Tuesday, 7 April 2020

After two weeks

Well, I have survived the second week of lockdown. It seems my life is now work and sleep, and I'm starting to come to terms with that. Time for a few reflections of life alone in a flat.

The last week of work was manic, but looking back I think we did a lot of things right. The current project is of critical importance, which means it's getting a lot of attention from right at the top and that means lots of conflicting requirements coming in from lots of directions. For the first week, the work was very reactionary - trying to triage incoming requests to the engineering team in as sensible a way as possible, with the project leads constantly on calls working out priorities and detailed requirements and trying to find more humans. Last week we made a conscious decision to shift from this maelstrom to something that looks like an actual project structure and through significant effort we are starting to see positive results.

We've focused on closing down communications channels to stop priorities coming from every direction. One of the biggest problems we've found with successful triage is simply not knowing which “top priority” is actually the one we have to do first and not having a forum where people who aren't us can fight over that question. Now we're getting feature priorities from one place, which saves everyone time and sanity. It also gives us a place to push back with technical (non-functional) requirements which will help the service and also enable faster development in the future if only we can get them sorted. Go slower now to go faster in the future.

We've had to look very closely at our onboarding strategy. Bringing in people takes time, which we don't have, and some of the technical debt and security restrictions we have in the system make directly scaling the team very difficult. This brings us back to the point above - we need to address this technical work quickly, however defending the time to address technical debt is next to impossible at the moment, so the next step is to have another look at how we're articulating the consequences of any decision to de-prioritise this work.

Taking a step back, this work is actually very interesting. We're doing rapid scaling in an environment in no way suited to doing that and I'm learning some very interesting things. More importantly, this work is essential to protect the engineers from constantly shifting priorities and being under heavy pressure to work unreasonable hours which makes it very worthwhile to me.

Outside of work, I suppose I need to think carefully about my sanity. My weekend was mostly spent curled up mostly asleep watching things on Netflix. Clearly a reaction to being exhausted mentally and emotionally, but it's not exactly a good sign. This week I'm aiming to put things in my diary for some of the evenings to make sure I'm signed off at a sensible time and I have a four day weekend over Easter, unless I have to work. My aim is to be awake for some of it.

It's not all bad. I'm currently wearing a hoodie that I got at university. It kinda fits for the first time in years.

This post is from a series of shorter posts, written roughly once a week while the country is on lockdown to capture my feelings and reactions as we go. They are all tagged with coronavirus.

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