Monzo’s Nate Langley on the Five Pillars to Discuss During Interviews

Nate: Breaking out the silo of the Figma
file on screens that you're designing

for and just getting out and mapping
it up and mapping it on a whiteboard

and getting out there and speaking
to customers and changing that map

and having that more holistic view of
design was a real turning point for me.

Even though I don't work in a service
design capacity these days, like

that mentality still sticks with me.

Christian: The discipline of design
is now key to building great products.

More and more companies are making
space for it at the higher levels.

More people than ever
want to become designers.

And most of us who already do the
job want to find ways to have just a

little bit more impact in our teams.

Welcome to design meets business.

I'm Christian Vasile and on this
podcast I bring you world class product

and design leaders who found ways to
shape products, companies and entire

industries and who are now sharing
what they know with you and me.

My hope is that we all get to learn
from the experiences, ideas, and

stories shared on this podcast and in
the process become better designers.

Season three is jam packed with
design and product leaders who are

going to learn a lot from and we're
kicking off today with Nate Langley.

Nate is a design manager at Monzo
and we chat about the importance of

practicing and putting the work in.

We're talking about confidence,
about constraints on how to reframe

them, about how to put your best foot
forward in interviews and much more.

We're covering a lot of ground
in this episode and I hope

you'll enjoy listening to it.

Nate, welcome to Design Meets Business.

I am delighted to have you on today.

For a bit of context, you're managing
a team of designers at Monzo, one of

the most exciting banks in Europe.

And you're also leading
design for personal banking.

You're working on a very good product.

You're managing talented designers.

You're mentoring on ADP list.

You do a lot and we'll hopefully have time
to dive into some of these topics today.

But before that.

Tell us a little bit about yourself
and how you got here from the

beginnings of your career till today.

Nate: Yeah, thanks for
having me, Christian.

I really appreciate you
giving me the time today.

So yeah I've been a designer for 15
years and I started off Like most

people after the university trying to
figure out what they want to do And I

found myself in the design industry.

I really wanted to get into digital
art So it's quite savvy with photoshop

and then figuring out, how to work
within the constraints of the web

it was a bit of a wild west back
then, what the web world was, and I

really just enjoyed it and I learned
a lot from people that I worked with.

And then about eight years ago I
moved up to Manchester and joined a

service design agency up here in the
community, up in, in Manchester's.

Really great.

and I learned a lot about designing
customer and user centric experiences and

service design was a big part of that.

And I joined the co op six,
probably seven years ago now.

And that was when my design leadership
really started to I started to get my

teeth into design leadership a bit more.

And, yeah, to just nearly 18 months ago,
I joined Monzo bank and here I am I'm

helping build a new bank for the future
and it's a really exciting place to be.

And hopefully I can.

give some little tidbits on what that
journey looked like for me and how others

get to a good stage in their career.

Christian: It's also a great product.

I must say I am an avid user of Bonzo.

So it's also great to talk to
someone who's building products

that you're using on a daily basis.

It's just very interesting.

Also on a personal basis, on a personal
note for me, did you study design

or how did you end up becoming one?

Nate: Yeah.

That's a great question.

I didn't study design.

I don't think there were many UX or UI
courses about when I was at university.

So I actually studied film, which I
take a lot of inspiration and methods

from my time learning about narrative
structure and how films made into

the work that I do now especially
from a service design perspective.

Like talking about customer
journeys is effectively the

North Star customer journeys that
you're designing and building are

effectively stories and movies.

Really, you're helping a hero get to the
quest, complete their goal, aren't you?

I left uni and I was like, I
did a few sort of running jobs.

I worked for MTV for a little bit and then
I worked for my godmother was a producer.

So she got me some work and it
just wasn't really clicking for me.

But I was always good with computers.


I thought, Oh, maybe I could
do a bit of digital art.

And I don't know if you
remember DeviantArt.

DeviantArt was a big
source of info, right?

Christian: Someone just brought
it up to me the other day.

They found me randomly.

I didn't even know you had one of those.

I didn't even remember I had one.

So I had to quickly delete it
because it was so embarrassing.

Nate: Yeah.

I got a feeling I might have to
delete it after this as well.

And I was just...

I was really interested in like
photo manipulation and I was big

into Photoshop and like pushing
the constraints of Photoshop.

But then the web was
just really taken off.

It was post.

com boom, I think.

The web was really kicking off again.

And I was like, Oh, this
is really interesting.

I'm glad.

I Was doing some like marketing
work for a local business.

I was just like knocking out leaflets
for them and stuff like that.

I was a marketing executive, but they
were like, we don't know how to use Quark.

We don't know how to use Photoshop.

I'd just give it to Nate.

He'll do it.

He's a young one.

So they just, yeah, I just learned how
to use, I think it was Dreamweaver at the

time and just crafting a bit of webs and.

In the evenings, I was like, actually,
and I, when you're like early

twenties, I had nothing else to do.

I was actually, actually, this is,
this is something I'm really enjoying.

So in the evenings I was like
teaching myself like the principles,

web design and stuff like that.

And then yeah one thing led to another,
and I was working for an agency in

London called LBI , they had one
of their big clients was Marks and

Spencers and I got a job there and
they yeah, put me on the Marks and

Spencer account and that was great.

And that was the first time I
encountered like Scrum and Agile

and working in that kind of way.

