Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Can individuals write code? I think that your answer to this question will, to a large part, predict your attitude towards software engineers being asked to return to the office for all or some of their working week. It describes two nearly-incompatible ways of working, and few people understand that the other way even exists.

The dinosaurs

Lets look at the clash. Many employers are asking their software developers to return to the office. …

I am convinced that banging on and on about warfare is hurting our ability to make pragmatic, cultural changes that protect our software and our organisations.

It’s dangerous to just accept metaphors as a way of describing the world. In many cases, that act of description changes the way you see the world — it is performative. I’m not even talking about using inclusive language, although that’s important too, I’m just talking about whether or not a particular metaphor encourages people to think about the right things at the right time.

Early on in my tech career, much of the…

Recently I found myself wanting to express an opinion about continuous integration pipelines to my team, but I lacked the language to do it. I’ve been searching the web for days now, and asking on Twitter, and I still can’t find any good description of what I’m talking about. So I’m going to try to describe it here.

I’m kind of hoping that somebody sees this and then points out that I wasted my time because it’s already well described elsewhere, so I’ll finally have a resource to point at!

The thing I want to describe is a design difference…

Some Star Wars figurines
Some Star Wars figurines

I’m extremely sceptical about the commonplace notions of “accountability” and “responsibility”. I think there is a fundamental tension between these concepts and a desire to create psychological safety on a team. In this post I’ll talk a little bit about why they are hard to balance, and what I’m now doing instead.

What is accountability?

This is surprisingly tricky to answer. At some level, it means that you own the consequences of some decisions.

It is sometimes understood in contrast to responsibility. An engineer might be responsible for fixing a defect, because they are the ones that actually write the code; whereas a…

A couple of weeks ago I wrote this line in some lessons learned from building a new digital service for the UK Government:

I’m extremely proud of how we managed to do that with an unremarkable budget and a team with multiple junior members.

It seemed to resonate. A few people reached out to me on Twitter asking me about their own organisation and whether they too could incorporate more junior roles into their engineering teams.

It’s true that you need to do a fair bit of work to responsibly support people earlier in their career — but this isn’t…

Last year, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with MHCLG as the technical lead on a project to replace the ageing Energy Performance of Buildings Register. Kev Keenoy has written a good summary of the work. The project is now live and serving citizens across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

I’d worked in government before, but this was the first time I got to see a central government project through from inception to go-live. I held a personal retrospective to capture some important feelings that I wanted to explicitly write down somewhere.

Here are my main (entirely unoriginal)…

He would use Duplex

In Asimov’s Robot series, several societies uphold the custom that robots must introduce themselves with the prefix “R”. For example, Daneel Olivaw, the humaniform robot so convincingly lifelike that it can deceive most actual humans, introduces [it/him]self as R. Daneel Olivaw.

If you’re not particularly interested in tech ethics, you’ve probably seen the video of Google’s AI assistant making a convincing phone call on behalf of its human owner to book a haircut, a technology they are calling Duplex. If it really works as well as the demonstration, it’s pretty incredible.

If you are interested in tech ethics, you’ve…

I travel a lot for work. Last year I traveled in excess of 300 days. For all of that time I was renting a place in central London, and it was a pretty great place. It was a short walk from everything I like to do in London, and I shared it with one of my favourite people in the world. Still, I’m never there, and it’s a crazy waste of money, so I’m giving it all up in favour of less expensive accommodation and (in practice) living out of a single suitcase wherever work might take me.

This means…

It has been nearly a year since I walked out of the door of my classroom for the last time. When I started my new job, at ThoughtWorks, I knew that I’d have to make lots of adjustments to transition from working with children in an environment that I control, to working with adults in a collaborative environment.

Lots of these things were small adjustments. …

Excellent students in schools without a record of high attainment are getting a rough deal. We need to be more honest with children and parents about their prospects (or lack thereof) and who is responsible for them.

As a teacher on the Teach First programme, I have spent the past two years of teaching interacting with schools in challenging circumstances. It’s true that many of these schools are doing a good job at what they do best: making the most out of difficult circumstances. We already know about the strong links…

Tito Sarrionandia

Head of frontend engineering at Babylon Health. Formerly ThoughtWorks, Made Tech, school teacher.

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