My name's Sally Lait (formerly Jenkinson). It's pronounced like 'late', not like 'lay', by the way.
I’m currently taking some time away from tech to focus on my family, but most recently I was in a VP of Engineering role. This is a bit about what I do professionally, and how I got here.
Originally starting out as a generalist web developer (front-end/back-end/Flash) coming into the industry through a university placement, I realised that I’d learnt so much more from a year of real-world projects and experience than I had in two years of traditional lecture halls and seminars. It was then that I made the difficult decision to leave my course, and instead to continue working professionally whilst completing my degree with the Open University to get the paperwork. This worked out - I got to do fantastic projects for people like Electronic Arts, Manchester United FC, Fulham FC, Nokia, D-Link, and Eurotunnel, plus also managed to get a First class degree.
Technologies evolved, and so did my job. My focus evolved through the management of a team of developers, Solutions Architect, eventually working my way to Head of Technology at a global full-service digital agency.
After many years and a change in geography in my personal life, in December 2012 I decided to leave the agency world and told myself that I’d “freelance until I found the right ‘proper’ job”. Shortly after, having had a taste of self-employment I decided to turn down some excellent offers, instead wanting to focus on building something myself.
I initially contracted with varied companies to build up a range of different experiences before deciding to form a consultancy company - Records Sound the Same. I founded this in 2014, and the company operated on a collective model, providing strategic technical consultancy services focused on helping with digital transformation, driving change, and teaching people new skills. I really enjoyed working across the mix of strategy, process change, assessing and upgrading systems, and working with people and teams. We tried to do some good, and worked with nice people, including the Manor Racing F1 team, RNLI, and Inghams.
Back to employment
At the end of 2018, despite not looking for a job, I got lured in by the possibility of working for Monzo - a company I was already a customer of and hugely admired. I wrote a bit more about that decision in the blog post ‘A new chapter’.
The company went through hypergrowth, and I ended up in an Engineering Director role where I was responsible for engineering within the Operations Collective (a vertical slice of the company, covering customer support, financial crime, and more), and was discipline lead for web across the company.
A few examples of differences I made at Monzo:
- Grew the Operations engineering and management team - my line included 4 other engineering managers (some also managed managers), and around 40-50 engineers, split across 6 multidisciplinary squads.
- Set technical/people strategy and led initiatives within the Ops space
- Led the redevelopment of our Engineering Progression framework (business-wide)
- Led the formation of the Web Platform and Web Consultancy teams
- Improved our web hiring process; scaled the web team
- Helped to introduce engineer-run Lightning Talks
After deciding to leave, I then joined Farewill initially as Head of Engineering, but was then promoted to VP of Engineering. In this role I was the most senior technology representative, accountable for Engineering, Data, and IT, and sat on the Executive team to make company-level decisions.
Some impact I’m particularly proud of at Farewill:
- Leading technology due diligence for a successful partnership with TSB bank.
- Creating a Platform function to complement Product teams, focusing on infrastructure, developer experience, and shared foundational technologies.
- Created and publicly shared IC and manager Progression Frameworks, gave internal pay band transparency. (EM blog post)
- Improvements to technical quality and efficiencies, including incident tooling, security testing, automation, reporting and visibility of technical metrics.
- Modernisation of our tech stack, shipping fundamental changes to our architecture and customer accounts, and the team pulling off a really smooth data migration.
- Building an extremely strong team, culture, and rituals, reflected in consistently high Satisfaction Survey scores.
- High representation of women, especially in senior technology roles.
Outside of the day job
Throughout my career I’ve spoken, keynoted, and been MC at global industry conferences as an invited expert (events like Adobe MAX, From the Front, Fronteers, The Lead Developer, Responsive Day Out - have a look at the speaking page for more). I’ve also written for notable publications including Net Magazine, Web Designer Magazine, 24 Ways, The Pastry Box Project, as well as publishing a book.
When I’m not doing things online, I’m usually learning Japanese, reading, cooking up all sorts of meals, gardening, or playing Xbox One games. I hold slightly elitist views on tea, take photographs of hotel carpets, and have spent most of my adult life fighting my body’s reluctance to be a redhead.
I hold a First Class BSc (Hons) degree from the Open University, and I’m currently studying towards the N2 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test after passing N5-N3 (just for fun).
You can find more recommendations and endorsements on my LinkedIn page, or if you’d like to discuss my full CV please get in touch. I’m not on Twitter much any more, but you can find me on Mastodon if you’d like to say hello about anything else.