Episode 13

About Engineering Culture Health Checks with James Bedford

In this episode I spoke with James Bedford. James started his career in construction, later became a self taught Frontend Developer and is now an Engineering Manager at Monzo.

James feels passionate about Diversity & Inclusion because when he started out, he felt it was very challenging to enter the tech industry without a university degree and still sees that attitude today. That’s why nowadays he’s helping people make their journey to break into the tech industry.

In that regard, in the beginning of our conversation, James shares some very interesting insights around how people who enter the tech industry via non-traditional routes, such as online courses or coding bootcamps, can make their skills and knowledge better understood when applying for jobs:

If people hadn’t gone to university they found it harder to showcase a body of work, when they started applying for jobs. So, I always say to people: One fully completed project that you’ve put a lot of time and effort into, as well as actively contributing to Open Source projects, is the best way to build that showcase of work that you can do.

We then talked about how Monzo implements health checks for keeping track of some teams’ engineering culture. A simple yet effective system for ensuring happiness, teamwork and effectiveness within engineering teams:

Certainly as a manager that’s my priority, [in] building those trusting relationships with people. So, even if they didn’t feel safe in talking to the team, they could come to me.

Another favorite quote from our conversation occurred when speaking about how they handle supporting teams during the pandemic around ~30min:

We wouldn’t want anyone to ever feel as though their parenting responsibilities weren’t necessarily as important as their work responsibilities.


cto.coffee - Episode 13 - About Engineering Culture Health Checks or listen to the episode on Spotify.

This episode was recorded on 11-May-2020.


You can also read the transcription of this episode.

Show Notes

Connect with James on Linkedin, follow him on Twitter and definitely subscribe to his newsletter, where he writes openly about diversity, inclusion and engineering culture.

~5min Learned to code from Free Code Camp, advice for someone who wants to enter tech from a nontraditional route

~7min James’ colleague Sally Lait

~8min What company health checks are, their purpose, Monzo collectives, and squads

~10min James’ colleague Alan Wright and Oswaldo Perez who brought up the idea of health checks at Monzo

~12min Analyzing the metrics of health checks, looking for negative feedback to address

~15min Focus on performance and culture-based questions, measuring happiness and safety

~20min Handling negative answers, building safe relationships

~22min Company Health Check System: Log results in a shared space (Monzo uses Notion), health checks are private to each squad to avoid comparisons

~24min Company values, being open and transparent about company culture evolving how checks are done, have a note taker and someone who houses the notes

~28min Work with me documents: How people would like to work, working hours, focus hours and other specifics. These were very helpful during the pandemic.

~30min Allowing people to feel themselves and wanting to feel more aware

~34min Encouraging logging off during the pandemic

~35min Explanation of what checks are, what they aren’t, and intentions

The intro/outro music in the podcast was made with Sonic Pi from this code.

Production & Editing

This cto.coffee podcast episode was edited and prepared for publishing by Namos Studio.

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