Careers March 31, 2021

Why I’ve left Monzo after three and a half years

A split screen on the left is a group of girls at a party having fun, and on the right are the same group of girls looking sad they can't be together on a Google Meet.

A few months ago I cuddled up under my duvet with a cup of chamomile tea and my Remarkable 2 to draft a yearly tradition: another one of my “lessons I’ve learnt at Monzo” posts. (Year one is here, and year two is here.) This is my third. It proved the hardest one to write yet. How do you articulate a year like 2020? How do you even begin?

I abandoned it for a while. Paced around the cage of my one-bedroom flat until the soles of my feet hurt. Had a whisky. After all that claustrophobic walking, I decided to consider leaving Monzo.

It was a scary thing to think about. Monzo is home. I nested in the beanbags, I drank the IPAs, joined Google Hangout after Google Hangout for three and a half years… it’s all I know. Despite that fear, there was another feeling clamouring for my attention; the restlessness and hunger for something new.

When I joined Monzo, we were around 250 Monzonauts (as we affectionately call them) strong. As I write this now, we are pushing 1,500. People have a saying: as a company, Monzo changes fundamentally at its core every six months. Some would say that’s an exaggeration, but if you consider the growth, the fundraising, the products launched, the leadership changes, and how much I feel I’ve aged in the time period, I’ve essentially worked for what feels like six different companies. Not to mention the fact that since I’ve been here, I’ve had four different job titles across two different collectives (departments). But I knew it wasn’t necessarily change I was craving, but change on my own terms.

Itโ€™s been a cloudy and emotional process. Who am I now, after all this time? Who do I want to be? What about all of the people I’m going to miss? In any case, Iโ€™ve always shared everything when it comes to my career – so I knew I was going to write about it. To this day, I have new Monzo starters citing they’ve read my blog posts as part of their application process ๐Ÿ˜… so I feel like I owe this to anyone thinking of joining the business now too.

Before we get going on all of that though, I wanted to set this in stone: I’ve loved my time at Monzo and this is a personal decision. The company is truly going from strength to strength, and the resilience we’ve built in the pandemic is unique and rare. If you are considering joining Monzo I’d still recommend it. Send me a message if you ever want to talk about it.

A group image of smiley people at a bar in Moorgate.
Happier days at Monzo with the old COps squad Call and the Gang (long live Call and the Gang! โ˜Ž๏ธ) when we could all touch each other.

๐Ÿง˜ Focusing on my wellbeing

A senior leader at Monzo (who left a while back) once described Monzo as a high-performing sports team. Most folks looked like they were keeping up. I felt like the weakling in PE class who couldn’t and trying to catch up got harder over the years. Monzo isn’t a ‘hustle hard’ environment, nor is it a place where people encourage you to work beyond your hours. In fact, I had some of my managers telling me to slow my roll. 

However, slowing my roll didn’t mean the work magically disappeared. So much to build! So little time! The problem with caring about work so much is you emotionally invest your time and energy into it, and I gave Monzo everything I had for a long time. I burnt out every single year I worked at Monzo. It always felt like a marathon sprint and even though the environment was always open and encouraging about mental health, I exhausted the mental health support available and hit my limit multiple times.

This would be the pattern I followed: work really hard, pivot a lot in my role, and then take a month-long break in Malaysia with my family. The first thing I’d do when I got off the plane would be run into my mum’s arms and have a big, ugly cry. And repeat. In 2020, I didn’t get to do my yearly reset because of COVID-19. I haven’t seen my family since 2019, which I try not to think about too much otherwise I will immediately weep. 

The pattern stopped this year, which ironically made me realise what it was doing to me โˆ’ and then my mental health spiralled. After crying before a meeting over something disproportional, I took all of December 2020 off to just be. In the depths of lockdown, seeing no one but my wonderful partner Nick for months, I had all the time in the world to be alone with my thoughts.

It was then I realised I needed to break the pattern. Especially after the atrocious year we’ve collectively had, I want to optimise my life for as much joy as possible.

๐Ÿ› ๏ธ Crafting my career intentionally

Over my career, I’ve been called a “woman of many hats” by many. “Generalist” or “multi-hyphenate” pops up a lot too. Although now I think I’ve leaned into this rather than out, I have had more job titles than is proportional to someone my age. Now, I have experience in content strategy, social media marketing, events planning, customer operations, learning and development and internal comms (phew). You’d think I’d learn to pick a few to focus down, but really I’ve just become a Voltron of skills. At the heart of all of it is one objective: I want to craft joyful experiences for people.

People. I’ve been dancing around the idea of moving into human resources (ick, hate that term) for a couple of years now. The work that excites me and gets me up in the morning has been all about the employee experience. I have a lot to learn about this space and my current role at Monzo is almost too specialised for me to explore it. I want to become a people person. But can I do that where I currently am?  

๐Ÿฆ Growing up and out 

During the best of times, Monzo was my playground. During the worst, it was my forge.

It has been an incubator where I’ve made a ton of mistakes, where I’ve learnt to ‘build openly’ and made fast friends for life. When I joined Monzo, I was 24. I turned 28 a couple of weeks ago. I am not big-headed enough to say I’ve grown too big for Monzo, because in reality I could stay at Monzo for years and still learn something new every day. Iโ€™ve just become less malleable over the years and I canโ€™t fit into the great jigsaw puzzle of this company anymore.

So, it’s time to go. It’s not strictly a me thing, no matter how much my inner critic tells me otherwise. Neither is it strictly a Monzo thing โˆ’ like any relationship, you have to take stock to ask if it still helps you thrive. If it still serves both parties. And if it doesn’t, be brave and say “just because it’s over, doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.”

๐Ÿš€ What’s next

I’ve had my last day at Monzo (what I’d give for a leaving do!) So I’m taking a couple of weeks off before joining Prolific to be their People Associate. I am so excited to move to a place that’s agile and ambitious… and excited to reunite with some fellow Monzo folks too. Any ending like this is bittersweet, but I am fortunate and grateful the sweetness outweighs the bitterness by a mile. I’ll miss it all. 

A screenshot of a Slack post where Brenda writes about leaving Monzo (taken from their internal #leavers channel)

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