As everyone knows, 2020 was a bit of a nightmare for everyone. COVID-19 hit every nation across the globe and caused on-mass panic and uncertainty. I don't think a single person wasn't affected by what happened. Thankfully at the beginning of August '20 I was contacted and officially start a new job as a software engineer in the UK. What came of the nearly 11 months I've been there I wasn't quite prepared for.
Having found a passion for well-versed robust systems, led by research and insight, I was met with challenges for nearly the first 4 or 5 months in this position. The system we had the fingerprints of ditached development teams over the years, the further the system was developed, the more shortcomings were discovered. It was a difficult position to be in to be the BA / UX / UI / Frontend Engineer with these tight deadlines from up on high. Tough questions were met with "We just don't know until we look".
We (all 4 engineers) were stuck between a rock and a hard place; simple work made difficult from inconsistencies, tighter deadlines, and an unwillingness for desprately needed research. We were going into the project blind, without due process. In the 11 months I've been in this position I've found myself reaching for side-projects more and more to keep my skills sharpened.
That aside, the broader scope of the work has some really great potential if the momentum could be maintained. Unfortunately it's under lock-and-key so I'm not able to talk about it in length, however, it's a space which enables the users and could bring real value to them as a technology-solution rather than a platform of consuption or sale.
My Side Projects
So what's been keeping my skills sharp?
Since I can't be showing anything visual I've been working on @ work until it's gone to market, I've been working on experients such as a component library in React to handle all modern expectations: multiple themes, accessibility, responsive views etc. Obviously this isn't rocket-science, but being able to enact on the time spent on research is refreshing.
Second to that, I've been working on a GraphQL backend with relational data that is (hopefully) be designed well enough to scale and mutate in the future to utilise GraphQL Federation. An interesting take on an unified API-gateway for GraphQL schemas. Part of this project, I've started investigating Auth implementations for User Challenges, OTP/TOTP/FIDO MFA as well as magic links sent via email.
Currently that backend api changes frequently, so I admit there's been no tests, but until I understand the spec + look to make use of the API, I'm actually okay with it. I want to have the freedom to experient and iterate frequently in the GraphQL playground. After that, I'll certainly be looking into best practice to boot up a test DB, run tests, and boot back down. Something I haven't spent too long learning until now.
Once the component library is complete, my next project would be to make use of it in a NextJS re-write of this site. It's something I've wanted to do for a while, but during Covid, my work-life balance fell out of kilt.
I took the time in April to realise that work just isn't worth the detrement to my life. After the same 'crunch-week' mentality for 6 months, work started to feel like empty 'threats' of better developer experience, prolonging the advantage of better productivity for the same cost. Since the job-space in the UK is slowly improving from May, perhaps there's opportunities out there that have similar user-advocate projects. Let's just see for now..