So it was kind of like a very uh, windy
road to get to my career and it wasn't, it

didn't, the windiness didn't stop there.

I left UD, wasn't really sure what to do.

And then yeah found my way in the world
of web and I was like, wow, I like this.

I'm pretty good at it and
taught myself principles.

I think that was that part of my career
really set me up to the rest of the rest

of uh, my career, really the confidence
angle came later because looking back on

it now, like I struggled a lot with my
confidence in my career and that I was

like I don't have a formal design career.

I don't have a very standard
route into the industry.

Nobody can take me seriously
as a designer it was a big uh,

monkey on my back for a while.

Christian: So how have you overcome it?

Cause I assume there's something that
quite a few people are struggling

with perhaps earlier in their careers.

Is it a matter of just putting in
the work and one day you're going

to wake up and you're confident
or have you done anything else?

Nate: Oh we've got a
whole podcast for that.

I remember in that first job a
guy called James and that was all

at the beginning of our career.

And it was real.

The M& S job was a real
sort of artwork job.

It was like, they're going
to show you a bunch of images

and you're going to come out.

It's pretty like any kind of automation.

So we used to sit in these big banks of
desks and mess about and stuff and then

every now and then they give you some
quote unquote proper design work to do.

It's Oh, can you design this banner?

Can you die?

Can you just I work on this little
bit of a journey as yeah, cool.

And I always used to do that.

And then obviously there's
a critique process and I was

like, Oh yeah, I'm really sorry.



Next time I'll get that right.

Yeah, I know you apologized quite a lot.

And then one morning, no.

After one of those crits, James wrote
a massive post-it note in big, bold

letters, and he said, stop apologizing.

And I asked him why.

And now, now I end up speaking to
a lot of designers that I mentor

and coach, and I think there's a
nice balance between being humble.

And like being confident
it's okay to apologize now.

It's absolutely fine.

Like you should like when things go
wrong or like you, you've missed,

you've misstepped somewhere.


It's a good, isn't it?


And arguably a powerful , word.

So it's okay to say sorry, but saying
sorry a lot, it can put a different

spin on that whole, the whole
relationship and that whole conversation.

Since then, like that was, over 15
years ago, I've been through a lot of

jobs, a lot of very high profile jobs
and very high pressure jobs where I

could feel that and they in my early
mid twenties, coming back, creeping back

and confidence has always been something
I've really struggled with, especially

in my career and, uh, I've had depression
and anxiety for most of my life.

I've always, always struggled with
with my confidence in work and life.

And it came to a head around
10 years ago where I was like,

this is getting ridiculous.

I can't carry on like this.

And it was a little bit of a
crossroads in my career as well.

It's do I want to stay in design?

Do I want to.

I don't want to carry on doing this
because I was working on some quite

high profile, high pressure projects,
and And I don't, I never thought I

was really cracking the industry.

It wasn't really cracking my career.

So I was with a therapist.

And obviously I've got a pretty good
support network with my wife and my

friends, and I've got a lot of good
mentors and friends in the industry.

It really helped me build my confidence.

It's not something you could do overnight.

Definitely it's not something
that happens overnight.

It was a process.

It was a process of putting
yourself in a position where You

can build your confidence as well.

When I speak to designers who
are looking to get a new job.

I didn't, a lot of them say,
like, how do I build my confidence

in the first few months?

And my number one piece of
advice is go after the projects

that you are comfortable with.

Don't overstretch yourself.

Don't overstretch yourself in the
first few months and try and trying

to do the big meaty project and wow
everybody, because you're bound to that

cat and you can find success like that.


You're bound to fail.

Believe me, I've done it.

And that kind of set me up in
the middle of my career as well.

Like I made sure that I
wasn't overstretching myself.

Cause I think at the time I was
taking on some, I was trying

to do too much with my design.

I was trying to make it too flashy.

I was trying to make it, I was trying to
stand out and I had a realization that

actually let me get the basics right.

Let me just nail this UX.

Let me just nail this
piece of customer insight.

So I'm making a good,
like baseline good, right?

Don't overstretch it, don't, no flashy
animations or anything, that layer

can come later, um, so yeah, it was a
process of therapy, support network uh,

identifying space, so you kind of had this
realization that I was probably pushing

myself too far, and then working through
it At the end of the day, Christian, it's

not something that's solved even now,
like I'm still facing challenges every

week that is outside of my comfort zone

Sometimes I'm like, Oh, is that,
am I the right person for this job?

But I think that's natural.

I think most people have those
bubbles every now and then.

Christian: Thanks for sharing that.

I think we often look at design
leaders and think, Oh, they

must have it all figured out.

Just because they're a design leader
and it doesn't even have to be a design

leader, just leaders in general, you look
at people leading companies and people

leading movements, whatever it may be.

And I think we tend to forget
that they are human too.

And then they might be also
struggling with something.

So thank you for sharing that.

I really appreciate your honesty.

And I think it's something that
more people should be open about

because at the end of the day, I think
we're all struggling with something.

One, um...

You know, Or actually I heard this
thing once that stuck with me.

Someone said, just be kind to
people because you never know

what they're battling with.

And I think perhaps in the context of
work, that's also important because

it's not only what you're battling on
a personal basis, but it's also all

these balls that everyone else has
to juggle that you don't know about.

It's the it's the things that your cross
functional partners might care about.

that you have no clue that
is something they care about.

