Johnian magazine issue 49, autumn 2022
Doug Monro: career spotlight
Founder and CEO of Adzuna, Doug Monro (1993) is an entrepreneur with extensive experience of working in the internet industry. Doug studied English at St John’s before pursuing an MBA in the US and taking on roles at eBay, Gumtree and Zoopla. Here he gives us an overview of his career journey and provides some insights into an entrepreneurial life.
What encouraged you to move from English to Entrepreneurship?
I developed a love of literature, especially poetry and drama, as a teenager – probably as a rebellion against a home full of teachers and scientists, or because I hoped poetry would win me romantic favours! At St John’s, as well as throwing myself into my English degree itself, I directed several plays for the Lady Margaret Players in the School of Pythagoras.
I’d had an interest in business from a young age too – from starting a school magazine to watching my father, who had several side-hustles from his role as an Engineering lecturer. At graduation I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher or academic, and didn’t fancy my chances as a writer or actor, so getting into a business graduate scheme seemed a good option.
Although the connection doesn’t seem obvious, I’ve realised over time that an English degree was great training for business and for being a tech CEO. Every day I process huge volumes of emails (a bit like trying to read the works of Hardy or Joyce!) and communication skills like writing and presenting are key to my job.
I still don’t really know “what I want to be when I grow up” but at every stage of my career I’ve challenged myself, pursued things I’ve found interesting or which gave me energy and learnt something new, very often from great bosses I’ve had.
Can you give us a brief overview of your career journey?
After Cambridge I joined Unilever’s graduate scheme, a great training ground in finance as well as in the marketing and production of consumer goods. I found myself drawn to smaller, more entrepreneurial teams, and when the 1990s tech bubble arrived I decided to go to the US and study for an MBA at Kellogg with a Fulbright scholarship.
Graduating into a recession, I joined Bain as a Strategy Consultant for a short stint in London, then was fortunate enough in 2004 to get my dream job at eBay as Head of Strategy for the UK, which got me into the internet industry. In time eBay bought Gumtree, the founders left, and I ended up running that business. Later I joined Zoopla as COO, among the first 10 employees, and had an incredible experience there before leaving to found the job search engine Adzuna in 2011, where I remain CEO today.
I still don’t really know ‘what I want to be when I grow up’ but at every stage of my career I’ve challenged myself, pursued things I’ve found interesting or which gave me energy and learnt something new, very often from great bosses I’ve had.
What has been the most challenging part of your career to date, and what has been the highlight of it?
Definitely the most challenging moment in my career was when my Adzuna co-founder Andrew, in his thirties, was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. I had to deal with the awful news myself, tell our team, investors and many of Andrew’s friends, and reorganise the company and keep it on track while he went through treatment. He – and we – came through it stronger but it was touch and go for a while. Going through something like this at least gives you perspective on some of the smaller stresses of life.
There have been many highlights – usually celebrating successes with the people you achieved them with, whether that be listing a company on the stock exchange or simply winning a contract. Recent Adzuna highlights include powering the UK ONS labour market statistics with our job data, and acquiring a competitor called Getwork to accelerate our growth across the pond.
Only start a company if you are really sure you know what you are in for and have the stamina and support around you
Please tell us more about Adzuna. What encouraged you to set up the company and what are your aims for it?
After my time at Gumtree and Zoopla, I’d learnt a lot from the people around me and gained a lot of knowledge of online marketplaces, but I wanted to know if I could do ‘the founder thing’ myself. I was also fortunate enough to have a great co-founder whom I’d worked with before and become friends with. I don’t know if I’d have had the confidence to start a business on my own, but together you are stronger and it’s more fun.
Adzuna is a job search engine that brings every job ad together in one place. We’ve spent a decade building better technology in areas like salaries and job matching to help people find better, more fulfilling jobs. From a handful of us working in our bedrooms, we’re proud to have grown into a global company with hundreds of millions of visits to our sites each year, operating across 20 countries and employing a wonderful team of 120 people in 5 offices and working remotely too. But we still have a huge way to go.
What advice would you
give to someone hoping to
launch their career as an
Only start a company if you are really sure you know what you are in for and have the stamina and support around you. Entrepreneurship is often glamorised and, while there are oversized rewards for a lucky few, most businesses fail or take decades to build. There is a huge amount of graft and stress, and it is certainly not for those seeking quick riches or for the fainthearted!
What are your ambitions for the future?
I’m definitely not done yet at Adzuna. We are still a minnow in a huge jobsearch market that is rapidly evolving given the dynamics of labour shortages, demographics, and the macroeconomic impacts of inflation, COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine.
‘After Adzuna’, who knows? I do some angel investing and advising younger founders already and enjoy that. Perhaps I have one more start-up in me before I retire – my dad was still starting university spinout companies at 70.
I also have a wonderful family with two teenage boys to support as they find their way in the world, and a passion for the outdoors, especially cycling and running. I represented Team GB in the World Duathlon Championships this year for my age group, and my next challenge is to run a 100km ultramarathon in 2023 if my body holds up.
Doug is CEO and Co-Founder of Adzuna, a search engine for jobs. Doug studied English at St John’s before pursuing an MBA in the US and taking on roles at eBay, Gumtree and Zoopla.