Damian Casey
Feb 12, 2016
4 mins reading time

Onboarding School

Before Holiday Extras

After working in a small agency environment for three years I decided that I wanted more from my career in terms of developing my technical ability. I enjoyed the mad rush of the day-to-day business demands such as client meetings, phone calls and drawing up technical specifications all the while trying to meet already optimistic client deadlines! However this meant that I was stuck in the process of working with PHP, using Content Management Systems such as Wordpress and OpenCart wherever possible to speed up build times, and PHP frameworks such as CodeIgniter for more bespoke requests.

As a result I felt I was not progressing my technical ability as a developer, mainly because there was just no time to do so.

This is where Holiday Extras came in. I knew, having spoken with friends already working there, that it was a company that always aimed to work at the forefront of technology. Technologies such as Node.js based web applications and React.js were non-existent in my previous role and these were key areas of interest that made me want to leave PHP behind and make the career move.

The Onboarding process

So having made the leap onto a different career path I was put onto the 12 week onboarding process that each new starter is initiated with. This involved 5 weeks of pod rotation, weekly 121s with my line manager and being placed into my pod and beginning to work off my own initiative. I was also given a ‘Buddy’ who was (and still is!) always on-hand to assist where necessary and to make you feel welcome and a member of the team from day one.

Pod rotation

The Holiday Extras web team is split into a number of different pods, with each pod’s focus being driven by a particular business requirement. Spending time with each pod is essential for any new developer, as it is a great way to meet the rest of the team. I got to learn what each pod’s short and long term missions are, how the pods are structured, and who to go to for certain tech related questions.

Simply by rotating pods I gained exposure to each web application and system. Some pods work primarily on one system, while others work on a range. So by the end I had some experience with each system, knew who to direct questions to, and was ready to start work!

Pod placement and sprint work

I was very eager to begin work and participate in full 2 week sprints after being on pod rotation for 5 weeks. You get to work on tasks yourself and take ownership of the changes that you make. Once your task is ready to go to production (at least you think it’s ready!) then we create Pull Requests through Github, to allow two other developers to review our work, before it is ready to go to the testers.

By being a reviewer on other people’s work you get to help out other pods and see what they are working on. So if a different pod is working on something that you find interesting, you can input and learn from what they have done through code review.

Technical learnings

Since joining less than 12 weeks ago I have:

  • Worked with Node.js based web applications
  • Worked on backbone.js based web applications and written a basic backbone.js app
  • Been given first class on-site training in React.js alongside the rest of the web team
  • Written Selenium tests
  • Written Unit tests and gained experience with mocha, sinon, and chai

This shows that working here has instantly been a huge step in the right direction for me. Writing test code and having regular meetings with my manager were purely non-existent in my agency days!

Has Holiday Extras lived up to expectation?

Absolutely. Holiday Extras has, and will continue to, improve my technical ability on a day-to-day basis. “Everyday’s a school day” is pretty much my slogan for working here. Not only that, it is fun - So far I’ve already enjoyed playing pool when in need of a screen break, a fireworks display with free beer and burgers, an excellent Christmas party and a number of after work Web Team events.

If you are looking for a place to develop your skills and have a lot of fun while doing it, then jump aboard a ship where “everyday’s a school day”.

Tags Onboarding, School