awesome blog post last year about Diversity and Inclusion… I think we may have a follow up for 2018 soon :grinning: We also held a live stream with Maria on the same topic, which you can read a transcript of here!

I asked Maria to define what she’s been working on recently, and her answer was perfect:
“Making Monzo the best place to work in the world!”

I also asked Maria for an interesting fact about herself, and she provided three! :grinning:

Here are three semi-interesting facts:
1. Half of the art in my flat is maps
2. I took a GCSE in astronomy when I was 14
3. For two years I only read books written by women.

Maria’s favorite thing about working at Monzo?

“Working with talented, caring, committed people every day AND knowing I’m (indirectly) helping people have a better relationship with their money.”

OK folks, time for questions! Get them in and Maria will be here later in the week to answer them!

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Q&A Interval

What is your favourite book (written by a woman)?

And what are the barriers you or other women might face/ have faced when trying to enter a career in the tech industry?

Why are you leaving Monzo and where are you going? :slightly_frowning_face:

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Has your approach to hiring and People policies changed as Monzo grew, or did you set things out at the beginning in the expectation of having a larger organisation?

The application experience seems different at Monzo. I’ve known a few people who have seemed like strong candidates who have been rejected the next day, even when the job is still open. I’m sure you are able to pick only the very best, but are there certain attributes that you are looking for, without which it’s not worth applying?

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What’s your favorite astronomical fact? :grinning:

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Fun questions so far! I’ll be in to answer properly on Friday morning, in the meantime please keep them coming :blush: I’d love to have enough difficult questions to keep me occupied for a couple of hours.

Quick summary of stuff I do and/or have historically done at Monzo:

  • writing job ads & designing interview plans
  • interviewing several hundred people, reviewing several thousand CVs
  • figuring out how much people should get paid
  • setting up benefits (& perks!)
  • designing & implementing an onboarding program to take people from job offer to Getting Stuff Done
  • writing our company code of conduct and a bunch of people policies (like how to do performance management)
  • learning how to be a medium-good manager and teaching others to do the same
  • loads of stuff around feedback and culture
  • passed some audits (!!!)

People stuff and/or HR are often super obscure and opaque, which is annoying / counterintuitive / unhelpful. This evening someone told me I was “endearingly blunt” sooooo.

Another fun fact, we had a slack channel called Maria’s Life Advice for a pretty long time. The best content in there was how to make a great cheese toastie :ok_hand:


When you said that I just immediately thought of comedian Lou Sanders’ video on how to make toast. (Love her)


Do you have some form of a framework for this? More interested in how you calculate how much a developer should get paid depending on their experience?

How has Monzo changed since you joined? Does it feel like a different company now?

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Really sad to see you go, Maria! But thank you for everything you’ve done for Monzo - you will be so missed. Your new place is lucky to have you!

My question is, what is the worst misconception about human resources/people management you’ve come across?


The People team at Monzo feels very different from any HR department I’ve had to interact with - you all feel like you’re genuinely there to help, not to file papers in triplicate and shoo me out. I guess People vs HR feels like the difference between Monzo and my old Swedish bank.

I’m curious about how that came about, what are the driving forces behind it, and what would you say goes into being People?

Did you ever look at classic HR departments and think “how can we not be like that”? Conversely, what inspired you?

If I were setting up my own company, what advice would you give me for making it a truly great place to work?


Is the fact that you took astronomy the interesting part, or the fact that you took it at 14? If it’s the latter, that’s not that interesting… at least not in my secondary school, we were all entered into GCSE’s in year 9. I’ve got like 14 GCSE’s because of it :confused:


Thanks for the questions all, Maria will be here tomorrow to answer! :grinning:

Favourite books is so hard! My most-recommended ones at the moment are:

  • Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi.
    The pace and tone and rhythm of her writing are super poetic. Plus a really beautiful story, and well-developed believable characters.
  • The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink.
    It’s hard to describe, it’s kind of about relationships and dependencies and being human and birdwatching. The story is told in an experiential way - the Big Thing that happens gets about two sentences devoted to it, there’s a kind of import and weight and subjectivity to it all. It’s not a heavy-going literary read either, it’s quite short and you can kind of race through it and then immediately re-read it.

