A day in the life of … Lewis Holmes (Principal Software Engineer)
This ‘day in the life of’ series gives you an insight into what a typical day looks like for our ASOSers in Tech (hint: there isn’t one) and how they started their careers. Hopefully, you take something inspirational away from it.
This one’s about Lewis H who’s a Principal Software Engineer.
My alarm clock goes off…
I wouldn’t class myself as a morning person but as a Father to two young kids I’ve gradually become better at getting up early. I’m usually up by 7:20am, jump straight into the shower and then help get my children up, dressed and fed. I don’t really feel ready for the day until I’ve had my morning coffee made using my much loved AeroPress.
My commute to work…
Things have changed a lot over the past year or so due to the global pandemic and so the hour I used to spend on a train commuting I now use to walk my kids to school and go for a morning walk myself while I listen to a podcast about famous musicians like Broken Record with Rik Rubin or something about science like The Infinite Monkey Cage. I’m currently working from home around 80% of the time. For the days I’m back in the office, I’m loving being in a more social environment again where I get to work directly with colleagues and have those really valuable spontaneous conversations.
I’m responsible for…
I’m one of many Principal Software Engineers (PSE) at ASOS and we are each aligned to a group of teams within a domain (you can read more about how we are structured in this post here). I use my experience and expertise to support teams with building high quality software through the adoption and continuous improvement of their processes, patterns and practices and the tools/frameworks they use.
In addition to providing technical leadership and support, I spend time helping to hire new talent (we’re hiring 😉) and also help develop our existing engineers by working with them on their personal development plans and helping them achieve their career goals alongside their Engineering Manager. I’m really passionate about encouraging engineers to share their experiences, code and ideas with others which in turn I believe helps to cultivate a strong and vibrant engineering community.
Over the past couple of years I’ve helped lead our first ever internal technical training programme focussed on the core technologies we use like Containers and Kubernetes with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). This has been extremely rewarding for me personally and has unlocked a passion for teaching I didn’t realise I had.
I got the job…
Since I was around nine or 10 years old I remember being fascinated with my Dad’s early laptop computer he had for work. It had a grayscale screen and I loved playing this game on it called Wolfenstein 3D. I spent hours playing around with it and tried to learn how to use it (much to my Dad’s annoyance when I regularly messed things up!). A few years later I got my very own first PC and from then on I knew whatever career I would choose would be something involving computers. I went on to study Computer Science at University and managed to get an industrial placement for a year which is where I first starting using the .NET Framework and C#.
After graduating university I worked with a number of small software companies where you just had to get stuck in and learn fast on the job. I then landed a job as a software engineer at a little known online fashion company called ASOS (over 12 years ago now!). At ASOS I’ve worked in various different domains, starting as a full stack engineer and then moving on to focus more on the back-end, to finally becoming a technical leader.
My typical day looks like…
I have a lot of autonomy in my role and a large list of initiatives I’d like to promote/support whilst at the same time having to be ready to jump in and help teams out when challenges arise. Therefore, good time management is critical for me so I normally start my day by looking at what free time I have outside of any scheduled meetings and then I add in time slots into the gaps in my diary to focus on one of the tasks I want to work on that day. This really helps me to avoid distractions (email, messages etc) and minimise context switching.
Early morning I’ll typically join one or more team stand up sessions to see how things are going and see if there is anything they may need some support with. A few times a week I’ll catch up with some of the other Principal Software Engineers to hear about what they are working on and share ideas. I love these informal catch ups with my peers as they act not only as a great support network for each other but I regularly learn new ideas/ways of doing things which I’ll then share with the engineers I work with.
Typically I’ll then have a specific session booked in with an engineering team. Over the past few months I have been working with teams on their technical strategy and roadmap. Usually we first identify the various technologies they are currently using and what they want their ideal tech stack to look like over the next year or so. We then identify the high level pieces of work required to get them to their ideal state and define the benefits of each item so that everyone (not just the techies) is clear on why the work is important and how it will improve the team’s effectiveness and/or the services they own.
In the afternoon I tend to have a 1:1 session with a Lead Software Engineer or one of the management team I work with and then could be on a call with some engineers, having a discussion about how they go about implementing a new approach or adopting a new tool or technology. Recently I’ve been helping teams to adopt Inner Source, improving their release processes by automating the creation of change requests and also helping them assess the best provisioning tools for them including Bicep and Terraform.
My evenings have me…
Spending some time playing with my children before cooking up a family dinner. Since the pandemic I’ve taken the opportunity of being at home more to cook different meals and experiment (not always to my kids liking I may add).
If I’m not going to the gym or a Pilates class that night I’ll usually listen to music. I find music always helps me to wind down and feel good. During lockdown I got back into DJing again for the first time since my teenage years so I’ll likely be working on a new mix to upload to Mixcloud and then spend some time sitting down with my wife to watch a comedy series together.
My most memorable moment at ASOS
Early on when I first started, the vast majority of customers were UK based and our software releases took hours with some being done during the night if we needed to take a DB offline shortly (not an option these days!). I remember coming into the office at midnight, working through to around 8am and then heading straight over to Wimbledon to queue up for court tickets with friends. It was one of the hottest days of that summer and the tiredness couldn’t dampen my spirits for my first every experience of Wimbledon (the Pimms did help a little too!).
The best part of my job…
The thing I love most about my job is that I get the chance to work with so many different people, from more junior to very experienced and each with their own unique skills and experiences which I always aim to learn from. One day I could be supporting a team migrating to containers and Kubernetes on AKS and the next I might be aiding the integration of a Machine Learning model to help our customers engage with us via live chat. This huge variety of people and technology keeps things exciting and allows me to keep challenging myself everyday. I guess that’s why I still love working here after 12 years!
One new thing I have learnt in the last year…
In a role like mine where you are not working in a team to complete backlog items or building and maintaining a set of services, it’s not always clear what the value of the work you are doing really is and how you should prioritise it. I’ve learnt how critical measuring the impact of my actions is and one method I find really helpful to do this is to get regular feedback from those who are affected by that work. Sometimes an activity I thought was really helping others a lot ended up not being as valuable to them as some other initiative I was working on. The only way I realised this was regularly asking people for feedback and then adjusting the items I’m actively working on accordingly.
Lewis is a Principal Software Engineer at ASOS. In his spare time he aspires to be more than a bedroom DJ, loves exploring nature with his family and jumps at any chance to play with Lego.
Did you know that ASOS are hiring across a range of roles in Tech? See our open positions here.