Growing in breadth and depth

Oludayo Fafiolu | Technical Writer, Worldpay from FIS

May 14, 2020

If you want real speed, it pays to be smooth. Put another way, to give your customers the responsive and reliable service they expect, all your key assets must work in harmony – your core principles, working practices, and your people.

At Access Worldpay, this means encouraging our people to grow in breadth and depth. As Andrew Davison, a Principal Cloud Ops Engineer at Access Worldpay says, it’s about how we get our developers and cloud engineers to work together to become full-stack developers.

Pairing is sharing

Every project squad within Access Worldpay practices pairing, where software developers and cloud engineers work together.

“Pairing really helps for knowledge-sharing,” says Davison. “It’s always good to get a different perspective when you’re working on something.”

Expanding the breadth of individuals and teams is complemented by increasing the depth of each person’s technical skills.

“Traditionally, a developer might gain some rudimentary knowledge about the cloud but fundamentally, they might focus and specialize entirely on the software side of things,” says Shravan Jadhav, a Senior Software Engineer.

“Traditionally, a developer might gain some rudimentary knowledge about the cloud but fundamentally, they might focus and specialize entirely on the software side of things,” says Shravan Jadhav, a Senior Software Engineer.

Within Access Worldpay, however, the objective is to not only cross disciplines, but fully understand those new disciplines by developing new skills.

Making the investment

Enabling people to deepen their knowledge of new disciplines requires investment. To help boost individual and group productivity, the Access Worldpay team reserves one-and-a-half days out of every 10 working days to improve skills.

Part of this time is spent re-examining working principles and practices. The rest is for individuals to talk with their managers about training requirements and attend training programs.

Jadhav says developers are keen to improve their infrastructure skills. They may have touched on areas but not developed a depth of understanding that is genuinely useful.

“From my point of view, it’s always been ‘I can write this code but then how do I actually use it?’ because I can’t just run it on my laptop,” he says. “Being able to deploy that code properly and have a full view of the end-to-end flow, that’s the bit I’ve always missed.”

Testing in the cloud

For cloud engineers, the primary focus is learning how to bring test-driven development (TDD) into the cloud. There’s been a strong push to adopt TDD in the cloud, and it isn’t always easy to understand how to write or implement an effective test in the infrastructure world.

“A lot of cloud engineers want to learn how to write tests,” says Davison. “Lots of us did an infrastructure testing hackathon recently to get hands-on with writing infrastructure tests.”

The fundamental purpose of growing in breadth and depth is about helping developers and cloud engineers work across principles. It’s why they have cloud engineers tackling developer approaches like TDD, as well as developers working on cloud infrastructure. Developers’ familiarity with TDD has proved useful when learning about infrastructure, notes Jadhav.

“When you’re making changes in the cloud, using tests allows us to see if our changes are working even if, at first, you don’t fully understand the tools that cloud engineers use,” he says.

The process of testing and checking gradually allows developers to increase their understanding. Jadhav explains that it’s a much safer way of upskilling, and a safer way for developers to be able to contribute to infrastructure right off the bat.

Breadth, depth and beyond…

Although the push to increase breadth and depth has certainly helped drive improvements within this particular area, its rationale does not end there. Jadhav explains the focus on testing because TDD is so fundamental, but a shared approach can help with all the new concepts and technology that Access Worldpay wants to use.

“Everything we do tends to be more holistic, so one of the ways we’re trying to grow in both directions is by bringing everyone onto the same page in the first place,” says Jadhav. “If you’re working on the same thing then it doesn’t matter whether you’re a cloud engineer or a developer – we can have just the one, single approach.”