5 reasons I love being a software developer at the John Lewis Partnership (and you might too?)

Hi, I’m Peter. I’ve been working as a front-end engineer at the John Lewis Partnership since 2018. I’m in the Waitrose Digital team and I work on waitrose.com. Previously, I have worked at various companies from small digital agencies to giant, international conglomerates. We hear all the time about the appeal (or not?) of startups and Big Tech companies, so I’d like to share why I love working here, at an organisation that you might not have thought of as a cutting edge technology company before!

A smiling man (the author) holding up a Waitrose toy cash register and a John Lewis / Waitrose Partnership Card

Here are my top five reasons:

1. We own it

The John Lewis Partnership is employee-owned. In fact, it’s the largest employee-owned business in the UK. This means we don’t have any external shareholders who we need to try to please. We don’t have the same pressure as stock-listed companies to keep trying to drive up profits at the expense of everything else.

Of course, we want to do well financially, to ensure the business is successful and well-prepared for the future. But we strive to do well for our customers and for ourselves as “Partners”, not to make other people rich!

Employee-ownership has a big influence on all sorts of things. It means that we have a strong focus on corporate social responsibility and helping the communities that we operate in. I feel that there is a stronger voice promoting ethical business choices here than at other companies I’ve worked at. And it means that we have a big emphasis on employee well-being. Which leads me to the next point…

2. The culture

The Partnership is led by a strong set of values and our first Principle is all about “happier people”. This means that the happiness and well-being of our Partners is truly right up there at the top of our priorities.

The Partnership was founded on principles of “humanity and equality for all”, and we have strong Diversity and Inclusion principles. Our equality principles led to a personal benefit for me recently, for which I am very thankful — our recently-introduced equal parental leave gave me the opportunity, as a father, to take several months off work to spend invaluable time with my young family.

But what does our culture mean day-to-day? It means that “kindness rules”. It genuinely feels like the nicest place I’ve worked, with the nicest people!

3. Our customers

Every business will say that they are customer-focused, but our core principles mean we have even more focus on pleasing our customers.

To make sure we’re constantly delivering real customer value, we’re experienced in agile ways of working. We do lots of customer testing and A/B testing to figure out what will work best. We care about accessibility and we’ve been trying very hard to make sure that our services work for everyone.

And with John Lewis and Waitrose, we have two of the UK’s best loved brands. This means that our work goes out to millions of people.

4. Modern technologies

Although our business is over 100 years old, we’re not stuck in the past when it comes to tech!

Technologies we use as front-end engineers include React, Next.js, GraphQL and Storybook. We write JavaScript and TypeScript.

I believe we have a healthy balance of having ‘endorsed’ technologies which teams are encouraged to use, while also encouraging experimentation and investigating new technologies and approaches which we might want to adopt.

Personally, I’m about to start work in a team which will be looking at splitting out our Waitrose web application into micro-frontends, potentially using Webpack Module Federation. I hope I can share a lot more about that later.

At the back-end we have embraced microservices and cloud infrastructure for years now, for both the John Lewis and Waitrose brands.

We use modern applications for collaboration behind the scenes too — the kind of popular chat and workspace tools that software developers have come to expect these days.

5. Continuous learning

As well as building technology foundations that should serve us well into the future, we always strive to build our own skills for the long-term too.

As Partners, we are expected to take time to learn and try new things out. We have access to online courses and we encourage people to go to conferences and share what they’ve learned back with our teams.

The Partnership invests a lot in training and re-training. Some of our recent front-end engineer joiners are Partners who previously worked in other areas of technology. The Partnership gave them the opportunity to attend a coding bootcamp full-time, to give them the skills required to jump in.

I bet a lot of companies would never have provided such an opportunity, but it’s yet another result of our employee-owned, employee-happiness principles.

And that’s why I love working at the John Lewis Partnership ❤

At the John Lewis Partnership we value the creativity of our engineers to discover innovative solutions. We craft the future of two of Britain’s best loved brands (John Lewis & Waitrose).

We are currently recruiting across a range of software engineering specialisms. If you like what you have read and want to learn how to join us, take the first steps here.

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