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Notes from the (Half) Week #21

01 Jun 2019

week notes gds

I started at GDS this Wednesday, after exactly four weeks of well-deserved rest and relaxation. Did I achieve anything significant in that time?

Absolutely not1, and it was lovely.

It’s been approaching seven years since I joined a new company. New faces and names, completely remapping my building muscle memory, and learning new tech stacks and processes.

Bring it on 💪🏻

My new team 👥

I joined the GOV.UK Verify team, working on a component called the Document Checking Service which we’re in the middle of re-platforming into containerised cloud applications.

This is close enough to my wheelhouse from Shift that a lot of the problems are familiar, but new enough (I’ve never touched Kubernetes or Helm before) that I’m learning a bunch already.

Some things are “the same” 🔁

I’m familiar with Trello as a tool for planning - we use JIRA at GDS, but modern JIRA looks almost like Trello anyway, so that wasn’t a big jump!

There are a non-zero number of Alex’s in my sphere of work. As I’m the newest one to the party, I’ve defaulted to my surname both for disambiguation and for the excellent Castaway references.

I’m in the same building, but GDS is spread over two entire floors and wraps the entire level - I’ve made the mistake of going “the long way round” to something nearby several times already.

Some things are different 🆕

One of the first things that struck me when I joined was just how many internal communities there are here - networks for women, BAME, LGBTQ+ (me!), mental health (also me!), and many more, and that’s before the clubs and stuff. I’m looking forward to getting involved with some of these.

GDS uses a pull-request system requiring two other reviewers before changes can be merged into the main branch and deployed to production - we’re going to automate the deploy stage soon.

I’m used to doing trunk-based development in a very direct way - commits straight onto the main branch, rarely using pull requests and branches. GDS has requirements to prove that enough people have seen the change before it was released, and it feels to me like GitHub’s pull-request review workflow is a clean and simple way of doing this.

Imposter syndrome is the woOOOoooOOoorst.

It takes serious effort to ignore the niggling thought that I should already be performing at the level I was when I left Unruly in my first two days. There’s a lot to learn tech-wise and process-wise, it’s exciting rather than daunting, and I need to cut myself a decent amount of slack.

Stuff that I actually did 👨‍💻

My first day was mostly induction stuff but during my first half-week I paired on writing up a story with James, our tech lead - migrating an event consumer from one data-store into another to make the re-platforming work easier, and we rolled out improvements to our smoke-testing checks. I’m excited to get my hands more dirty next week.

Other stuff that happened 🌱

I went to see stand-up by Matt Chorley, editor of the Times Red Box. It was good fun, and surprising just how much of the past five years’ news I’ve just forgotten.

My tomatoes and chillis are growing at a rate of knots! Soon I’ll need to re-pot them on the balcony in preparation for delicious fresh veg in the summer.


  1. Not entirely true, I built an unarmed Khajiit character in Skyrim and defeated a bunch of vampires and dragons with my fists.