Weeknotes #15

Week commencing 14th October 2019.

We did it, another week down, more stories to be shared.

In an effort to share more with those nearby, I met up with Adam and Simon at VW Financial Services (VWFS). I used to work with Adam and he introduced me to Simon who’s a Technology Scout for VWFS. They’d seen my blog post about using an AI-powered camera and wanted to know a bit more about what we’d been up to. We talked about the virtual contact centres we’ve been using, machine learning, building teams and approaches to running experiments. Equally, Adam has been working on some automation stuff that sounds pretty ace so we’ll be sharing some more stories soon.

Finally finished the contracts work I’ve been doing and sent that off to our Procurement team for a bit of help from the pros. On a similar note, this week I organised a workshop for a few of us across IT, Legal, Procurement and Finance on ‘How procuring Cloud tech is different to traditional IT’ … contrary to the expectation of it being a total snooze fest, it’s set to be really useful for the relevant people so hopefully it’ll help break down a few assumptions (Cloud isn’t evil and no it’s not just someone else’s data centre 🤦‍♂️)

Had a great catch up with Jim who’s initiative and ability to break down problems into manageable pieces is really impressive. We started planning for a bunch of migration work that needs to happen for Milton Keynes Council, moving applications to some new servers. Jim had already thought through most of how he wanted to approach it so most of the session was kept quite short just validating the ideas between us.

Another highlight of the week was a preview of Will and Steve’s ‘presentation’ for our all-hands meeting in a couple of weeks. They’re actually choosing to do role play. I know right? I won’t share any more on here for now as it’ll ruin the surprise for others in the team (I’m making the arrogant assumption that people actually read this) but either way, it’s great to find your team investing themselves in the work we do so deeply. Finding people willing to make themselves vulnerable for the benefit of improvement is epic. Thank you both.

Kiri and I had an early start on Thursday, on the drive to Cambridge we talked about team dynamics, some of the inter-personal quirks that have come about lately and how much the team has changed over the past few years. Its long overdue that we acknowledge that change and begin act differently.

Over the day I read Kiri’s notes about running a team activity for our all-hands meeting in two weeks time. There’s some prep I need to help it go smoothly but the exercise will challenge us all in different ways so I’m quite excited to help facilitate it.

An image of a blue booklet without a mountain range on it

I then ate 6 satsumas, which, for the record, is too many satsumas.

Next up was a quick catch up with James who’s been plugging away creating a way to automate the deployment of our serverless applications.

Serverless technologies bring a different kind of complexity for us because they’re much more fragmented and distributed. I’d argue there’s probably more co-ordination of the different ‘bits’ to do than there is actual code so James’ work is a huge help here. In short, we’re using AWS SAM, a tool for managing serverless software and Azure DevOps to run a CI/CD pipeline.

If that sounds like gibberish, let’s try a (possibly-terrible) analogy. It’s the software equivalent of running a restaurant but with automation. Imagine that we make ‘meals’ (software) and put them on the pass for plating up (build/compile). The Head Chef checks quality of the ‘meal’ (automated software tests) and then the waiters ‘deliver’ (deploy) it to our customers. CI/CD is the equivalent of automating the plating up, quality check and waiters. It brings more consistency to the quality of the software we deliver that in turn increases the level of assurance and confidence we have in our work.

There’s a much deeper level of stuff that happens in a CI/CD pipeline but that’s the gist anyway. One of my half-baked blog posts will explain what it is in more detail as well as how we’re getting on moving torwards it. @ me if it’s something you want to know more about, it’ll probably give me the nudge I need to finish writing it.

All in all, James is enabling us to push further into unknown territory by doing the hard work to make the rest of the teams lives easier. He’s lowering the barrier to entry, reducing friction and increasing momentum, all the things we’re aiming for. This makes me happy.

I also caught up with Stuart and Clayton to design some new features for the Social Care ‘concerns’ system at Cambridgeshire County Council. We were fixing things like how to manage users, security and some reporting information.

Steve came over to talk about a course he’d been on and introduced a model about ‘types of communicator.’ At the risk of this sounding like an advert for BuzzFeed quiz, we decided to do it ourselves to find out if each of us was a ‘Battler’,’Helper’ or ‘Thinker’. I’m not sure how accurate a summary a few questions like this can ever be but they’re fun to do so yeah, that happened.

Results image of our communicator tests

Vikki and I went back to hospital to see a consultant today (Friday) as a routine thing. Test results are looking much better for the arrival of our second son in December which is great news. I’m pretty sure it’ll still be a massive shock to our system when he arrives but as long as he does, I’ll be nothing but happy. Tired yes. But so happy.

In other news, I’m heading towards burnout but that’s okay. I’ve noticed the signs this time and I have some very, very good people around me. I told my manager, we’re going to create a plan on Monday to help me level out again. S’all good.