It's time to meet Jerry. Our Brompton-riding, jazz-loving, green-fingered back-end developer. He calls this his 'week of geek', and for the uninitiated, he's even compiled Jerry's Jargon Jabber...
Oh hi there! My name is Jerry and I’m a senior back-end developer here at Fluid Ideas.
Having only started at Fluid back in June, I’m one of the newest members of the team, though it feels like I’ve been here for ages already (as clichéd as that sounds).
I’m here to give you a run-down of a typical week in the life of a Jerry, from diving into server maintenance to meeting with clients to discuss website optimisations – this blog has it all.
It’s worth noting that some of the stuff I do in my day-to-day job is rather technical (SQL isn’t shorthand for squirrel, for example), so where I’ve discussed something that is very specific to my role, I’ve tried to explain it in a more accessible way, using my “Jerry’s Jargon Jabber” explainers.
We’re a hybrid-working agency, but I often like to base myself at the studio, heading in via a short train journey followed by a gentle ride on my trusty Brompton bike. Today is one of those days in the studio.
One of my main clients is Coach Hire Comparison, and at the moment we’re working on moving much of their website architecture over to new technologies, which means it will be more robust. Part of this has been to move their server to a shiny new AWS EC2 and RDS box that ensures the site will perform better when faced with a high level of users.
Jerry’s Jargon Jabber
AWS stands for Amazon Web Services and is one of the ways that Amazon actually makes most of its money. They power a huge portion of the internet and many websites you know and love live there, including Netflix, Twitch, LinkedIn and the BBC. All of these are also on the EC2 part of AWS which stands for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, a service which scales quickly and easily. RDS stands for Relational Database Service and is another part of AWS that handles the database elements of the server. Glad we cleared that up.
Part of this switch involved meeting with Coach Hire Comparison (the wonderful James and Laura) where I outlined the full plan to move the server to its new home, and how we will minimise any downtime and therefore avoid any loss of income.
Finally, my working day actually ended at midnight when I made the final switchover to the new server. This might seem odd, but late nights (or early mornings) are often the best time to undertake server switches as you often need to “turn off” a website in order to do so, and late-night switches reduce downtime impacts on the business.
The final part of the server move for Coach Hire Comparison actually happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning, so I guess that started my day. From then onwards, a chunk of my time was spent monitoring the situation, looking for any technical gremlins that might have flagged that something wasn’t quite right.
During this monitoring, I noticed that the server was running at 20-30% capacity – not too shabby. What was a tad worrying though was that the RDS insights showed the database being overloaded – any level of overload essentially means the large computers running the site can’t handle the level of computation needed and might falter. Never fear though — hot-swapping is here! Rather than having to put the site into maintenance mode and causing downtime, hot-swapping allowed me to switch in a new database server without any interruptions and get things back on track without any hurdles.
The final back-end fix needed on Tuesday involved diagnosing and resolving an issue with key query performance on the new version of MySQL that we had swapped the site over to.
Jerry’s Jargon Jabber
MySQL is a database that websites use to help keep things structured. The ‘My’ bit is just named after the inventor's daughter, but the SQL bit stands for Structured Query Language. Think of it as the list of ice cream flavours that are sold at a shop, SQL is the special language that a computer can use to order an ice cream and deliver the right thing to the user.
Let’s not talk much about Wednesday. Sometimes back-end development can be like solving a Rubik's cube, but somebody has peeled half of the stickers off – the challenge is part of the joy, but it also requires a hefty dose of caffeine sometimes. This was one of those days.
Back in the studio today, as Thursday is the day when all of the Websites & Systems team ensure we're studio-based. It's a chance to see each other and help bounce ideas around to solve problems in person, which we love.
Today is the last day of development on a new system called Fleetspan that we have developed for our client, Juice. Not only will this help the client grow, but it’s a real game-changer for the industry that they are in and is going to be presented at a conference featuring some of the biggest names in the sector. No pressure.
What is wonderful about Fleetspan is that we’ve developed it in a platform called Laravel, which is perfect for applications like this and a real joy to work with. The development almost rolls off the tips of my fingers due to the intuitive nature of the framework.
Jerry’s Jargon Jabber
Laravel is a funny old word, isn’t it? Basically, the web is made up of a variety of different frameworks and building blocks that are used to make websites, applications and services. Laravel is one of those frameworks. The benefit to using Laravel is that it comes with a host of built-in features that mean we can develop rapidly for clients and iterate quickly based on feedback.
Towards the end of the day, I worked closely with my fellow developer, Martin, to iron out any final bugs on Fleetspan and get everything ready for the impending launch. I have to say, it was a joy to see Josh’s UI designs come to life – they look superb.
Today is the day. After starting the week in a land of moving servers for Coach Hire Comparison, we’re now launching Fleetspan for Juice. With the client presenting a live demo in the afternoon, it was key to check, double check and triple-check that everything was in well-working order.
Then it was just a waiting game. But finally, the message came through — the event had been a great success. Fleetspan was indeed a sector-changing innovation, and I was proud of the work I’d done alongside my colleagues here at Fluid to achieve that.
To top the day off, this Friday was the first of a 3pm finish for everyone at Fluid. Something we’re exploring after seeing the positive impacts that shorter working weeks have had for other businesses.
So now it's time to head home, tend to some of my plants and sit down for a relaxing weekend, ready to recharge and get back to a fun week on Monday.
Thanks for reading my week in the life.