Whether it's a metric that they need
to hit, whether it's a performance

review problem that they had, and
therefore they need to do this thing

in a completely different way than you
proposed because that will help them

there's all these other
things that we don't know.

And I think that oftentimes we don't
perhaps don't have that empathy.

Someone said to me this once, or I've
read it somewhere, I don't remember.

Confidence is nothing else other than
repeated demonstrated performance.

And that stuck with me as well,
because I'm looking at my career.

I think it's natural.

And not to be very confident when you're
doing something you deep down perhaps

know that you're not very good at, because
you're early on, that's completely okay.

But as you keep doing that thing
time and time again, whether it's

running interviews, I can, we can all
remember running our first interview,

I can remember running my first
interview, an absolute disaster.

But you do it once, you do it twice,
you do it three times, 50 times,

and suddenly you think, Oh, quite
confident running these interviews

now I can run them on my own and I
don't need anyone to handhold me.

And it's.

Because you've done it several times.

I think putting the work in is
something that we perhaps also forget

that it's important and let's use
this segue to go into talking a

little bit about people starting out

There's a lot of information out there.

There are books, there are podcasts,
there are courses, there's a lot.

If you want to become a designer
today, it's so overwhelming.

Where do you start from?

How do you begin?

What do you think is the best way?

Nate: I really appreciate that point
around practice there's a really

good, there's a really good book
called Peak, which I definitely

recommend to anybody to read.

I, and that really resonated with me.

And so I went looking around at some of
the designers I was working with, which

were at the top of their game at the time.

I was like, wow, these people
got it all figured out.

How'd they do it?

I read that book, but I was at the time.

There's a lot about practice
and refining your craft.

They weren't just born with this
amazing design or they weren't

born with this incredible way of
visualizing user journeys, but.

I put the work in and they
crafted their process.

So definitely I'm a big advocate
for practice design industry

is a very different beast now
than it was when I started out.

It's, there's a lot of formalized
education now where there's a lot

more support structures out there.

However the industry as of
November, 2023, isn't it is a very.

Is it is in a bit of a state at the
moment, we've had a lot of big name

redundancies over the course of the
year, companies are starting to hire

a bit more now, but they're still
not picked up to the crazy hiring

we've experienced the past few years.

So it's a it's a pretty challenging
environment for anybody starting

their career, let alone finding a
job halfway through their career.

I don't speak to many people just
starting out on their career.

I give a lot of advice for people who's
probably had two or three years or

like looking at a career change as in
like the IC manager tracking or like

how in the middle of their career.

But when I do speak to people at the
beginning of their career I try to coach

them through trying to be very proactive.

It's quite easy to leave, and I've
been there as well, quite easy

to leave formalized education.

I think, great, I've got a degree,
I've spent all this money in

formalized education, give me a job.

And I think it's yeah, I appreciate
where that's coming from, the sentiment,

because you've put the work in, you've
paid for your formalized education.

Now you want to see the results
of it unfortunately, the work

industry is not like that.

So you need to go out and put
yourself out there a bit more.

thEn you probably think you do
and as a somebody starting at the

beginning of their career, you
really have to set yourself apart

from a very competitive landscape.

Some of the best junior or people with
zero years experience, people that

I've hired are the people who have
really shown, like showing something

different and gone the extra mile.

And I want to caveat that everybody's got
their lives, they, it's a very privileged

position to be in, to work off the
work and to craft on your portfolio.

But I want to give a great example of
somebody that I hired a few years ago.

, at the co op.

We were running a few portfolio uh,
workshops so it was working with people,

career changes, but people were just left
university or art school or design school

that they're struggling to find some work.

And the, some of the
best people that I was.

Really impressed with in those
portfolio workshops where people who

had really had fun with that portfolio.

And I don't mean like animations
or anything flashy out there,

but they've gone, okay.

So I understand about the
design process and I'm going

to apply it to my application.

So they've user journeyed,
they've mapped out there.

Their career so far, and they've
researched with friends and

family and stuff like that.

I was like, that's really cool that
you found a different angle to to

apply for a job and set yourself apart.

And there was this , one guy who had
no experience whatsoever, but he'd

done a bit of research into the design
process and he had an idea for an app.

And he was like I'm just
gonna mock it up in Figma.

So he mocked it up and then
he learned that he had to go

and do some like user testing.

He's I don't have access to
a lab or anything like that.

So I'm just going to test it
with my friends and family.

And he documented the whole process.

He took pictures of himself going out
and speaking to his friends and family.

He's put it on Figma mirror,
he's put it on the phone.

He's got them tapping around and he
made a pretty cool little prototype.

All the best portfolios that I see
have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

You're telling a story, aren't you?

So he identified the beginning, which
was like, here's the problem space.

Here's the problem I've identified.

And here's how I'm going to do it.

He's the middle is how he's done it.

And he took pictures of himself
testing with and then iterating on that

design with his friends and family.

And then the ultimate product and like how
he would do it next and his vision for it.

And I thought that is wicked.

So I just did pushing that out there
and just having a bit of fun with it.

And he had three of those examples
later on asked him, like, how

honestly, how long did that take you?

He's obviously put in a few hours,
but I just have fun with it.

So I guess my advice for people
starting off, be proactive, put

yourself out there find the connections.

Have fun with your portfolio.

