Introducing Stephanie Richardson-Dreyer: Associate Engineering Director at Monzo
Stephanie will be joining us as a panellist for our Top Of Her Game discussion.
A little about Stephanie:
I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, and moved over to London in 2005 with barely a year of web development experience, a suitcase and a teddy bear (he was a very special bear).
My career in tech started in web development. After a couple of years wrestling with PHP, I realised that I preferred understanding and solving problems as well as breaking down tasks more than I actually enjoyed doing the work. I was also discouraged by the lack of support for new engineers at the time. Over the next 12 years, I moved from project management into delivery management and operations management, eventually ending up in engineering management, and most recently as an Associate Engineering Director at Monzo.
Although my job title has changed, I’ve always done the same thing: created space for people to do their best work, encouraged people to grow and helped them to find opportunities to do so. I’ve found that I do my best work managing other managers and leaders, using coaching techniques to help people solve problems and learn about themselves on their journeys.
I’m based in Kent, which means that I get to spend my weekends in the countryside. I have a husband, dog and two cats as well as a horse. I spend time playing games on my Nintendo Switch, riding my horse and occasionally baking sourdough bread.
We’d love to hear about your accomplishments. What are you most proud of?
I’m incredibly proud of publishing the very first public tech incident report on GOV.UK and reforming how technical support worked there. It was really high impact work which was followed by a number of other organisations and I’m happy that they’re still publicly reporting incidents.
I’m also really proud that I have good balance in my life. I’ve worked hard to have balance and to be able to have a job that allows me to continue to train and participate in competitions with my horse. I’ve had to make some difficult decisions about the jobs that I take, and I’m proud that I was able to make them and that they’ve been the right decisions.
I’m proud that I’m here. I’m proud that I’ve made it to this point and I’m proud to be part of Monzo.
How do you align your personal motivations with your long-term career goals?
I’m very fortunate that my personal motivations and career goals align very well now, but that wasn’t always the case. I genuinely want to be an amazing manager and leader and to help people do their best work and for a while I couldn’t find the right role that allowed me to do that and I also didn’t really understand my own motivations. I worked with a coach for a while who helped me to articulate my personal mission statement and helped me understand the types of companies and shapes of roles I needed to look at.
I treat my career goals as rough guidelines and tend to adapt or recast them as my own motivations become clearer to me.
What invisible barriers can some women face when progressing in their career, and what steps can they take to overcome and prepare for these?
There are so many! The main barrier I’m learning about and seeing at the moment is the “confidence vs competence” scenario. The problem here is that women are often judged for being too confident, where men are often rewarded for it. Often, leaders are hired based on their confidence rather than how good they are at what they do, which tends to favour people who are socialised to appear more confident. This barrier is particularly interesting to me because it’s something that I struggle with myself.
Another barrier that I’ve found very interesting is the concept of the “primary” career and the “secondary” career, which may affect women relationships. It’s hard if both of you have busy and demanding jobs. If you both have competing commitments, who goes home to the baby/dog/laundry? It’s easy for some women in heterosexual relationships to fall into having the “secondary” career without even realising it because it’s what we saw when we grew up, I know I did. HBR’s Women At Work podcast has a great episode on this called Couples That Work
When building your career, what is the hardest lesson you had to learn, but are the most thankful for?
You need support. I thought I could do it alone and rely on managers and peers along the way. Although that’s great, you need a support network outside of work, one that will stick with you through different organisations. You need those friends you can text when you’re having an awful day, someone who can help you work through things, and someone you look up to who can help you figure out where you need to be.
Stephanie will be part of our panel, hosted at the Trainline “Top of her game — Career advice from seriously impressive professionals.”