Work/life/Skyscanner: Stephen Hailey, full stack engineer
Sprint goals, yoga, guilds, tribes and family: there’s no such thing as an ordinary week for a full stack engineer at Skyscanner, but Stephen Hailey can tell you a little bit about a typical week
My squad starts its weekly sprint at lunchtime on Mondays. My squad is currently working to make flight booking more convenient for return travellers by allowing them to store details and reuse them. In the morning we focus on any open tasks required to hit our sprint goal. For me or any other engineer in my squad this can involve enhancing a Node.js microservice which we own, or reviewing changes submitted by others. Often to achieve our goal we must contribute features to Skyscanner’s flights checkout which is a React microsite owned by another squad who accept internal open-source contributions. Kicking off our new sprint is a collaborative effort between our Product Owner and the engineers. We review the previous sprint and agree a new goal for the week including what we’ll be able to demo at the end. Most senior engineers are involved in the Skyscanner recruitment process so, depending on the week, I might have a technical interview after lunch or just jump straight into goal-related tasks. I end my Mondays by attending the yoga class which is conveniently hosted in the Glasgow office.
My squad is currently working to make flight booking more convenient for return travellers by allowing them to store details and reuse them.
Every second Tuesday there is a web engineering guild where engineers from different tribes meet for an hour to discuss topics of interest. This is a good place to share new approaches or reinforce best practices. I’ll typically spend the rest of the day on goal work although I sometimes have a session in the afternoon where I mentor other engineers on technical topics. Goal work is not always writing code. Before starting a new piece of work we produce a design document and hold a review session where stakeholders and experienced engineers can challenge our approach and suggest alternative ideas. It varies from task to task whether an engineer works alone, in a pair or larger mob. There are no formal rules but in general if there is knowledge to be shared or we collectively lack experience in an area then we collaborate more.
On Wednesdays I attend our tribe postmortem session. If anything we are responsible for broke down in the last week then we present our report and highlight shared learnings that can benefit others. I have a weekly one-to-one with my manager in the afternoon but otherwise try to stay focused on the goal. Sometimes the goal work is making sure we have all of the metrics, alerting and other finishing touches in place to be able to switch something on for users. We try to release new functionality in a switched-off state so that we can have a controlled, gradual roll-out with minimal impact if something unexpected does go wrong. When we do deliver a significant milestone we take some time out to celebrate as a squad and do a team-building activity.
Engineers from all squads in our tribe meet fortnightly on Thursdays to discuss cross-cutting topics and share ideas. At a recent one I presented an overview of how my squad ran some Disaster Testing Drills and how these could be adopted by other squads. In addition to goal work I might have meetings in the afternoon to review design documentation from other squads or consult on technical matters. Liaising with other squads is an important part of feature development because they can involve interactions between a collection of microservices with different owners. When there is overlap we collaborate early and catch-up often to avoid surprises.
One week out of six all bets are off for my schedule when I take my turn as the squad’s “green flag”. While wearing this hat I am first responder for any operational issues that arise, field external queries relating to our services and generally try to shield the team from interruptions.
Friday (the toughest day of all)
I work part-time so my Fridays are spent tiring out my three-year-old and one-year-old.
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About the Author: Stephen Hailey
Stephen is a senior software engineer in the Flights Shopping & Checkout tribe. He has been at Skyscanner for six years, initially joining as a backend engineer working on services providing flight pricing data to Skyscanner’s website and apps. Along the way he has worked on the introduction of continuous delivery and helped the company take its first steps from private datacentres to AWS. Stephen later spent time in our Development Enablement tribe working in the traffic routing space, before rotating into his current role.