The ASOS Tech Blog
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The ASOS Tech Blog

Solution Architecture @ ASOS

We recently caught up with a group of our Solution Architects working across Tech, to find out a bit more about how they got to where they are now, the work they do and the best bits of the job!

Let’s start with introductions…

Amrish P — Commerce Technology

David A — Supply Chain Technology

Meeta S — Retail Systems

Nathan R — Finance Technology

Nivedita N — Marketing Technology

Nishantha P — AI and Data Science

Q1: What did your journey to becoming a Solution Architect look like?

Nathan: I graduated in Aerospace Engineering but was more interested in pursuing information tech than rocket science. I spent my early career in Business Analysis, becoming progressively more technically-focused around a specific Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution. I’m a big-picture thinker so architecture was a natural direction for me.

Amrish: A bit like this…

David: I undertook the classic journey of going to university, getting a Computer Science degree and then progressing through the software engineering hierarchy up to Lead Engineer role. I found however that I wasn’t spending enough time on the technical part of the role which I really enjoyed. I attended a conference where Juval Lowy delivered a talk on the evolution from engineering to architecture and I was sold. 😁

I was fortunate that the company I worked for at the time were open to me transitioning and it went from there! My engineering roles have always leaned towards design and strategic vision, while always being customer and business stakeholder facing, so it was a natural evolution of my strengths. I’ve been lucky enough to work in a number of domains; from small reactive agencies to multi national premium automotive manufacturers. This blend has given me a really varied experience which suits my role here perfectly.

Nivedita: Following a Computer Science degree, I began my career as a software developer, coding in various technologies including mainframe, Linc, C#. After working for a while as a system designer, I moved into a platform architect role for a year before landing a job at ASOS as a Solutions Architect. This was a natural move for me as I love thinking of innovative solutions to a problem while keeping the big picture in mind.

Nivedita

Meeta: I come from a development background, specifically in Oracle retail applications. Over the years, I’ve accumulated technical and functional knowledge and experience working for different retailers. When I joined ASOS just over five years ago, I was part of a transformation programme that provided me opportunities to take on more responsibilities and broaden my skillset. I was keen to progress in a technical domain so was excited when an internal opening arose for a SA role in my area. I applied for it and was chuffed to have been offered the job. 😁

Nishantha: After completing my Computer Science degree in 2004, I started my career as a Software Engineer using C# and .Net technologies. I then moved into Java stack and progressed to Principal Software Engineer in Java backend development. Whilst working in the telecom domain, I completed my Masters in Enterprise Software Engineering — Big Data technologies like Hadoop, MapReduce, Hive, Pig etc were becoming really popular and since most were based on Java stack, it felt natural for me to start using them in projects.

In 2015, I decided to change my career path and move into Big Data, joining ASOS as a Senior Big Data Engineer in the Data Science and AI Team. Over time, the AI Platform where I was working grew significantly and due to the increasing complexity of data and AI infrastructure needs as well as new data integration requirements, there was a need for a Solution Architect to take the ownership of the architectural aspects of data and AI projects. I applied for the role, becoming a Solution Architect — Big Data, Analytics and AI/ML in December 2020.

Q2: What’s the best thing about being a Solution Architect in ASOS Tech?

Nivedita: Tech at ASOS isn’t restricted to what is already being used. There’s so much freedom to explore, innovate, design and deliver new solutions.

Meeta: There is always something exciting to do! There are many initiatives in the pipeline and I enjoy the variation of challenges that I get to work on. I can truly see my contribution making a difference in the business.

David: I like to say there’s no typical day here at ASOS. I work in Supply Chain Tech which is a really dynamic environment. I find myself engaging with colleagues across the whole business or with our suppliers on a global level. Each project brings its own approach and unique set of challenges. There’s a great can-do attitude here to get the job done and exceed our stakeholders expectations. Everybody wants to do the best they can!

Nishantha: I have the opportunity to work with top, talented Data Scientists, Data and Machine Learning Engineers and Architects in the industry. I also can’t ignore the freedom and flexibility I get to explore cool new technologies related to Data Engineering and AI.

Nathan: I love interacting with passionate, highly-skilled colleagues in the business and across Tech. We’re all focused on making improvements, and I see evidence of people acting according to our ABCD values all the time.