My go-to authors more generally are Margaret Atwood, Helen Oyeyemi and Zadie Smith.


I can’t speak for all women, or the whole of the tech industry.

I’m super privileged: I’m white, able-bodied, well-educated, present quite conventionally as ‘professional’ and female, sound middle-class and English, etc etc etc. So I haven’t faced anything like as many barriers as a lot of others do.

I also work in tech companies in a people role: traditionally HR is a function that has a high proportion of women working within it, so nobody is ever particularly surprised when a woman is in that role.

So, from that perspective, I don’t perceive the barriers in tech as being particularly different to the ones in the rest of society, but some of them are more pronounced, and it varies from place to place as well. You see the ‘times up’ and ‘me too’ phenomena, and it’s tech, journalism, media, academia, finance, everywhere.

I am very mindful of my privilege, and quite fortunate that I can (and do!) leverage my position as a people-person working in tech to diminish the impact of some of these barriers for others, to make sure underrepresented voices are amplified, and to make sure others are aware that they can and often do exist - that the playing field is demonstrably not level for everyone.


It’s not them, it’s me! I’m going to a smaller company (~30 people but growing), very tech focussed. I’ve kind of always spent my career figuring out what the most valuable thing is that I can do, and that I can do much better than anyone else can. For me, that’s setting up people processes from scratch, iterating rapidly as the company grows, and working through those cultural challenges that inevitably crop up. I’m happiest, and most effective, in the earlier stages of a company when it’s possible to know everyone and everything that’s happening and really get to the root of those challenges. Monzo’s been amazing - I never thought I’d work in a company with literally over three hundred people!! - and I’ve learnt a huge, huge amount. I’ve already invited myself back for future officewarmings, Christmas parties etc. So it’s all on very good terms. We are going to hire some more folks into the people team over the coming months, though, so if you know anyone amazing please let us know :wink:


We’ve always had big ambitions!

People processes aren’t fundamentally to the way everything else in the business works - you build something that will work for now and the next few stages of growth, get feedback, iterate. There’s no point building a process that works for a thousand-person company if it’s super weird for a thirty-person company; however some things scale up better than others.

For example, the induction process for new starters was designed to work well for 1-5 people joining at a time; then we iterated again once we had 10-20 joining every fortnight and needed to make that work well.

On the other hand, our hiring process is more or less the same as it was when I joined, the work is just distributed better.


Applying for jobs can be super stressful, so we try to take as much stress out of it as possible by listing what we’re actually looking for under you should apply if.

These points are almost exactly the criteria we use to make decisions on whether or not to progress someone to the next stage of our interviewing process.

We also don’t stack-rank applicants - like, we don’t wait till we have 100, then pick our top 30 for the first stage, etc etc. For some roles, we’re really really well calibrated very early on what we’re looking for, so can make decisions without needing to see a lot of candidates. For example, we have about six product managers, and over 150 COps, so we back ourselves to make good decisions one at a time rather than comparatively.

There’s a standard for what we’re looking for, which is very very high, and anyone who is above that will move forward. We can afford to be incredibly selective, because we get a really high volume of fantastically strong applicants, and that’s partly why I think everyone here is in absolute awe of how great the people they get to work with are.


A cultural fact that I learnt! Pretty much everyone has some form of astrology based off the constellations they draw from the stars following the sun’s orbit through the sky.

The constellations are slightly different, but there’s always 12-13 of them. And it’s always the same path.

I can only identify about ten constellations, which is pretty woeful, but it was a long time ago and I live in London so can rarely see more than that anyway!


:joy::bread: This is properly hilarious!

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