We attended QCon in London last month (which as an aside, I highly recommend if you’ve not been before) and one of the day’s tracks that caught my attention was looking at “DevEx” or “Developer Experience” – the daily life of developers/engineers and how that might be improved through better tooling, process and skills. It got me thinking – what is the “DevEx” for engineers at Infinity Works and what are the things we can do to nurture it?
DevEx is not just about the tools, but the daily experience at work
As a services business it’s often difficult to convey to people what it means to join us since we work on such a diverse set of things – we don’t have a product we can point at or a particular technical stack that we all use, in fact the answer to a lot of questions that people ask is “it depends”!
So what does it look like to be part of Infinity Works? What is our day-to-day “DevEx”?
“There’s always something going on, Danny!”
Engineering at Infinity Works is first and foremost about solving real-world problems. We work as trusted delivery partners for our clients helping them to deliver their projects, figuring out solutions to hard technical problems and bringing a strong culture of Agile and DevOps along with us.
The projects and challenges that we tackle are many and varied and that variety is really at the heart of our DevEx.
We push ourselves to learn different domains, experience different ways of working and understand a wide range of technical concepts. We work across the stack and across the software lifecycle. Engineering to us doesn’t just mean being able to be a great developer, it also means helping out with the infrastructure-as-code, building the deployment pipelines and integrating automated operational monitoring. We don’t consider our job done until a product is in production, delivering value, working well, fully monitored, easy to support and simple to change.
Working on interesting projects, with great people to deliver real business value.
In real-terms that means working on projects like building and running cloud-based services for a large betting & gaming provider or helping the NHS introduce more agile ways of working, while adding modern tooling like docker and re-engineering critical systems to save money and lives.
It means working with a large retailer to build a new loyalty platform for their customers, introduce Machine Learning capabitilies and instil a true DevOps engineering culture. The new microservice architecture is cloud-hosted on Kubernetes and fully automated – we regularly do more than 100 production deployments a day.
We’re also helping one of the UK’s leading logistics companies improve its core systems to deliver nearly 10 million parcels over Christmas, all with record levels of customer satisfaction.
We’ve helped launch a modern digital pharmacy – not just by writing an app, but by reimagining the whole patient journey from GP interaction to physical pharmacy store layouts to robotic dispensing to automated alerts and prescription deliveries that reflect changing patient lifestyles.
And that’s not all! We’ve been part of building a challenger bank; created a new data platform for a blue chip client; re-engineered a global oil trading platform onto an open source stack and migrated it to the cloud; and have got involved in developing offerings using the new Open Banking APIs.
It’s not all about the tech
At a more personal level we try to make our engineering experience better by letting people choose their laptop and which dev tools they want to licence. For those working in our offices it means little things like providing decent monitors and loads of wall space for information radiators and whiteboards (so many whiteboards!).
Aside from the actual project work we do many other things including a weekly yoga session in our Leeds office, running clubs, lunches, community events and cross-team catch ups. It’s really important that people feel like they’re part of Infinity Works.
When you get stuck, behind you is a community of really great engineers who can offer help and guidance and with whom you can share problems and ideas. We put a lot of effort into fostering that community spirit though talks (both internally and externally), meet-ups and collaborative tooling like Slack.
Our company vision is “Best for Customer, Best for Colleague” and getting both of those in balance is integral to improving our DevEx.
When talking to people who are looking to join us, we often come across some pre-conceived notions about what the DevEx at a consultancy looks like. These are often gained from working with or alongside the large, more traditional consultancies.
Infinity Works offers a different experience. For a start we are much smaller and that gives us the freedom to do the right things without enormous amounts of red tape and bureaucracy.
We are engineering-led which means we value actually delivering things – “Systems not Slideware” to coin a terrible strapline. Our core DevOps mindset ensures we don’t pigeonhole skillsets, in fact we actively encourage our engineers to be as broad as possible, and we structure our projects to support that as well.
For us, its all about the team and supporting the Engineers that are actually doing the work. We strive to be a low-hierarcy, low friction business that is open to new ideas. Allowing our team to have a huge say how we do things and how we work as a business is just one of the things that makes us a little different. This can be little things like what kind of beers we have in the fridge or what we do for our end of month social right up to big things like how will we layout our office space or how does career advancement and support work.
Our people are fundamental to who we are so there are no HR tickboxes and no content-free managers. Your career path is yours and we assist our people as much as possible to grow in whichever direction they want to go.
Best for customer, best for colleague
The day-to-day DevEx in a services business is not easy to pin down, but that diversity of experience and ability to stretch yourself is key to it.
Unlike a product-based company you won’t be tied to a specific technical stack and unlike a large corporate environment you won’t be filling in annual review forms and working through graded salary bands to further your career.
Delivering client value is the core of what we do, but delivering a great experience for our engineers is equally important and we continue to work hard to make that the case.