A new way of building a Future Platform
We asked Joshua (Lead Platform Engineer) and Lena (Senior Platform Engineer) about building a platform for tomorrow and breaking new ground within Nationwide.
Joshua: We’re a ‘Tech Hedge’ or ‘Skunkworks’ – here to do something different from the rest of the organisation, in a different way. At the moment we are building out our own AWS Landing Zone to support rapid velocity for our line-of-business application developers.
Lena: Future Platform builds a new cloud-based digital banking platform for Nationwide to provide new features for its members. We are focusing on designing and building a scalable system using cutting-edge technologies.Read more
What tools and technologies are you using?
Joshua: We’re making extensive use of managed services and open source code. Some of what we’re using is on the bleeding edge, with features and tooling only available a few days or weeks before we’re implementing on it.
Lena: Future Platform is a greenfield project with modern tech stack in a fast paced environment. We provide a cloud-based infrastructure to host microservices and other systems based on scalability, efficiency and security. The main tech stack we use is AWS, Kubernetes & Docker containers, Terraform, Apache Kafka and Flink and GitLab both for source repos and CI/CD as well as GitOps with ArgoCD. Our main objective is to apply best practices.
What makes a resilient and scalable platform?
Joshua: Predictable, tested, documented, supported, unsurprising. We use a lot of managed services and public code, so we can offload a lot of effort in this area, and support loosely-coupled components. We try to avoid bottlenecking and gatekeeping as much as possible, facilitating self service.
Any stand-out challenges and achievements so far?
Joshua: Getting sponsorship to build our own landing zone was an early challenge. Getting our first developer team onto our platform and working was a major milestone also.
Lena: Providing innovative solutions in a regulated environment and remaining compliant. We had to upskill in new technologies to become competitive and to provide robust and secure applications in a dynamic environment. One of our major achievements was to provide an efficient CI/CD process to automate the deployment process and let our engineers release new features in a daily basis. We managed to deliver a landing zone infrastructure and to release our first features in less than a year, which was a huge achievement in such short time.
Tell us about your typical day working day?
Lena: We're an Agile team, and the day starts with our stand-ups and could also include planning and retro meetings as well. I spend a lot of time writing infrastructure as a code, automating CI/CD pipelines and reviewing code. I monitor our systems and make sure our engineers have everything they need to deliver their systems by providing help and support. Most days include meetings where we discuss the design and implementation of our systems and make sure they are aligned with our objectives. Also, I regularly pair with my colleagues to write or debug code when necessary.
How did you become a Platform Engineer?
Joshua: Tech is my second career. Whilst I was always interested in and involved with tech, I found I struggled for ‘something to say’ with application development and so I didn’t start with it immediately. When I did, the first thing I did was start coding everything! I enjoy working with infrastructure and cloud-native. I sometimes think of myself as an ‘infrastructure developer’. I joined the Society last year from the platform team of a multi-billion intercontinental consumer Fintech and I am glad of the move!
Lena: I used to be Software Engineer building services for web applications for over 5 years. I was seeking a new challenge and went into Operational world to get a holistic overview of the development lifecycle. Future Platform is a new team that takes the best parts of the tech start-up culture and applies them to a huge and well-established organization. The idea of a small team with a lot of freedom and flexibility was very attractive to me, as I could see the whole development lifecycle and become part of the decision-making process.
What resources do you turn to most?
Joshua: Colleagues; Google; official documentation; Stack Overflow; Reddit
What’s your leadership style?
Joshua: A bit of a cliché, but I am big on Servant Leadership. We’ve got a strong team and much of what guidance I give is more like coaching than direct instruction. I was a middle manager of large teams in my previous career, so I am well practiced at stepping back rather than micro-managing or struggling to delegate. If my colleagues do well then I have done well. I try to lead by example – asking for help if I am struggling with something, having others review my, and each other’s work. We’re all human!
How have you found collaboration since the COVID-19 pandemic?
Joshua: I joined during the lockdown. I’ve previously worked in international teams so that experience was useful. I think we’ve been able to collaborate well with online tools. It’s likely that we will be mainly remote/ ‘remote first’ after the pandemic.
Lena: I joined Future Platform during lockdown. It was the first time I had to work remotely and not have the chance to meet my colleagues in person. The team was very supportive and made sure I had everything I needed for a smooth settling in. Using online collaborative tools, we managed to perform well. After a year we achieved our milestones on time, and this gave us confidence that working remotely has succeeded. We do virtual social events that keep us together and enhance our working culture.
What does it mean for you to be a part of Nationwide Building Society?
Joshua: I enjoy working for an ethical, stable, trusted organisation. I also enjoy being in a quite unusual part of it with the project we are working on.
Lena: I am proud that I work for an organization with high ethical standards that takes care of its people and its members. I am amazed by the culture and the friendly environment. Not only do I feel 100% myself, I am also surrounded by super talented and supportive people.
Want to work with the team? Search our jobs at the top of the page now.