Monzo Staff Weekly Q&A - Simon Amor (Product Designer) ✎


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


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Welcome one and welcome all!

Today is an exciting day for many reasons. First of all, it’s Q&A thread day! :partying_face:

Secondly, we published this epic blog post about what we’ll be building in 2019:

https://monzo.com/blog/2019/01/29/2019-features/

And finally, I’m hosting our monthly Open Office in London tonight, and hopefully a few of you will be in attendance!

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doing all the things!!!

But now… to the main event! Make sure you catch up with all previous Q&As first.

This week in the Hot Coral Hot Seat™️, we’ve got Simon Amor, Product Designer!

For the rest of this thread I shall be referring to him as SimonA. Otherwise I will confuse myself. It happens sometimes. Especially when running on lack of sleep :bed: :wink:

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SimonA has been here since November 2018 as a Product Designer and is currently working on Product Growth. I feel like I haven’t said the word Product enough so there’s one more :grin:

Fun Fact About SimonA:

“I use to play a sport called Polocrosse. Its basically Lacrosse… on a horse.” :horse:

His favourite thing about working here?

“The people here really care about making banking better for people.”

Truth spoken right there!

So folks, you know what time it is.

Get those questions in. We know you have them. Question away and SimonA will be here later this week to answer them!

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I shall start.

Which of the ideas in this list are you most looking forward to, either from a design standpoint or otherwise?

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Lacrosse itself is meant to be quite dangerous. How much more dangerous is it when adding horses into the mix?

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What are you working on currently within product growth? What does it entail on a day to day basis?

What area of the monzo app do you think is really well designed?

What area of the app do you think could do with some TLC?

Are there any other organisations you look to for inspiration when working on your current project?

How often do you provide feedback or ask for feedback from other team members? I imagine it’s rather important aspect of being a designer?

Did you suffer from imposter syndrome when joining monzo? If so what tips do you have for overcoming it?

There is so much exciting stuff going on at Monzo in 2019 its really hard to pick! I WANT IT ALLLLLL!

One of the things I am really looking forward to as a Monzo user is simple bill switching. I hate dealing with utility companies, so having Monzo do all this for me, with little to no effort on my end would be amazing! Also it should result in me saving money! Whats there not to love?

I also think this is a great opportunity to do what Monzo does best. Make things quick, easy and (dare i say it) Delightful! It’s an exciting design problem and I have no doubt the team here will smash it!

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I personally never got seriously injured in the 20 years I played the sport. But i think if you add a horse to anything it adds a new level of risk. Thats what makes it so fun :smile:

It’s the Polocrosse world up this year over in Australia. I won’t get to go and watch, but i will be tuning in to see the games.

Go UK :uk::tada:

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Lots of questions, thanks so much. This will be a long one.

What are you working on in product growth?

In growth we’re focusing on a range of things including getting more users on the Monzo app and making sure our app provides value to our users so that they want to keep using it. 2019 so far has been a lot of planning, figuring out goals and aims for the quarter and deciding on how we’re going to reach those goals. We’ve released Golden Tickets 2.0 :tada: where you and the person you refer to Monzo both get £5 when they sign up.

What area of the Monzo app do you think is really well designed?

I think a lot of Monzo is very well designed. Simple things like letting you know when your Direct Debits have gone up or down this month, card freezing and the ability to order a new card quickly if it’s lost or stolen. Or the fact that I don’t get 100,000 pages of paper sent to my house every time Monzo makes a change or I open a Savings Pot. The reason I think these things are well designed is that you can do them without even thinking… and when they happen you go “Why doesn’t everyone do it like this?” or “Why isn’t everything this simple?”. In my opinion design is at its best when it’s invisible and everything “just works”, and I think this is something Monzo does well in an industry that famously makes everything really hard.

What area of the app could do with some TLC?

Saying that… I think many parts of our app needs some TLC. One of the problems that comes with moving so quickly as a company is that you rarely have time to stop, look back over the things you’ve done and re-evaluate. We’re adding new and exciting things to Monzo almost every week and the app is very quickly becoming more and more complex. One of the reasons people love Monzo is that it’s easy. We’re getting to a stage that we’ve added so much exciting stuff and it’s becoming less and less easy. But don’t worry. This is something we’re actively looking into and you’ll hopefully see some great improvements coming up this year!

Are there any organisations you look to for inspiration?

I tend to look outside of the banking industry when it comes to inspiration. Companies like Airb&b and Lyft who have both beautiful visual design as well as a great user experience. The companies that change the game and make you think “Why wasn’t ordering a taxi always this easy?” or “I can’t imagine a world before Airb&b”. This is what we hope to do for banking.

How often do you give and get feedback as a designer?

We have an amazing culture for feedback here at Monzo. It’s so important to get timely feedback on both your process and your designs. I’ve worked at a few companies now and never before have I encountered such a friendly, open and honest atmosphere, it helps reduce a lot of the fear that comes when presenting your work. We use a tool called Lattice that lets us give feedback to anyone in the company, and we’re encouraged to do so on a regular basis. We also have a range of weekly design rituals that give great opportunities for the Design team to explain their problems and solutions as well as get advice and feedback from each other. It’s always great to get as many eyes on your design as possible and be open to hearing everyone’s points of view.

Did you suffer from imposter syndrome? Any tips for getting over it?