See what that, what ways you can set
yourself apart and yeah, just use the,

it doesn't matter that you don't have
any sort of real world experience.

If you can just.

apply the principles of design to
a case study or an idea you have

doesn't matter about the idea.

No offense to that guy.

I can't even remember the idea,
but I remember the process

and the way he presented it.


Christian: like that.

I think oftentimes we tend to.

Look for a process of something to do
something perhaps more effectively or

see what others have had success with.

And therefore, if you look around
the industry today, all portfolios

more or less look the same not from
a visual perspective, but more from

a content perspective, there's a
framework that everyone is following.

And I think every once in a while
you stumble upon a portfolio that.

is just somehow different.

And even if that person might not be
the right person for the job, it at

least makes you want to bring them
in for an interview just because

they've done something different,
just because they stand out a little

bit and they display a little bit of
creativity that is so needed these days.

And I always appreciate
when I see some of those.

So I think this is a, another
great example, but you said

something there around having fun.

And it also relates to something
that you said earlier, which is

the way you started in design.

You picked up all these tools and then
you were just having fun, no pressure.

You were just doing it because it was fun.

We've lost that a little bit.

I don't really see a lot of
designers do things, learn new tools,

pick up new things just for fun.

, I don't really have a question.

I think that's more of a comment
than an observation that I made.

You've mentioned this place in the
career where you do mentor quite a

few designers, which is mid level.

They might be on the verge of
becoming managers or at least being

considered for a managerial role.

And one of the tensions that I often
hear about is I am at that level.

I'm a senior, I'm a lead, whatever the
progression is in a specific company.

And I'm at the crossroads now.

I can continue doing the work
as an individual contributor.

But I also have the
opportunity of managing a team.

And I have no idea which
one is right for me.

Now, most of us know how it is
to be an individual contributor

because that's how we started.

And that's what we've been.

But very few of us know how it is to be a
manager before you are actually a manager.

How do you decide which
one is right for you?

Nate: Yeah.

My, my experience has been, it was kind
of a position of necessity at the time,

when I speak to a lot of ICs who are
figuring out what their next steps are,

I really try and ask some questions to
get under the skin of why they're asking

these questions in the first place.

A lot of companies don't have the
IC versus manager track, or they

have a blended version of that.

And a lot of ICs get to a point
in a moment in their career where

it's I want more responsibility.

I want more money because at
the end of the day, that's

why we work, let's face it.

I want more money and I want
to climb the ladder a bit more.

I want to get more responsibility.

And the other one, which is crucial
is I want to start influencing . And

as a designer, that's really
important because we want to

make sure that we're considering.

The user all stages of the
business process and you get

to this inflection point.

Ah, okay, so I can influence my team
and the teams around me, but to really

be customer centric or user centric,
I need to influence business strategy.

So I asked questions around, like probing
deep into the subject, like what, what

is, what's motivating you to, to think
about this split in your journey.

And you get to those three
core things most of the time.

I do believe that if you are on the
IC track and you're enjoying design and

those things come up, I want more money.

I want more influence
over business strategy.

Then you could start to say, okay that
there's an icy world out there for you.

We have it at Monzo and I know that
some of the biggest tech companies

have it as well, but having an icy
at a very like a staff or principal

level where you influence business
strategy is a very viable track and

a lot of people take that route.

If you ask those questions at that
time and you get actually I'm.

You get the signals that I actually,
I really enjoy working with people.

I like developing people's careers
and like coaching them through things.

Then that's a different matter
, that's the manager track for you.

So you might find that people
management and work with people

is the right thing for you.

That's not to say that the
IC role doesn't involve any.

Like people management, there is
an element that, and equally if

you go down the manager track,

I've noticed a trend of managers
and leadership folks . Moving

back towards more of the work.

A great article by Kat Watkins a blog
post a couple months ago now that he put

out around like taking more inspiration
from the traditional creative director

role of like leaning in a bit more and
providing guidance on the work itself.

And I'm an advocate and
a believer of that too.

Asked the questions and I never tell
people what to do, but like there you,

you get to a point where it's like, Oh
actually you signaling to me that you're

really into the people stuff and you're
really interested in people and like how

they work and how they tick and stuff.

So maybe management tracks for a
few, or I see track is I can have

influence on a business strategy
level and all that good stuff.

I've in my experience, I
found it's not so binary.

It's not so black and white.

You still get to do a bit of both.

Like I'm now leaning much more into the
IC work because the work demands it at

the moment, like I'm hiring for a designer
and that they're steaming ahead on their

goals and they need design representation.

So I'm leaning in.

So I'm now effectively a hybrid
design manager and IC at the moment.

It's not like I'm going to make this
decision and then I'm never going to be

an IC again, or I make this decision.

I'm never going to work with people
because it's not, that's not totally true.

I've known people have gone five years
down the management track and they've

gone, actually, it's not for me, I'm ready
to go back to being an IC and they've done

that and I think people get so paralyzed
with fear that they're on this crossroads

now and it was whatever path they take
is the one that they're completely

beholden to for the rest of their
career and I don't think that's true.

Christian: Yeah, and I also think there
are there is becoming more and more

normal for people to switch between
the tracks you go down a path and you

realize what this might not be for me
But even if it is for you, maybe you're

also excited to try out what's on the
other side So I think more and more

companies are now having opportunities
for people to move between the two tracks.

