Speaker Spotlight: Sophie Koonin

What do you do at Monzo, and what does a typical day look like for you?

I wear a few hats: I’m tech lead for a team in our Customer Operations collective, working on our internal tooling for customer support. Right now, I mainly work on platform and process improvements: Recently I got to help build email into our customer service system, which was a fun adventure.

I’m also the lead of the Web Discipline, which means I’m accountable for the overall direction of web at Monzo, and also make sure that our engineers have the tools they need to do their jobs well.

It’s a cliche, but no day is the same: Sometimes I’m scoping out work for a project, sometimes I’m writing code, sometimes I’m planning what’s coming next. 

Why did you decide to migrate to TypeScript at Monzo?

You’re going to make me give away the talk! We were using Flow, Facebook’s type system, but ultimately TypeScript was a lot more popular and nobody was writing Flow types for any of our libraries any more. If we wanted to be able to upgrade things, we needed to migrate. Flow was also quite unstable and didn’t like our monorepo – and it crashed a lot.

What can we expect to take away from your talk?

A framework for approaching a migration safely and sensibly in organisations of all sizes, plus a lot of things to consider before doing one at all.

Tell us a little bit about your side projects and what they mean to you.

I’m not a huge code-in-your-spare-time kind of person, but I do have a handful of side projects. I built an emoji maker because we make so many custom Slack emojis at Monzo and have all sorts of weird emoji memes, like cowboy hats on literally everything. 

I’m also a big fan of tasting menus and I love eating out, but the descriptions of the menu items always crack me up because they can be so pretentious – foams and soils and things. So I built my own tasting menu generator with a lot of really silly options, but sometimes it accidentally produces menus that sound really tasty. It won’t surprise you that most of my side projects are extremely silly.

You started building websites on Geocities at the age of 10. What do you miss most about that era?

I really miss the fact that nobody cared what anyone else thought, and people built websites for themselves because they wanted to. These days if anyone builds a website it’s usually because they’re trying to sell something, and all the sites look exactly the same.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Someone once told me to buy a handheld steamer, and I haven’t had to iron anything since. Glorious.

Because I know you mean tech advice: At the start of my career, my then manager told me to communicate more about what I was doing. Ever since then, I've erred on the side of proactively over-communicating. Things like: I’m picking up this ticket; I’m trying this solution; I’ve got this far, and it looks like this currently. People can ignore it if it isn’t relevant to them. As a tech lead, I don’t like having to chase people for updates — it feels like micro-managing — so the more senior I get the more I value people proactively communicating as it gives me a good idea of what’s going on and that people are on the right track.

At Pixel Pioneers Bristol, Sophie Koonin will be talking about planning and successfully carrying out a technical migration. The conference will also cover modern CSS layouts, AI and practical prompt engineering tips, how not to kill your design system, building fast and user-friendly websites, avoiding common accessibility mistakes, and more. Get your ticket today!