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The ASOS Tech Blog

A day in the life of… Dave M-N (Software Engineer)

My alarm clock goes off…

Normally woken by our cat Iolo (think the Welsh TV presenter not YOLO) asking for food and attention. I have a back-up alarm for 7am but it’s never needed. The second task is making coffee for me and my partner. We’re big fans of the Clever Dripper with some locally roasted beans. Over breakfast I’ll either catch up with the news or use our O’Reilly subscription to read something technical. I’ve been working through some books on software architecture and database internals recently. By about 8:30am, I’ve logged on and am ready to start the working day.

White and ginger cat asleep on a bed.
Day sleeping — getting ready to be an alarm clock.

I’m responsible for…

Alternative Payment Methods in the Birmingham Payments Team. It turns out there are far more ways to pay than I ever realised, from PayPal and bank transfers, to gift cards and vouchers! We add new methods, optimise existing ones, and ensure high availability. Recently we’ve started working on some internal tools to make refunds smoother.

I got the job…

As a teen I was heavily into computers. Writing code to automate maths homework, providing tech support to the family, and trying every Linux distro under the sun! I studied Astrophysics then Electronic and Electrical Engineering at university, both of which had me writing code regularly which I really enjoyed.

I moved to Birmingham where I worked on CAD/CAM software for aerospace and medical projects. As the world is being consumed by the web I decided it would be a good idea to learn how to do it. I applied online after hearing good things from people in the Birmingham tech scene. There was a short take-home problem and an interview where I got a feel for what the Birmingham office do and what they’re like.

I joined during the pandemic but the onboarding was smooth and my team and department are great. I felt welcome from day one and hit the ground running by helping to deliver some new services.

My typical day looks like…

After catching up with emails and Teams along with a quick walk of the dashboards, we have a team stand-up to discuss where we are with in-progress stories. Then, in randomly assigned pairs, we work on stories. There’s a good chance that there’ll be some form of refinement happening where we talk through upcoming features, split them down as much as we can, call out questions, and eventually story point them ready for development.

Lunch at 12. If we’re in the office, we’ll try out a new place to eat and add our ratings to the team spreadsheet. Once a week I also take some time to be a mentor at the School of Code. We also have a book club where we discuss a book (usually from O’Reilly) focusing on a few chapters per week.

After lunch we do Daily Diagramming — this involves picking an element of the Payments estate and someone will be chosen randomly to draw out the architecture or process. This is a great way to learn and reinforce knowledge about how our systems work. If we need a break from diagrams we’ll do a code kata (a small coding problem, usually something algorithm-y, used to learn and hone skills).

The pairs reform and keep plugging away on delivering value. We will usually finish at 5pm, I’ll go for a walk which neatly defines the end of work. This helps keep work and home separate, which I’ve found very helpful.

My evenings have me…

A few times a week I head down to the archery range for club shoots. There’s a lot to think about in the shot process but eventually it becomes instinctive. Over the pandemic it has been great to shoot outdoors, especially when the weather is good.

60cm archery face with 3 arrows in the 10 ring.
If only every end could be like this.

I also paint miniatures for table top games. The pandemic has made meeting up for games quite difficult but I’ve had a lot of time to paint armies. It’s a great way to keep in touch with friends, be creative with the building and painting, and also practice some deep crunchy strategic thought. Even Henry Cavil is at it!

28mm scale Warhammer miniatures. Gaunt and retinue with Scout Sentinel following.
Gaunt’s Ghosts advance!

One new thing I have learnt in the last year…

Modern front end web development with React! I’m very much a back-end engineer but this year saw the team take on a project to build an internal web app for performing refunds. It’s my first time using modern web frameworks for a commercial project. I learnt more about the whole ecosystem in the first week of work than I had with tinkering with toy apps in my spare time over the last year.

My most memorable moment at ASOS…

Teaching Prince’s Trust course on HTML+CSS in 2021. I was cramming beforehand to make sure that I wasn’t teaching them bad/old habits that I might have picked up as a back-end engineer. At the end of the course it was great to see their work — going from no-code to creative sites that reflected the students and their interests.

The best part of my job…

It turns out that I love a good dashboard! I find it easy to forget the wins when delivering software. I tend to focus on bugs, improvements, or the next feature. Dashboards provide a great way to get a grounding on the sheer number of requests and messages that our code is handling successfully. They’re even more fun to watch during sales!

My top tip for people who want to work at ASOS…

We’re not just in London! The Payments team in Birmingham needs you. Join us and work on interesting and challenging problems with a wide range of technologies.

Check out our open positions on LinkedIn

Dave is a Software Engineer in the Payments team in Birmingham. After work he’s at the archery range, painting miniatures or overcomplicating it in the kitchen.

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A collective effort from ASOS's Tech Team, driven and directed by our writers. Learn about our engineering, our culture, and anything else that's on our mind.

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