But I think as you said, perhaps one
of the most important things you said

there is that even if you go down one of
these paths, it's not black and white,

you're not only going to manage on the
managerial track and you're not only

going to design on the design track.

I was talking to one of my friends who
is deep down on the IC track and he

said, one thing that I did not realize
is that there is a lot of people

management on the IC track as well, not
necessarily from the perspective of.

I manage a designer or
a team of designers.

It's more like I manage,
I need to manage stake.

I still need to manage stakeholders.

I still need to manage all
my cross functional partners.

I don't sit in Figma all day.

I sit in Figma much less than I used to
do when I was a lead designer or a senior.

There is still a lot of
people work involved.

It's just that's not necessarily
the sort of the focus, but

you still get to do both.

So I think, Oh, I liked that idea
of don't be paralyzed there because.


First of all, you can always go back.

And second of all it's not that binary.

So I assume that's something that a lot
of people come to you to ask for advice.

You do a lot of mentoring.

So what are some other things that people
come to you that you hear very often?

What are some of the patterns
there that designers in the

industry are struggling with?

Nate: Yeah.

So that's a big one the
IC versus manager one.

I get a lot of, there's a lot of
designers looking for work at the moment.

So advice on how to get
noticed, how to get a job.

The other big subjects I get is
people have moved into a leadership

position and are really excited for
the opportunity, but then it really

hits home that they're in a leadership
position and they've got a lot of.

Um, Burning fires that they need to
help either like temper or put out.

You don't realize it's like peeking
behind the curtain a little bit.

When you get into that leadership position
I've spoken to a few people who have

leadership has been pushed onto them
because of circumstance, which that's how

I got into the, into management as well.

It got pushed onto me.

And then you're like.

And all your like peers
at that level go, cool.

Now these are all your problems crack on.

SO yeah, those are the
three things that I get.

People trying to crack into
the industry help with like

portfolio and interview skills.

People just, ICL management and then.

I, oh no, I'm a manager and what do I do?

Christian: We've talked about portfolios
already and how to stand out when you

put yours together, but we've not
talked so much about interviewing.

That's also the other
part of getting a job.

I always say the portfolio's
job is not to get you the job.

The portfolio's job is
to get you the interview.

And then the interview is
a whole different beast.

So let's say you have a bit more
experience, you're not completely

new, you're just out of a job and
then you interview and it's pretty

cutthroat out there right now.

So you're not going to interview
against one other person.

You might interview against, five,
10 other final candidates or so.

How do you stand out and what
can you do to put your best foot

forward in interviews these days?

Nate: Thanks.


The million dollar question.

I think when you get to the middle of
your career and you've got a few years

under your belt you should be able to hit
a few signals in the interview process.

, we think of the signals as five pillars.

So like product thinking,
like how you think around UX

and your interaction design.

Visual design, teamwork and collaboration
and leadership and your CV and your

portfolio and those first few interactions
in the interview really have to give

interviewers enough of the signals across
those five pillars to really get you in.

And then you can go die
deep on, on some of them.

Cause nobody's gonna index a hundred
percent into each of those things.

You might be an amazing product thinker
, but your visual designs probably a

little bit scale a little bit back.

And that's going to change
throughout your career.

But what interviews are
looking for is that how.

It's to get a really clear
picture of that spider diagram.

You need to give signal out
across all five of those pillars

in the first few interactions,
across your CV and portfolio,

and then probably recruit a call.

And then once we go, okay, we've
got enough signal that this

person knows their onions.

You go into the interview loop, you
probably do a case study review.

You might have a craft review as well.

And then we can really understand
where your quote unquote T shape

really dives into what's yours what's
your specialism, what's your thing.

Christian: So you mentioned these five
product pillars, and I think it's quite

obvious what product thinking is, what
UX was visual is, but you've mentioned

two others, teamwork and . Leadership.

Those are much harder to
show through a portfolio.

Those are much harder to show, perhaps
even in an interview, in some interviews,

you might have a whiteboard exercise where
you get to work with someone in the team.

So perhaps you get to display your
teamwork capabilities there, but

teamwork and leadership, those are
relatively hard to show in interviews.

So are there any example of someone you've
ever interviewed where you've seen them

do that pretty well or any other advice
there on how to show those to make sure

you also, Cover those two pillars, not
just the ones that are a bit more kind

of expected and normal to talk about.

Nate: Yeah, those first three
are definitely your hard skills.

But you have teamwork and
leadership are the soft skills

of your role and especially when
you work in larger organizations.

Those are the things that I think
you need to, we need to, you

really do need to give signal on.

I think teamwork's a little bit easier
to quantify because you like to think

that the person applying is working
in a multidisciplinary team they've

got to work with engineers, they've
got to work probably with other

cross functional partners, but also
designers across the organization.

Boiling it really down like teamwork
is, can you articulate your vision?

Can you articulate your designs to
engineers to product and how you

work with your product partners?

How do you work with
engineers, that kind of stuff?

Leadership is the hardest one to quantify
because especially for people in the

IC track it, they might bulk at that
and go I don't want to be a manager.

Why do you, why are you
asking me about leadership?

And it's okay let's pull it back.

So leadership is like how you represent
your discipline within the team, but

also within like your business area.

So how you push for
your design principles.