I think the majority of people suffer from some level of imposter syndrome. It tends to be very common amongst designers and it’s a topic that comes up a lot, especially as Monzo has set such a high bar when it comes to the standard of its design and its product as a whole. I personally knew about Monzo for almost 3 years before I plucked up the courage to apply. I constantly told myself “You’re not good enough to get a job there”. I use to regularly look on the Monzo job board to see if there was any design jobs, click into the page and read the description, then tell myself that I didn’t have that level of skill and then close the tab. I think what helped was the realisation that if I apply and don’t get the job… it doesn’t really matter. Sure the rejection always sucks, but I can learn from the experience, ask what skills I was lacking or where I went wrong, go away and improve those skills then try again. There is no limit to the amount of times you can apply for a place and we have an amazing hiring team that are willing to give you feedback on your interviews so that you can lean.

The next stage of my imposter syndrome was when I got the job at Monzo. The thoughts of "they must have made a mistake" or "maybe I oversold myself on my CV". I think this never goes away and is just something you have to learn use in your favour. The simple fact is that you probably are good enough, but it’s good to be aware of your flaws and work on improving those aspects of your work.

I will end this long essay of an answer on this note. Everything’s tends to look idyllic from the outside, and it’s hard to picture yourself living up to that standard. But that’s not how things tend to be at all. We’re all people, all with doubts about our abilities and our decisions. We’re all just doings things, seeing if they work, and if not, making changes until they do work. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we take chances and they don’t work. That’s part of life, and as long as your learn from them then it’s all positive.

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You mention that the design culture of Monzo is something that makes you feel like you have no fear in presenting you work. What are some of the key differences between Monzo and other places you work that have made this the case?

The banking system here in the US has been a painful experience (in comparison to the ease of Monzo in the UK). Ever think Monzo would take on the challenge of setting up banks in other countries?

What is the biggest learnings you’ve made as a designer over the last few years?

What’s the most recent thing you’ve worked on that’s been released in the app, and if you were given the chance how would you do it differently?

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The key differences between feedback at Monzo and other places I have worked?

I have been very lucky to work at some great places, where design feedback has been intergraded into the core product workflow. This is true of Monzo. Monzo openly encourages you give and receive feedback on a daily basis. When feedback is common place, its becomes less scary. The more you do something the easier it becomes. When giving feedback we have a structure. First you explain the problem you are trying to solve. Then the type of feedback you want and on what part of the design. This way you don’t get feedback on your pixel placement on a 5 second mock up you did to illustrate a user flow.

We also make sure that everyone understands how feedback should be received. Feedback should not be taken personally. Discussing improvements that could be made on a design is not the same as, nor should be taken as, talking about how bad of a designer you are. I think Monzo does a great job of helping people understand this, and consequentially, creating an open, honest and friendly environment.

Where I think Monzo differs from places I worked previously is scale. We have 19 people in our design team now. This is the biggest design team i have ever worked in. Each designer works as a part of a product squad. You can read more about is here —> (https://monzo.com/blog/2018/06/27/engineering-management-at-monzo). Because of this, its hard to have an understanding of all the problems people are trying to solve at one time. One thing I’m personally trying to improve when asking for and giving feedback is understanding the context in which the designs are being made. This can be anything from the specific user problem to the time scale of the project. When you understand this then you can give much more useful feedback.

Will Monzo ever expand to other countries?

Before Monzo moves to other countries it is vital that we understand how people use money in different cultures. Monzo works well here in the UK as we have done a lot of research around how people use and want to use their money. We cannot automatically think the same principles apply to people in America, Asia, Australia or even other European countries.

What is the biggest learnings you’ve made as a designer over the last few years?

I think one of my biggest learnings from the last few years, feels obvious when you say it out loud, but as a lowly design student in North Wales, wasn’t initially obvious to me.

“Good ideas can come from anyone and everyone”

If, as a designer, you get given a problem and then you go away and lock your self in a room while trying to figure it out, it is very rare that you will come up with the best solution. Not only this, it’s even more rare that you will come up with a solution that is inclusive and that will work for a wide range of people. Its more likely that you will come up with a solution that works for you and people like you.

More so that this, accepting feedback (see above question) from a range of people, even if you don’t agree and implement changes is a great way to learn and improve as a designer. This can be from designers, developers, product managers or even your Mum.

Don’t be precious about your work, don’t fall in love with the solution. Fall in love with the problem and get much help as you can from as many people as you can when trying to solve it.

What’s the most recent thing you’ve worked on that’s been released in the app, and if you were given the chance how would you do it differently?

Recently we have release the new golden tickets feature in Monzo. These differ from the old golden tickets as they have a monetary value attached to them. You share a golden ticket with a friend and when your friend signs up and uses Monzo, you both get £5. The only thing I would have changed about the project was to get it in the app faster. It’s hard to know if you are making the right design decisions until it’s out in the world in the hands of your users. You can spend weeks trying to make the perfect design (or what you think is the perfect design), only for it to flop when it reaches new users.

So, with that in mind. I wouldn’t change anything we did in the past. But we will be making lots of exciting changes in the future in order to make this the best user experience possible. (Does that make sense, or was that a really bad answer? Sorry)

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Great questions and fantastic answers @SimonAmor. I think your answer on Imposter Syndrome rang particularly true for me.

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