Meet the team

Meet the Team

We couldn’t build great teams without having one of our own! Meet the people behind Monkey Puzzle.
How did we start out in work, who’s inspired us and how are we qualified to do what we do?

Karen Meager

Karen Meager


Life Motto: ‘It’s the small things that make a big difference’

First Job: At 15 I got my first weekend job in Woolworths which I loved but hated the frumpy tunics we had to wear as uniforms. I worked really hard to get promoted to Supervisor in three months as they had much nicer uniforms. All the best careers have humble beginnings!

Best Boss: Michael who showed me that you could be calm, consistent and dynamic as a Leader. He wasn’t afraid of the difficult people stuff which meant working in his team you felt safe to take risks. He taught me to stand up for myself in an appropriate way, he was one my inspirations for writing Real Leaders for the Real World.

Loves: Renovating properties and exploring the arts world, in particular music, dance and drama.

Experience & Qualifications: Prior to starting Monkey Puzzle in 2007 I worked in fund management and retail doing various leadership, technical and people development roles. I have an MBA and am a UKCP and PSA registered psychotherapist and supervisor and organisational psychologist. In addition to being a Principal Practitioner Member of the Association for Business Psychology, I am also an INLPTA accredited Master Trainer and a member of the International NLP Leadership Summit. My psychological training, interest and experience is broad and I am a particular fan of the values work and theories developed by Clare Graves and Ken Wilber. In my organisational work and private practice I integrate methods and interventions from a wide spectrum of approaches including CBT, Transactional Analysis (TA), Solution Focused approaches and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).

John McLachlan

John McLachlan


Life Motto: ‘Always look for the light and the space’

First Job: At 14 I got my first weekend job as a coffee boy at what was then a very fancy restaurant in my village. I remember arriving for my interview in an ill fitting jacket shirt and incongruent tie.  I was very shy and this job really helped me overcome some of that. This job gave me my love of food and was where I first learned to cook - cooking steak diane stroganoff and the like for guests at their table.  I also did a stint as the wine waiter which was fun.  French wine was it then!

Best Boss: Karen!  Apart from her, Mike who helped me see the benefit in taking time to gather and consider data, how to present it back to others in a way that they could understand and process.  He was calm, thought long term and did not get involved in the day to day dramas and gossip of the office. He taught me patience, strategic thinking and how to conduct myself and maintain my dignity when others were shouting and trying to point score. 

Loves: Fresh air and open spaces, eating and cooking food. Travelling, music, learning new things and laughing.

Experience & Qualifications: Before Monkey Puzzle I spent over 20 years in a variety of senior finance leadership roles including a Group FD role in industry and a Partner for a Professional CA Practice. In addition to being CA qualified, I’m an organisational psychologist and clinical hypnotherapist (PSA registered). I’ve trained across disciplines in various psychological methods including CBT, Transactional Analysis (TA), hypnosis and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). This is not exhaustive as I’m always on the look out for new leading edge research on organisations, technology and psychology to inform and develop my skills and knowledge. In my work with organisations I have a focus on organisational development, effective and efficient strategy design and developing leaders. I’m also an INLPTA certified Master Trainer, a member of the International NLP Leadership Summit and Principal Practitioner Member of the Association for Business Psychology. I have an MSc in Psychology with a specialisation in Business from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Jennie Backshell

Jennie Backshell

Head of Client Experience

Life Motto: ‘Take time to make fun things happen and create special memories’

First Job: Helping my Sister with her paper round.  I carried the heavy bag and climbed the steps in the flats, Karen wheeled the bike with the papers in the basket.  She mastered the art of delegation at a young age.

Best Boss: Tim who was the Managing Director in my first job straight out of school.  He was focused, sharing his ideas and plans clearly with all his employees.  He knew what was going on throughout his company and was tough when needed. I appreciated that he treated everyone with respect, despite age or position and was always very approachable. 

Loves: Doing crafts with the children, working with the PTA, organising events

Experience & Qualifications: Tons of office based work, mainly organising people and making things work smoothly, which I love. I am also an NLP Master Practitioner and INLPTA qualified NLP Trainer.

Pia Bloom

Pia Bloom

Head of Operations

Life Motto: ‘Be kind to yourself and others’

First Job: I was 15 years old, working in a large hospital, cutting the grass and weeding the flower beds over the summer. I was then promoted to deliver and handle all the internal and external mail. This became a regular school and college holiday job. Timekeeping, attention to detail and fitness became a life habit (there was a lot of walking involved).