How do you ensure that we're following
those design principles right from the

moment you put pen to paper in your,
on, in your sketch through Figma,

and now it's in the hands of a user.

That's really about what the leadership
qualities that we're looking for.

So I interview a lot of senior
folks or people who are just

moving into that senior role.

And one, one example I've had
recently is I've been working a lot

with this mentee and they've just
got a new job in a little startup.

And they were really struggling to
crack into really struggling with

their head of design and in that they
had a particular way of working and

the, I think the head of design was
pushing back on was really wanting

a lot more rigor and thoughtfulness
in how we set up Figma files.

And my mentee was like, I definitely
appreciate that kind of rigor, but it's

going to take us away from doing this
work over here, which is hitting our

metrics and generating value for users.

And he was like no, no, we need to,
we need to, we need to focus on this.

And that the example of leadership
there was like he managed upwards.

He was able to see the
view of his head of design.

And he respected that.

But he was like, okay, but here's
the case that if we don't do that

work, we're going to mix out on
hitting these targets and metrics.

And he didn't call his head
of design now . , he calmly.

wrote the business case out and
he provided some options and

ultimately the head of design gone.

Okay, cool.

Let's park that Figma cleanup project
for a while and we'll focus on these.

But when we've got some downtime over
the Christmas period let's go back.

And he was like, yeah, wicked.

So that's a great example
of leadership, I think.

Christian: Yeah, that's
a really good example.

I like the fact that you're bringing
examples because It's one thing saying,

oh, you should display leadership
qualities and it's a whole other thing

to actually hear how someone has done it.

And I think it.

It it explains it a little
bit better what you mean.

So thank you for that.

Keeping on the topic of interviews,
what are some mistakes that

you see too many designers do?

I'm wondering someone listening
today might go into an interview

tomorrow and perhaps it's about
to make one of these mistakes.

What would that be that
they should avoid doing?

Nate: I think the number one mistake
that I see a lot of people that I

interview doing is around not preparing
for the interview, which sounds so

obvious, but it's a reoccurring pattern.

I've had plenty of interviews in
for when I've been interviewed for

Vols in personal banking for Monzo.

For an app, so we're recruiting for a
designer to work on an app where they've

their case study day picked has been for
like a SAS portal, there's a number of

problems that like, Hey, it's not an app.

It's not an iOS or Android app
that they're designing for.

So you're missing out on the native
patterns, but also the whole user

context is different and the whole
business context is different.

If you're designing for a SAS product,
it's different to a consumer product.

So even just like going, okay, what
am I applying for and then customizing

your application towards that.

It does require a little bit more work.

It does require you to research
a bit more into the business that

you're applying for, but you should
be doing that anyway, I think.

So that is the number one thing that
I've, I, it keeps on surprising me

that I have to push back or have to
reject applicants because they've

not researched the business or
they've not researched the role.

Christian: So how do you deal with
a situation when you want to apply

for a job at Bonzo, let's say
you're going to work on an app,

but perhaps you don't have any B2C.

experience in your, perhaps
in B2C experience that you

have is not on a specific app.

It's more web based or is the,
is it a matter of say, look you

have to go find some experience
and try a lot of different things.

Or is it a matter of saying
perhaps don't apply to jobs that

don't match your experience?

Or is it a matter of saying somehow adapt?

The experience that you have and the
portfolio that you have to that role,

even if it's not necessarily the exact
same type of job that you've done before,

what, how would you approach that?

Nate: Yeah that's a great
question, Christian.

I think it's a lot harder for people
at the beginning of their career to

showcase like a breadth of skills.

If they've only got web experience
and then they're applying for an app

for you to pick out those signals.


True that you've got like the desire
to learn more about native patterns

or whatnot or it's work more in
product design centric company.

It's a lot harder.

So I'm not going to ever.

Take that away from people at
the beginning of their career.

When you've got a few more years
experience, it becomes a little bit

easier to try and tease out what people
who are interviewing are looking for.

So going back to those five pillars
of like product thinking, UX, visual

design, teamwork, and leadership.

If you're all of your portfolio is web
based and you go, okay, I want to go,

I want to crack into the app market.

I think taking a little bit of time
to understand the differences between

your two worlds of web and app, and
then acknowledging that it within your

interview process and say I've got mainly
web experience, but I believe that I

can add value to your organization, I
believe through the experience that

I've got, that's not always gonna.


Help, like you, that's at the end of the
day, if you're, if we're hiring for a

pure IC role , there's a lot of context.

There's a lot of things that are a play.


At least by acknowledging the differences
and knowing where you can add the

value and then showcasing that as a
most effective way as possible that

you've probably got a better chance
than just going in saying I'm applying

for a job and here's my web portfolio.

It's more a case of just like
, understanding that the differences, like.

Identifying those gaps that hid,
like identifying where you could

have filled those gaps differently.

And , rather than the surfaces that
you're designing for leaning into those

five pillars because I have hired web
designers or people who have got more

web experience than app experience.

And it's just, it's a, we take
it by a case by case basis.

Christian: I think it's this show shows
awareness, which is so important in an

interview when you have a candidate in
front of you, who's aware, of the gaps

that he's not feeling, perhaps he's
aware of things he could do better.

A question that often is
asked in interviews is.

if you would have to do this project
all over again, or if you had more

time, what would you do differently?

And the reason we're asking that question
is because we want to see, are you aware?

Have you considered, have
you done a post mortem?

