A Day in the Life of a Dev

Potential candidates often wonder what a typical day looks like at Narrative, and this page is an attempt to answer the question.

Sync with the rest of the team

#daily-gsd

We use Slack to stay connected with the rest of the team.

The #daily-gsd channel lets us keep track of what our teammates are working on and identify blockers as well as potential conflicts. Each one of us starts the day by taking a look at his/her work queue, what (s)he achieved yesterday, and what (s)he plans to complete today, and writes a 2-3-liner in #daily-gsd to let the rest of the team know about the current priorities.

#auto-techops

The person who is on techops rotation will look at the various warnings and alerts in the #auto-techops channel in order to identify things that need to be fixed, failed clusters, etc.

#partner-success and #helpdesk

The person who is on Partner Success (PS) rotation will monitor the #partner-success and #helpdesk channels, as well as the Partner Success queue in Clubhouse in order to determine the next priorities.

There is also a 30-minute meeting on Monday with the sales team to proritize the work and get an idea about the upcoming, sales/partner-driven requests.

Crucible reviews

Code reviews are a keystone habit for a quality-driven dev culture, and everyone is expected to both review code and have their code reviewed. They are great because:

  • Having multiple sets of eyes on a piece of code is an easy way to evaluate its readability and clarity. It also lowers the bus factor by distributing knowledge of what code lives where and why.
  • The author of the code gets the benefit of different perspectives on code structure and style, as well as having any unexpected bugs / edge cases pointed out.
  • The reviewer gets to learn how other developers are writing code and if there are any useful libraries and techniques that they can adapt for themselves.
  • Last but not least, knowing that others will be looking at the code naturally encourages more effort in keeping quality high.

At Narrative, code reviews happen as a part of the regular development process, i.e. we review all code as it is pushed and there is no specified “weekly code review” meeting where everyone brings snippets for review. We currently use Crucible to perform these reviews, and most reviews are done post-merge.

However there are occasional caseswhere someone in the team will request a pre-merge review to validate assumptions / have additional pairs of eyes on a critical piece of code.

Daily standup (2PM EST)

We meet on Google Meet every day at 1:30 PM EST for a quick, 15-minute conversation to quickly synchronize and address any blockers.

Weekly dev meeting

We gather on Google Meet once a week (Tuesday at 1:30 EST) for a 1-hour discussion with the dev team. This is the opportunity to raise awareness about any issues, suggest improvements to the process, seek feedback on ideas, etc.

Development

Code

Outside of techops and PS rotations, the bulk of the work involves implementation and coding. This covers everything from improving an existing feature to setting up an entirely new service to implement a new feature. Some examples of project work:

  • Improving the performance of an existing spark report by reducing the amount of shuffling it has to do.
  • Writing a new spark report to generate analytics on data that we have ingested.
  • Creating a frontend component using d3.js to display the aforementioned analytics.
  • Setting up new formats to ingest data that a new partner is sending to us.
  • Extracting reusable helpers into the narrative-commons to remove duplication across the jobs.

Deployment and Ops

Deployment and ops is very much a part of regular life. Although there are safeguards to prevent accidental deletion of production resources, there are no prod-environment gatekeepers per se. At the end of the day, developers are trusted to provision resources and deploy systems as needed. In exchange for this trust, there is an expectation of ownership and responsibility – developers should be conscientious about their resource usage, and “if you break it, you fix it.”

Design Reviews

Design reviews are basically code reviews at a higher level. New projects and large features usually start with a design doc and review. Design docs are a great tool for gathering early feedback and encouraging discussion between developers and business stakeholders before anything gets set in stone. A doc is a lot easier to change than code, and code is easier to change than a running system. Conveniently, it also serves as great documentation for new hires or anyone else wondering “why was X done this way?” A typical doc will answer questions like:

  • Why are we building this? How does it benefit the business / team? Are we making any assumptions about our customers and future product direction?
  • Is there any existing work we are taking advantage of? Why or why not?
  • What are the tradeoffs we are making? e.g., do we care more about space consumption or speed? Does this feature need a new RDS instance, or will a tiny DynamoDB table work just as well?
  • What is the requirement for uptime? How can we tell if something is wrong? How screwed are we if S3 goes down, and are we OK with that?
  • The design doc is written by whoever owns the feature in question. Typically, initial review happens via comment threads in Google Docs, and is followed by a quick Hangouts session to make sure all outstanding issues are resolved before proceeding.

Writing the design document sometimes involves prototyping and experimenting with technologies, depending on the nature of the work.

A typical calendar

We attempt to avoid swiss cheesing our calendars by scheduling most of the meetings on Tuesday.

Here is a screenshot of my calendar for this week:

typical calendar

Notes:

  • The PS meeting is on Monday (for the person on PS rotation, which I am this month), which is not really problematic because the whole purpose of being on PS rotation is to dedicate a single person to these interruptions.
  • The code reviews block is merely a reminder, not an actual meeting.
  • There are occasional meetings that are not scheduled on Tuesday such as candidate interviews.
Edit this page on GitHub Updated at Tue, Aug 31, 2021