Building B.R.I.D.G.E. — One Day at Skyscanner Sofia

A bridge too far? No. A pun too far? Maybe.

November 1 was my first day at Skyscanner. As the last days of October crawled by I could scarcely contain my excitement — and my eagerness to get to work. I had been promised the chance to work with cutting-edge technologies — and my first day did not disappoint.

You see, November 1 was also the date of Skyscanner Sofia’s One Day for charity. You can read more about our One Day initiative here — in a nutshell, it’s a day on which all of the staff in a given office “come together, take the day off work and commit to making a difference at the same time.”

When I arrived onsite, my co-workers briefly explained what our first project would be: contributing to an open-source project called “Bi-directional Road Inter-connecting Device for Graph Exploration”, or B.R.I.D.G.E. for short. It turned out there was already an implementation of B.R.I.D.G.E. in place, but it needed to be changed, because its stability was questionable and its security was very weak (it lacked rails, not to mention rails with rubies on them). The underlying problem, as you can see from the picture below, was the logging.

Image courtesy of EcoObshtnost Foundation

We started with a short design review in which we discussed the project and the tools we were going to use.

We had enthusiasm in spades (Image courtesy of Kaloyan Kapralov)

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t going to be in the Cloud, and in fact, the process was very near to (a) Waterfall! At least some of the tools we decided on were cutting-edge!

Nana, holding cutting-edge technology (Image: Kaloyan Kapralov)

During development, we redirected traffic with a small w(or|al)k around:

Image: Alex Georgiev

Work started smoothly — with some refactoring.

Taking risks with a faulty load balancer here (Image: Kaloyan Kapralov)

We optimised the new implementation with some branch trimming.

Talk about a hackathon! (Image: Kaloyan Kapralov)

We used various cutting-edge technologies to process the new logs (we wanted to be sure everything was logged properly).

(Image: Kaloyan Kapralov)

While dogfooding our almost-ready product, we got our first users — a young couple with a dog. They were brave enough to try it out, and with our first beta-testers surviving, we knew we are on the right track! Even so, we weren’t out of the woods yet.

Image: Alex Georgiev

As with every project, we had to deal with some accumulated BAU.

Image: Kaloyan Kapralov

At least we did as much as we could in-house.

Image: EcoObshtnost Foundation

We also made sure we could drain everything quickly in case of emergency.

Image: EcoObshtnost Foundation

Back at the B.R.I.D.G.E., we thought we were almost done when the UI team said the product needed some polishing.

Image: Kaloyan Kapralov

With that done, there was nothing left to do, except load test it!

Image: Kaloyan Kapralov

The non-profit organization which helped us deliver this product was very happy with the results. Here’s what they said (roughly translated from the Bulgarian) in an email to Nana:

Thanks soooo so much! The truth is, as I mentioned to your co-workers on the bus after yesterday’s work — only you know how you do it — you are my favourite company with which we have worked! Every time you are extremely careful and diligent in your work, which can be seen by the results. There is no whining, just humorous notes, even at the end of the day when it’s getting dark and everyone surely would prefer to be long gone somewhere for a beer with friends :)

All in all, what can I say? We nailed it!

Image: Kaloyan Kapralov

Skyscanner employees get a paid day for volunteering work every year, and can get sponsored by the company for participating in a wide range of fundraising initiatives. Skyscanner has a long-term commitment to supporting charities that promote technology education and training — and balances this with contributing to charities chosen by members of staff. You can find out more about our benefits and Skyscanner life in general on our jobs site.

About the author

Alex Georgiev graduated from Sofia University in Bulgaria. He has over 10 years of experience as a programmer in various companies, including Facebook, Google and VMware as well as at a few small start-ups, prior to joining Skyscanner.