Have you considered what
could have been better?

Are you aware?

And I think what you're saying there
is playing that same tune of, it's

important to be aware that even if you
don't necessarily have that experience

that they're looking for, perhaps
figuring out how you can take your

experience and mapping it onto what
this new role is looking for and then

talking it talking about it like that.

I liked that.

And I think what you said there that
I really liked, and I just want to

highlight that is if your experience
is just so different if the surfaces

you're designing for are so different
than the job you're going for, perhaps.

when you present your case study,
do it more from the perspective of

these principles, rather than the
perspective of that specific surface.

And then someone who's interviewing,
you might look at it and think yeah,

he hasn't designed for iOS before, but
look, he understands the principles

of what we're really looking for here.

So I very much like that.

And I think it's such a great idea.

Let's talk a little bit of
about designing for a bank.

When you think about designing
for a bank, all that's coming to

my head is a million constraints.

You can't do this.

You can't do that.

You have to, in some cases
you have regulations.

How is it to have a design team that
has to work with a lot of constraints?

Nate: Constraints breed creativity.

That is a fundamental of that.

I think you said it right in the beginning
when we were discussing this before the

show, it's I, and I definitely subscribe
to this way of thinking if you are

designing without constraints, that's
art that is, it's art which is wonderful.

And I like amazing crack on,
but you're not doing design.

If you don't have a certain amount of
constraints, I've worked in regulated

businesses for nearly 10 years I don't
think I've ever felt constrained in the

design by being in a regulated business.

There are obviously things that
you have to be compliant about.

When you boil down what these
compliance laws and regulations are,

it's about being consumer centric.

It's about being user centric.

It's not about having dark patterns
to nudge people into doing something.

pre working and regulated businesses,
I found a lot of my time was trying

to convince stakeholders not to do
something bad towards the customer

or the person using your things.

The FCA regulations so the regulatory
body that regulates Bonzo, um, they,

their customer outcomes are the
foundations of being an ethical business.

Yeah, it's doing your job as a designer
for you almost because , you've got

to start from a customer centric
point of view in the first place.

I think where the difference is
with my experience in Monzo is

that we've come from a place where
we've disrupted the industry.

We've changed the game and now we're
looking about how we can change it

again which is a great position to be.

We are in a position where a, we've got
superb leadership, like the leadership of

Bonzo is absolutely second to none best
leadership team I've ever had pleasure

working under and in that leadership team,
we have people from banking experience

that like people who work in risk and
compliance, who are the most open minded

people that you could ever work with.

There's a sense that people, especially
in my experience, sense that people that

work in risk and compliance are just going
to shut down your ideas all the time.

But actually, when you start
from a consumer centric point

of view anyway, then they're not
going to shut your ideas down.

So it's breeding a really
nice, interesting...

Creative space for you to work with them.

So yeah, it helps that Monzo we've
got this culture of really trying to

push the buck as much as possible.

Like I said we've changed the game
once, but how can we change it

again and having a relationship
with our regulators so that we are.

And some of the regular regulations
that have come in and because of

the challenger banks influencing and
agitating for a more customer centric

point of view from the industry.

Rather than being beholden to
these regulations, it's like within

reason, you can, we have a dialogue
and like, how can we like push for

better customer outcomes that is.

Good for the customer, but also
create sustainable businesses.

So yeah, the long and short of it
is if you've got a great leadership,

you've got that culture of
disruption anyway, and you've got

a dialogue with your regulators.

Then I think that's a very
powerful position to be in.

Christian: I like the way you've
reframed constraints as they're just

doing, they're doing a job for you.

I never thought about it like that,
but I guess that is the benefit

perhaps of working in a regulated
industry is that you have a body that

regulates the company that has the
customer's interest in mind first.

So I like that, but I also think there's
the word constrained can sound negative.

I can't do this because of that.

There's something in the
way of me reaching my goal.

And whether that's a business being
regulated or whether that's simply a

constraint that you have at work in
a non regulated, completely typical

business, The constraint that an
engineer puts on your work or the

constraint that the business puts on
how much time you can spend on this

or that feature, or the constraint of
the geography or the internet speed

of our users, whatever it may be.

I think constraints breed
creativity, like you said earlier.

And I, I just can't stress
that enough, that constraint

is actually not a bad thing.

And oftentimes.

Getting a constraint pushes
your work to be better than when

you didn't have the constraint.

It's just so counter intuitive to
me, but I've had so many examples of

this happening where suddenly there's
a new constraint popping in and

you think, Oh no, the world's over.

And two weeks later, working with that
constraint, you've made the work better.

So I like to push for people to think
of constraints as something that makes

their work better rather than worse.

Nate: Yeah, you're absolutely right.

It's probably more about reframing
it as an opportunity, which sounds

very therapy speak, but it is true.

Like a constraint can come out of nowhere
at the 11th hour and really throw you off.

And I know you'd like I've
been there many times and it is

frustrating space to be in, but.

reframing it as a, as an opportunity
to really push your design or push for

more customer centricity is is what we
should be striving for as designers.


Christian: Nate let's bring this one home.

I have two questions that I always
ask at the end of the episode.

The first one is What is one action
that you've done in your career

that you think led to your success,
perhaps in one way or another,

separated you from some of your peers?

Nate: Yeah I think I spoke about
this earlier, but getting into

service design and understanding what
service design is really helped me.