Best Boss: Karen and John of course! Before then it was Julie who was my team leader in a financial services call centre. She really wanted to get the best out of me and helped with my career progression. She was always very approachable, kind and fair.

Loves: Spending time with my 2 boys, anything to do with fitness and taking my golden retriever Benny for long walks in the woods.

Experience & Qualifications: After finishing business college and then leaving by birth country Finland, I have had many years experience working within the financial services sector and gained several financial qualifications. These roles ranged from call centre work to financial advising and giving presentations on pensions. I have recently qualified as an NLP Practitioner and will soon have Master Practitioner under my belt. I am also a ASA level 2 qualified swimming teacher and continue to teach when not working at Monkey Puzzle.

Lara Leon Cullen

Lara Cullen


Life Motto: ‘Be Kind. Be Brave. Be Brilliant’

First Job: My first job was as a babysitter, I ran a very successful little business in the local area and was generally booked up for weekend nights at least a year in advance. Among my “clients” was a nice young lad who has now turned out to be a very successful Irish rockstar.

Best Boss: My two best bosses were very different but shared similar traits. They saw the person I could become rather than the person I presented myself as, and they treated me as if I was already her. They gave me freedom, trust, encouragement and support. They allowed me make mistakes and tried to help me never make them more than once, they gave me the difficult messages as well as the easy ones, and I always felt they liked and cared about me as a person and real human being.

Loves: Music, Travel, Photography, Diving, Languages, Cooking, Yoga and trying new things.

Experience & Qualifications: I was formerly an HR Director working in fashion, retail, manufacturing and FMCG (Ben Sherman, Cath Kidston, Brakes and Molson Coors). I enjoyed working as companies were expanding, downsizing, radically changing and continually improving and working alongside all sorts of people from founders to trade unions to techies and creatives.  I am an INLPTA accredited NLP Trainer, Master Practitioner and qualified Coach.

Becky Mahoney

Becky Mahoney


Life Motto: ‘Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire’

First Job: Working after college at a toy retailer at Christmas. I was responsible for the Lego section and this is what started my passion/obsession/love of Lego and I still collect it to this day! It reminds me that I’m still a big kid!

Best Boss: John who was one of my first managers. He was passionate about what he did, fair and happy to roll his sleeves up and get involved when needed. He showed me how to be a great leader and supported me at the start of my journey to become a trainer. Most importantly I learned very early in my career that working hard and having fun are not mutually exclusive.

Loves: I love cooking, learning about world food and experiencing great food, landscape photography and travelling (as it gives me the opportunity to the first two!)

Experience & Qualifications: After 8 years working in Sales and Training in the Retail sector, I spent 2 years in France working in International Training, Change Management and Lean for HR in the Aerospace High Technology & Engineering Sector. Then returned to the UK and continued in above role and recruitment team management for Aerospace & Defence sector. I am an INLPTA accredited NLP Trainer and qualified Coach Practitioner and now running my own training and coaching practice in Bristol.

Mike Evans

Mike Evans


Life Motto: ‘Be curious… expect the unexpected…’

First Job: A clerical job working in London whilst doing resits. It was during the daily commute to London with my father, that he said “so, what are you really going to do…” Shortly afterward “I ran away to sea” and had a brilliant time!

Best Boss: Two consecutive bosses were my best. These guys displayed qualities of leadership that I still admire to this day. On starting one of my first senior roles, one of them offered “sometimes, the best decision, is no decision” and used appropriately, it is still good to this day! … Thank you both.

Loves: Spending time with my family and being there for them. I love travel and I have extensive travel plans going forward. I enjoy making stuff and fixing stuff and play with the idea of renewing my PPL. Whilst I have formally retired from Engineering, I am passionate about coaching. My coaching allows me to pursue and integrate my interest in lifelong learning. I love how different my “working life” is now compared to how it used be!!

Experience & Qualifications: I originally trained as a Marine Engineer Officer, working on cruise ships, academically qualifying as a Chief Engineer. After leaving the ”sea” I joined an international heavy engineering company working on the construction and maintenance of nuclear and conventional power stations, oil refineries etc in many different roles in different locations. My degree is in “Systems” and have engaged in much post graduate work. My later roles included a role with all the responsibilities associated with full P&L and HS&E accountability for a >600 people business and then latterly as a Strategic Director in the Nuclear New Build business.

I am an accredited INLPTA NLP Trainer and have completed additional training in Coaching and Hypnosis. I believe that good coaching enables, what I call, “unlocking the unexpected” e.g. discovering emergent solutions that were not previously considered or even thought about, that delivers change and honours my coachees at the same time. I also have a current private client coaching practice in Bristol.

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