Probation Passed At M&S

I’m sat here on a train from London to Hull and it made me think of a time nearly 3 years ago, where I was sat on a train from London to Hull.

I was into my second month of being a web developer and things weren’t going so well in my dream job – the one I’d worked towards for years in my spare time. I was writing a blog post, pretty much knowing at that point that I was going to struggle to pass my probabtion – and so it proved not too long after, by which point all I was doing was copy and pasting all day – not even anything like coding.

Some people might have quit and just gone back to what they were doing, but I’m a stubborn bastard.

3 years later I’m doing that same journey, writing a blog post about the end of my probation period at M&S.

I passed with flying colours.

I’m still not a superstar developer. I have a good grasp of JavaScript now and am very comfortable with it – though I still haven’t thoroughly grasped the more advanced conceptual aspects.

New challenges

M&S has provided me a whole new set of challenges. Firstly we code in pure JavaScript so I’ve had to upskill – in particular learning the new ES6 stuff which I never touched at Lovespace as our codebase wasn’t set up to use it.

All my code gets reviewed twice, which is something new to handle psychologically – my code was never reviewed at Lovespace. This has proved to be a great help to me as I work with some excellent developers – all with different skills – so this is a great way to learn.

I also have to do my share of code reviews too, no matter how senior the developer, which I’d never done before. I’m quite methodical and seem to have figured out a good way in my head to review code – quite often finding things to improve or edge cases that need fixing – apparently I’m really good at them and my code review skills are in demand!

The one main thing I still stuggle on is writing tests. Again I’ve come from an environment where there was no automated testing – just smoke testing (semi-randomly clicking things to make sure the website works). I haven’t really got my head around it yet – what to write tests for, how to write tests. I can just about get by but it takes me forever – I spend as long writing tests as writing code. I’m slowly improving and eventually it will be as natural as writing JavaScript.

Oh and using a Mac for the first time in my life. I still cannot get used to the cmd button. I still prefer Windows and I miss knowing all the shortcuts that I used to. It works smoothly though…apart from when I don’t know how to do what I want it to.

What Am I Working On?

I cannot really say in public what I’m working on. Well I don’t know if I can so I’m going to err on the side of caution. However it should be a really significant improvement both to the customer experience and loading time. It’s a major change and rather exciting. Not having any code live at the moment means that things are relatively stress-free – that fun is to come when we launch. Soon.

Everyone is really sound there. Most people in the world are, but we have a great little team – and the extended tech team are all superb too, some seriously inspiring people.

And the culture is great. I was a little concerned that it might be too corporate for me, but it isn’t at all. Shorts are no problem, everyone is chilled and after-work beers happen quite regularly. Finishing at 5pm (well, assuming the Met line gets me in for 5am) is a treat. Plus I do get to spend my day looking at lingerie models…I have to test the code works, you know.

It very much feels like I belong and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact of our work on M&S’s recovery.

All the struggle has been well worth it.