I got a job at an agency that specialized
in service design, but it was more

of a public sector thing at the time.

But this agency that I was working
for they really want to push

it in the private sector and.

It really changed the way I
thought about design as a whole.

It was a much more collaborative effort,
service design, and a much more in

the marketing world, you call it omni
channel or multi channel experience.

But what that is effectively
is service design.

It's like thinking about like the context
that the customer or the users in.

And then understanding like
their whole experience rather

than just the touch points and
services that you're designing for.

So that was a real turning point for
me is I breaking out the silo of your,

of the Figma file on screens that
you're designing for and just getting

out and mapping it out and mapping it.

It on a whiteboard and getting out
there and speaking to customers

and changing that mapper and having
that more holistic view of design

was a real turning point for me.

And even though I don't work in a service
design these days, like that mentality.

Still sticks with me, like I, even the
other day I was having a conversation

with a team that I work with and they're
like, Oh, how do we get a signal about

where this customer has come from?

As I let's map it out.

Let's speak to marketing
and get their view.

And they're like, Oh yeah, we
can speak to our data partners

in marketing and understand like
where the customers come from.

And then tweak our experience further
down the funnel, further down the journey.

So to represent the customer view
a bit better so it's really about

breaking out of the design that
you're working with right now and

looking at the whole experience uh,
rather than rather than just the

screens that you're looking at now.

Christian: Thank you.

And what are we not talking enough
about when it comes to design?

Nate: wE're definitely talking a lot
about ai, so I'm not gonna say that.

I think we are not talking about
the practicalities of a truly

integrated brand experience.

And I mean that from a brand point of
view as well as like tone of voice,

the look and feel how a customer
experiences your brand on all the

touch points that they experienced.

So it's so easy to get wrapped up
as a designer to just think about

the screens that we're designing in
Figma today, but and this is one of

the ops designers at Monzo he says
that we are all designing for Ops.

So he works with our
customer operations team.

So we design our own back office system
for them to log or complaints or like

tickets with customers and whatnot.

But his view, which is absolutely
right, is that whatever you're

designing right now, whether that's
like payments experience or adding

a category to a payment or split
in a bill or transfer of money.

All of that is going to have an
Ops cost that's going to have an

operations cost down the line.

And so if your payments experience breaks
for a customer, the customer is going to

get on the chat or go on the phone and
speak to a customer operations person to

interact with the Ops designers interface.

And that's the brand experience.

So I don't think designers are
talking much about that brand

experience, that whole holistic view.

And that's hard, right?

Cause then you could be here forever
talking about how your brand experience

maps across the whole organization
and the whole, their whole experience.

So it's nothing that like, I think.

It could designer should action right
away, but it's something I think we

should start having conversations
more in businesses is that go and

speak to your designer, go and speak
to your, like your peer in another

part of the organization, and then
agitate for more brand experience,

thinking up into the business as well.

If you're saying that we're not
crossing silos to weave better

experiences for customers, then.

Further down the line, you're going to
end up in a situation where you've got

a lot of design that you've got a lot
of brand that effectively experienced

that because you've knew you're not
tying these experiences up and that's

multifaceted that's not only the user's
experience, the customer's experience,

but how your tone of voice comes across
as well, like how your brand comes across.

So it's really easy just
to slap on a chat bot.

Onto your interface and it
looks completely different.

And then when you've got a problem,
you go into their chat service and it

looks really different and it's really
jarring and the experience isn't great.

The, you're not carrying that brand
experience on through that sort

of customer operations channels.

And that's a trust breaking
experience that if you're not,

if you're carrying that across.

So what I'm proud of working at
Monzo is that we do have that, that,

that's that same ease of use, that
same brand experience when things are

going wrong, because that's really
when the customer really needs you.

And it's going to really, your brand
is going to be put under the spotlight.

So throwing them into an experience
that is trust breaking or like

it looks completely different
or the tone of voice is off.

It's very clear that you're speaking
to a robot or something like that.

If you're not, if you're not set
that brand expectation already.

Is just going to erode your trust
and relationship with that customer.

So yeah, so the, I don't
think we're talking about.

The practicalities of a truly
integrated brand experience

in business at the moment.

Christian: Thank you for that.

If people want to follow along
with your journey or can touch

with you or get mentored by you,
whatever it may be, where would they

be able to go ahead and do that?

Nate: Yes.

So I'm Nate Langley on LinkedIn.

I'm also offering mentorship
spaces on ADP list.

Which I, yeah, I'm quite active on.

So yeah, hit me up in those spaces.

Christian: Cool.

We'll, Make those easily accessible in
the show notes so people can find you.

Nate, this has been a very
wholesome conversation.

Very thankful for you coming on the show.

I hope you had as much fun as I
did and yeah, we'll speak soon.

Nate: Thanks very much, Christian.

Christian: If you've
listened this far, thank you.

I appreciate you and I hope you've
learned something that makes you just

a little bit better than yesterday.

You can check out the show
notes on designmidsbusiness.


If this has taught you anything,
please consider leaving a review

and sharing the episode with someone
else who could learn from it.

And I'll catch you in the next one.

Creators and Guests

Christian Vasile
Christian Vasile
🎙️ Host & Growth Product Designer
Monzo’s Nate Langley on the Five Pillars to Discuss During Interviews
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