Nathan

Amrish: Being a Solution Architect here at ASOS has been a highly rewarding experience in terms of career progression and achievement. We’re all given trust and autonomy in a blameless culture as part of our roles. However, with this comes great responsibility to ensure we are keeping our customers at the forefront of everything we do by challenging each other. The same goes for new technologies where we actively review new tech and decide on its suitability for our use cases, which is great as I get to write many proofs of concepts. ASOS also actively participates in community events, for example, we have hosted .NET Conference talks and I was recently given an opportunity to deliver a talk at the very first Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB Conference in 2021 here.

Q3: What has been your greatest achievement at ASOS?

Nathan: Seeing solutions go live, which I have been instrumental in shaping, is always a buzz!

Nishantha: Architecting and designing the current Data Lake and Databricks compute infrastructure for the AI platform in Azure Cloud. Even though we are in the process of further enhancing it with new features, it’s currently used in productionising data engineering pipelines, machine learning models and also by Data Scientists for experimentation and data exploration.

David: When I joined ASOS, I jumped straight into a greenfield project that was required to support the opening of a new Fulfilment Center. It had some stretching deadlines that needed to be hit before Black Friday 2021. I was able to work closely with the engineering team to deliver something truly exciting that was a real enabler for the ASOS business to grow.

Nivedita: I have just completed my first month but being able to contribute to projects so early has been great!

Meeta

Meeta: Being part of the end to end implementation of the Oracle planning applications in ASOS and landing it successfully.

Amrish: Designing and implementing, with our amazing engineers, a new highly scalable cloud-native order processing engine that has already set all kinds of new records here at ASOS. This was built using an event-driven microservice architecture on Microsoft Azure. We built these using containerised Azure Functions running on Linux containers, Azure Cosmos DB, and Azure Service Bus technologies.

Q4: What do you explicitly NOT do in your role?

David: I am officially hands off when it comes to the technical implementation of a project, so I have no responsibility for any production code. There’s a clear boundary between where my role as an SA ends and where the engineering team take responsibility which is great because everybody knows their expectations within a project.

Nivedita: I don’t write code, or manage budgets.

Meeta: I don’t do code deliveries or the testing of code, nor do I create project management related artefacts like Gantt charts, reports of service operations.

Amrish

Amrish: I love to write code so that is something I do every day on my proof of concepts but I do not write production code unless I am pairing with one of our very experienced engineers on a project. My role is to convert business problems into technical solutions to help achieve business goals together with the wider team.

Nathan: I don’t code, and have left behind the BA tasks of drawing business process maps and interviewing stakeholders for requirements.

Nishantha: I don’t manage people and write production code even though I write code when I develop POCs for trying out new technologies.

Q5: What’s one piece of advice you would give someone thinking about becoming a Solution Architect?

Amrish: Practice, Practice, Practice. You will need to speak to many people from both technical and non-technical backgrounds so practice this as much as you can. Also, A picture is worth thousand words so practice your diagramming skills.

Nishantha: Specifically for my area, I believe that having solid technical knowledge in a wide range of big data, analytics and machine learning technologies is key. Exposure to developing Data and AI solutions in cloud stacks like Azure is also important whilst the ability to come up with solutions that solve different business and technical problems, explain and document them using clear diagrams are necessary skills required in any Solution Architecture role.

Nishantha

Meeta: If architecture interests you, then shed any qualms and just go for it! Look out the openings, chat to Solution Architects if you want to know what the role in their area involves.

David: Focus on having a really wide understanding of technology, having an eye on cutting edge approaches enough to facilitate high level conversations with peers, while leaving the detail to the engineering teams. Combine that with understanding the differences and boundaries between an Architect (the bird’s eye view) and an Engineer (fine grained focus) and that’ll put you on the right path! Then finally, an Architect’s greatest tools are the ability to put together a really solid architecture diagram while being able to describe that image to people with varying technical understanding.

David

Nivedita: Working as a Solution Architect involves talking to different teams and roles including business, management, engineering, third parties etc on a daily basis, so work on your communication and presentation skills!

Nathan: Talk to a few Solution Architects, ask to sit in/watch for a few hours, then ask questions. If what you see and hear excites you, the kind of challenges you’d enjoy wrestling with, then go for it!

If this sparks an interest and you think you’ve got what it takes, we’re hiring for a number of roles across Solution Architecture and wider Tech. Head here to view and apply for our open positions.

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